The impending 126 IAF fighter aircraft contract is seeing spirited competition from Russia’s MiG-35, the enlarged and more advanced version of the MiG-29/MiG-33 family and seen as a potential replacement for the MiG-29 and Su-27. Analysts point out that many of the features such as thrust vectoring, supersonic cruise, and modern avionics of MiG-35 is at par with the US “fifth generation” F-22 Raptor and higher in capabilities than Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet that is being fielded for this contract. With a strike range of 2100 kilometers, the MiG-35 is agile and capable of carrying a wide range of weapons to deal with air-to-air and air-to-ground operations. Equipped with eight weapon “pylons,” the plane can carry three external fuel tanks.
The sweetener is that since India already has maintenance and upgrade facilities for the MiG-29 and Sukhoi 30MKI “fourth generation” fighters, its jump starting maintenance of the MiG-35 is marginal since it is an expanded version of the “fourth generation.”