It has now emerged that RAC-MiG had built two prototypes of the shipborne MiG-29 as part of the contract to supply 12 MiG-29Ks and four MiG-29KUBs to the Indian Navy. These two prototypes—a tandem-seat MiG-29KUB No947 and a single-seat MiG-29K No941—made their maiden flights in January and June 2007, respectively. (By the way, these two prototypes were the first brand-new MiG-29s to be built by RAC-MiG after a gap of 15 years!) Following the conclusion of the flight certification and weapons qualification phases, the single-seat MiG-29K No941 was and is still being subjected to a modification programme aimed at deriving the definitive single-seat MiG-35. This perhaps explains why RAC-MiG has publicly displayed (during MAKS 2007 and MAKS 2009) the MiG-29KUB No947, but has never even revealed the existence of the Indian Navy-specific MiG-29K No941 to date. It is now believed that the Russian Air Force, as part of a Kremlin-initiated bailout package for debt-ridden RAC-MiG, will place an order for 24 MiG-35s by 2012, while the Russian Navy will procure 24 MiG-29K/KUBs in 2012 to replace the existing Su-33 shipborne combat aircraft.
According to RAC-MiG, the definitive MiG-35 will have larger wings to accommodate 10 underwing weapon stations, plus a belly-mounted station to house the Novator-built 3M-14AE Kalibr-A subsonic 290km-range air-to-ground land attack cruise missile. To make the MiG-35 a truly network-centric platform RAC-MiG has already initiated industrial participation negotiations with Israel’s SIBAT, plus avionics OEMs from Italy (Finmeccanica/Elettronica) and France (SAGEM for the Sigma-95 RLG-INS, which is also on board the Su-30MKI).—Prasun K. Sengupta