Started for health
Indian contest Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) not in vain called (and continues to call it) the "contract of the century", despite the fact that initially at stake was a modest at first glance number of 126 multirole fighters of the 4+ generation. Everything, as you know, is known in comparison. If the international market for passenger aircraft is estimated at thousands of aircraft, then in the case of combat aviation the score goes rather by the tens. The fifth-generation American F-35 stands out separately, but this is a completely different topic for communication: the program initially had many US allies, and the F-35 is now the only fifth-generation mass fighter on the planet. You don’t have to choose.
India has never been the main ally of the United States, relying heavily on military-technical support from Russia and France (although Americans are more and more represented on the Indian arms market every year). Recall that the long-standing basis of the Indian Air Force is the Russian Su-30MKI generation 4+ fighters. These aircraft were quite modern at the time of the middle or even the end of the 90s, however, in India they understand that it is high time to supplement them with something more advanced.
Six vehicles took part in the first part of the MMRCA: Boeing F / A-18E / F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, MiG-35 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen. Then the Russian car dropped out long before the end of the competition, and in the final battle the European Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon met. Perhaps the old connections affected, but somehow the Indians chose Rafale.
Presumably, the French soon regretted the “victory”: there were so many difficulties and contradictions that in fact made Rafale a kind of anti-advertisement. Ultimately, the number of purchased cars was reduced to 36. On the other hand, since Dassault Rafale can hardly be called commercially successful (as of 2019, just over 170 such machines were built), even these few dozen aircraft for the French are not so small.
A fundamental turning point in the program occurred already in 2018, when the Indian Air Force launched a new tender for the acquisition of 114 multi-role fighters. This project, worth about $ 20 billion, was essentially a reboot of the failed Indian MMRCA program: it is sometimes unofficially called MMRCA 2.0. Earlier, the Indian Air Force issued a preliminary information request (RFI) on 72 pages for foreign suppliers. Potential candidates were the new version of the F-16, Boeing F / A-18E / F, Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen E, as well as, probably, the Russian MiG-35 and Su-35.
"Dark spots" appeared long before the first conclusions were reached. On May 18, Defense Security Monitor announced that India intends to abandon the planned acquisition of 114 combat aircraft in favor of HAL Tejas national combat aircraft. This project is a separate issue. We are talking about a light fighter of either the fourth or third generation with a combat load of 4000 kilograms (that is, like the early MiGs) and eight suspension points. Perhaps this project is important for the development of the Indian aircraft industry, but it is significant that the plane that made its first flight back in 2001 built a modest series of several dozen aircraft, including 16 prototypes. At the conceptual level, what happened often happens with Asian military projects: the machine managed to become obsolete long before it became truly serial.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the Indians decided not to bet on him. Recently, Indian Air Force commander Marshal Aviation Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said that MMRCA 2.0 remains valid. “This project is in the middle weight and belongs to the same class as Rafale, but in this case we will deal with it in the field of Make in India, with an increase in foreign direct investment, with the support of the private sector. I think that in the future this should provide the technologies that are necessary to support the aviation sector. I think that it is important to have a new generation of aircraft in terms of capabilities and technologies so that we can move forward, ”quotes the Indian military blog of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies bmpd.
What can Russia offer
The chances of success for the Su-35, which initially did not even make it into the first MMRCA, are very small. As follows from the words of the Air Force commander, the car does not fit “in class,” and in addition, unlike the same Rafale, the 35th still does not have a radar station with an active phased array antenna (AFAR). And not the fact that he will ever receive it: his full-time radar, recall, is the H035 Irbis with a passive phased antenna array.
The new Russian MiG-35 is much more likely to win. This machine is conceptually close to Dassault Rafale and (ideally) should have a Zhuk-A radar with AFAR. Among other features are the integrated and container optical radar stations, relatively small (against the background of the Su-35 and Su-30) radar visibility and a relatively low cost of operation.
All this does not mean that the MiG-35 is “better” than the Su-35S: it just looks more advantageous in this case. Indirectly, interest in the novelty from India was demonstrated by the events of 2019. Recall that last year, Indian military pilots made two sorties on the MiG-35 fighter during the MAKS air show in Zhukovsky near Moscow. “Given the economic situation associated with the well-known pandemic, the completely updated MiG-35 has every chance of winning - we offer the most favorable conditions. Moreover, I’m sure that if the corruption component of the tender does not intervene again, the MiG-35 will become the fighter that completely closes Indian airspace from all attacks along with the Su-30MKI, ”said Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, not so long ago. .
However, one thing is the advantage over the Su-35, and another - over the new Western aircraft. In this case, the assessment looks somewhat hasty. To begin with, both Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon (even American cars aren’t talking about) are built in series of dozens or even hundreds of cars, and have been used for many years by different countries of the world.
In the case of the MiG-35, everything is different. At the Army-2018 forum, MiG signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense for the supply of only six MiG-2023s until 35. And long before that, the Ministry of Defense made it clear that it relies on Sukhoi fighters, which is generally reasonable from the point of view of unification of the air fleet of the Russian aerospace forces. The MiG did not cause much enthusiasm in other countries. All this will probably scare off Indians who expect to get a more proven device. On the other hand, this fact does not put an end to the commercial potential of MiG.