Flight to the Future

The new Russian fighter jet

A close look at the current geopolitical map of the world shows that almost all of the major aircraft building powers have long borders. This is why military aviation remains the most expeditious and effective means for protecting state borders in the skies, on land, and over the sea. Today, roughly a dozen countries are independently developing military aviation as each of them searches for an optimal combination of features that are in high demand both in the national air force and the armies of foreign states. Historically, those who possess more sophisticated weapons have generally had the advantage in armed conflicts, and it is unlikely this trend will change. However, the cost of such equipment is also increasing along with the time required to develop it and the duration of its service life. The emphasis is shifting to the use of high-precision weapons, operating costs, quality, and simplicity.

For more than 70 years, MiG aircraft along with the Kalashnikov assault rifle and the SS-18 ballistic missile, better known as ‘Satan’, have virtually been synonyms with superefficient weapons. Even at the stage when the first MiG fighter aircraft was created back in 1939, the designers, Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, incorporated the highest possible speed and maneuvering characteristics in their aircraft combined with ease of operation, both for technicians and pilots. These requirements have subsequently become essential for all fighter jets with the ‘dove of peace on the fuselage’ in the more than 50 countries that use MiG fighters. However, by the end of the 20th century, many of these axioms for fighter aviation were being called into question. Combating enemy planes only in the skies was not enough, speed became the prerogative for missile systems, and the viability of aviation equipment became essential not only in the air but on the ground.

The key to resolving the problem

Today, the most popular MiG fighter in the world is the MiG-29, whose various modifications are used to defend roughly 30 countries. Initially, these aircraft were designed exclusively for superiority in the air, but now their requirements have changed. Such MiG fighters are now regarded as a proven platform for building multifunctional aviation systems. Since the start of the 2000s, the MiG Corporation has been developing and incorporating different technical solutions into their aircraft in order to meet objectives for ground- and sea-based targets. The knowledge obtained has become universal and has ultimately helped to create an uncompromised aircraft system in all respects, which has been given the official name MiG-35. One of the main distinguishing features of the MiG-35 is its increased combat effectiveness when working in areas of high-intensity conflicts and also when conducting combat operations under conditions where there is a high density of air defense systems.

It is important to note that the MiG-35 has shown that the modern aviation system above all requires high-precision weapons, a reliable control system, and a powerful electronic warfare system instead of a futuristic fuselage.

The MiG-35 is a ‘4++’ generation fighter, which means that it is virtually equal to a fifth-generation fighter in terms of its combat capabilities. The experience gained from the wars and local conflicts of the last decades has clearly demonstrated that reliability, ease of operation, and a high level of viability in all conditions are essential to solving the problems faced by combat aircraft in the current realities. Within four or five months, the MiG-35 could be put into operation at advance airfields with limited ground support and without the support of test equipment, both in Arctic and tropical climates.

The fighter has been adapted for use in high-altitude airfields up to 3,500 meters above sea level along with all the regular weapons options.

One of the key problems of light fighter jets has traditionally been their relatively short range of operation. In the new MiG-35, this problem was successfully solved with increased internal fuel capacity, the use of external fuel tanks, as well as the use of in-flight refueling. The latest expertise acquired by the MiG Corporation has been the ability to carry out tanker functions for the in-flight refueling by the MiG-35 fighter. This feature will be in demand in conditions in which it is impossible to land at a home airfield for reasons beyond the control of the crew or when a refueling aircraft (tanker) is unable to provide refueling in an area of intense fighting.

With the cost of aviation technology consistently increasing and its production taking more time, the viability of each aircraft is becoming a crucial issue. It is impossible to take decisions on introducing a particular model into service without resolving this issue. In particular, the frame design of the new fighter design is reinforced by factor of 2.5 compared to the MiG-29. In addition, corrosion protection was applied to the frame based on the standard used for naval aircraft.

The new MiG-35 can be used and based at advance airfields that are not equipped with landing areas or have damaged runways, and it has no fear of bad weather or rough landings. Given the impressive level of unification of all its components and assemblies, a country that chooses to order the MiG-35 will in fact be getting two different aircraft. Since the fore body is unified as much as possible, the new aircraft can be quickly converted, if necessary, from the single- to the dual-pilot version and vice versa. This is very effective for training or retraining flight crews in a short time.

The wing, which is 10% larger with an advanced flap system and a new integrated aircraft control system combined with eight suspension points, allows for installing heavy aircraft weapons or up to four external fuel tanks. As regards the high level of viability in aerial combat, it is important to note the deep redundancy level of all general aircraft systems. For example, in an effort to improve the operational reliability of the aircraft engines, two independent aircraft accessory units have been incorporated into the aircraft instead of the one unit traditionally used in this type of aircraft, and a new integrated digital control system with quadruple redundancy is responsible for fail-free flight operation. This means that each unit, component, or accessory has four independent communication channels, thus ensuring the highest level of reliability when performing combat missions in the air.

Augmented reality

All modern MiG fighter aircraft traditionally feature the highest ease of piloting, and, while it would seem that nothing new could be implemented in this regard, the corporation’s engineers have discovered new possibilities here as well. The new helmet-mounted augmented reality system specially designed for the MiG-35, which was introduced in late 2016, will make it possible in the near future to expand pilots’ capabilities when performing in-flight refueling and low-altitude piloting in terrain following mode. The use of the new helmet-mounted system will help to significantly improve the level of flight training for MiG-35 crews.

The system consists of an aviation protective helmet equipped with an augmented reality system that allows for tracking the gaze direction and position of a pilot’s head in aerial combat conditions for more efficient piloting and the use of arms. An important component of the new fighter is its avionics. An airborne radar system can detect and track 10 to 30 air targets at distances of up to 160 kilometers, while also striking six aircraft and four ground targets simultaneously. Different models of the ‘Zhuk’ radar system can be incorporated as a passive phased array or an active phased array antenna.

In addition to its powerful radar system, the MiG-35 is equipped with an advanced optoelectronics system that conforms to Western fifth-generation fighters and supports aerial combat day and night, both beyond and within the range of visibility. The system can detect targets that are barely visible to radar. All this provides the MiG-35 with the ability to perform complex independent multi-role missions, which is one of the basic requirements of a fifth-generation aviation system.

It should be noted that Russia’s active military and technical cooperation with foreign countries has incorporated another essential standard into the MiG Corporation’s modern designs – a unique system of warranty and post-warranty services for aircraft. Today, the MiG-35 is undergoing testing in the interests of the Russian Armed Forces. The MiG Corporation continues to work on a daily basis to improve the combat capabilities of its fighters.

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