MAKS 2017

MiG-35, the star of MAKS-2017

By Babak Taghvaee

Similar to previous years, MAKS Air Show or aviation expo was held in Zhukovsky airfield, Moscow drawing the attention of not only aviation enthusiasts rather the world’s potential buyers of Russian aviation products between 18th and 23rd July 2017. Star of this year’s air show was MiG-35, the latest and most recent product of JSC RAC MiG. In the Static section, a MiG-35UB and in dynamic section, a MiG-29M2/ MiG-35D prototype with 747 BLUE side number draws the attention of visitors via performing spectacular manoeuvres. Unlike what had been expected earlier this year, the Russian Ministry of Defense didn’t place any order for MiG-35 and postponed this to 2018 when the MiG-35S and MiG-35UB prototypes will be equipped with Zhuk-AE radars, while military delegations from various companies met RAC MiG authorities and negotiated for possibility of procuring MiG-35, among them Brig. Abdulkarim Bantarafi, General Manager of Iranian Aviation Industries Org. showed his interest in the MiG-35 MMRCA (Modern Multirole Combat Aircraft) in-order to procure for Iranian Air Force (IRIAF).

A new unidentified MiG-35UB was exhibited by RAC MiG during MAKS-2017. It was loaded with six dummy IR guided R-73E short range air to air missiles
and two dummy Active Radar Homing Guided R-77 long range air to air missiles under its wings as well as a state of art T220/e targeting pod under the fuselage.

 Financial problems of Russia never let the Russian Air Force retire all of its MiG-29 product 9-12s and 9-13s after the end of their 20 years calendar life in the years between 2006 and 2011. While it was planned to replace them with more advanced MiG-29M and MiG-29MS which their development had been started in mid-1980’s, the ageing MiG-29s of Russian Air Force were kept in service by means of slight upgrades and life time extension. But it was a temporary solution and even procurement of MiG-29SMTs was not meeting the needs of Russian Air Force to a more capable 4++ Generation Modern Multi Role Combat Aircraft to take place of the current MiG-29s of Russian Air Force. Finally, the MiG-35, the newest member of the MiG-29 family is now seen as the sole and best option as future light MMRCA of the air force. It is currently planned to replace the current fleet of 106 airworthy MiG-29s of Russian Air Force including 56 examples manufactured between 1986 and 1991 with 170 MiG-35s in the years between 2019 and 2030.

On 27th January 2017, during an official ceremony at Lukhovitsy, Near Moscow where the No.1 Production Complex of RAC MiG is located, the first MiG-35UB prototype with 712 side number which had been first flown in December 2016 was unveiled to public a day after RAC MiG head of flight testing, Chief test pilot Mikhail Belyaev had reported directly to President Vladimir Putin on the completion of successful initial flight tests if the first UB or combat trainer version of MiG-35.

In that day, the MiG-35UB with 712 BLUE side number had 10 minutes demonstration flight for defence attaches of 30 countries present in the ceremony. During the ceremony, Gen. Viktor Bondarev, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force branch of the Russian Aerospace Forces finally confirmed that upon the end of the joint state-tests of the MiG-35 a contract for 30 out of total 170 MiG-35s planned to be procured for RuAF will be finalized with first deliveries in 2019.

702 is the first MiG-35S prototype was unveiled by RAC MiG
during an official ceremony at Lukhovitsy on 27
th January 2017

It was expected that Russian Ministry of Defense sign a contract with RAC MiG for procurement of 30 MiG-35s during MAKS-2017 air show in Zhukovsky, but according to Russian Minister of Defense, Yuri Borisov, the contract for 24 MiG-35s including six for SWITS aerobatic demonstration team will be signed in 2018 in case of completion of the Zhuk-AE final version with increased detection range of 280km instead of current 160km. Russian Air Force has No intention to buy MiG-35s temporarily equipped with Zhuk-ME radars and then upgrade them in 2020, which is not cost-effective.

Also, Ilya Tarasenko, General Director of the RAC MiG told European Defense Review that the serial production of MiG-35 will start within two years [in 2019]. Previously in June, deputy director of RAC MiG, Viktor Chernov had said that the state tests of the MiG-35 will be completed at the end of 2017, and the serial production will start in 2018 with first deliveries to Russian Air Force in 2019.

Since March 2017, the state tests of new single seater MiG-35S prototype with 702 BLUE side number and first MiG-35UB prototype with 712 BLUE side number have started in Zhukovsky after the end of their initial flight tests in Lukhovitsy. In Zhukovsky, their armament and weapon systems will be tested while they are equipped with Zhuk-ME radar which has maximum aerial and ground detection range of 120km. This radar is now installed on MiG-29SMTs of RuAF and also MiG-29KR/KUBRs of Russian Navy.

Similar to previous prototypes, the 702 and 712 BLUE are both equipped with new RD-33MK engines nicknamed as Sea Wasp, which is the latest model of the RD-33 engine developed by St. Petersburg JSC “Klimov” in 2001. This engine has not only increased thrust rather has increased service life and MTBO (mean time between overhaul). It has FADEC and smokeless combustion chamber and tens of them are currently being used by Russian Navy MiG-29KR/KUBRs after its mass production was started in 2006.

The first MiG-35UB prototype with 712 BLUE was unveiled to defense attaches of 30 foreign countries
during its official unveiling ceremony at Lukhovitsy on 27
th January 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kowsar 88; Iran’s future Advanced Jet Trainers
by Babak Taghvaee

Its design and development began in 2009, the first prototype of the Iranian domestically designed Kowsar-88 advanced jet trainer was finally unveiled during a ceremony in Iranian Helicopter Support and Renewal Company (IHSRC) at Mehrabad International Airport, Tehran on 15th April 2017, while Iranian Minister of Defense, Gen. Hossein Dehghan and President Hassan Rouhani were present. During MAKS-2017, Iranian Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO) displayed mock-up of Kowsar-88 in its exhibition area and made it into highlight of Iran’s defense products at the show. Simultaneously, IAIO authorities negotiated JSC Slut, Russian manufacturer of the AI-222-25F Turbofan engines which are now being used by Yak-130 advanced jet trainer to procure 100 examples of that for fifty Kowsar-88s during MAKS-2017. AI-222-25F is the best replacement for the currently installed J85 Turbojet engines on first Kowsar-88 prototype.

This is the first F-5B Simorgh which was created from a badly damaged RF-5A reconnaissance and become
the very first advanced jet trainer was manufactured via recycling another aeroplane in Iran in 1980’s

In December 2007, while IAMI (Iranian Aircraft Manufacturing Industries) / HESA co. was contracted by IRIAF to start the conceptual design of the air force’s future advanced flight training jet with Ground Attack capability. The lessons learnt from failed project “Ya-Hossein” (advanced jet trainer of Iranian Air Force) was considered in aerodynamic design of Kowsar-88, because of this, the new airplane had firstly a pair of GE J85-GE-13s providing more thrust and increasing take-off weight of the airplane, enabling it to have more manoeuvrability rather to carry more fuel as well as weapons for weaponry training and even close air support missions.

From the beginning it had been planned to equip the aeroplane with glass cockpit consisted of three MFDs in aft and front cabins as well as HUD and HOTAS similar to the failed project SR.II’s F-5Es of Owj Complex, but due to the sanctions and stop of cooperation of the Chinese contractor involved in project SR.II, IAMI wasn’t able to reach this goal in short time.

Firstly due to lack of budget and secondly due to the sanctions, the project Kowsar 88 delayed and it remained on paper until 2014, when the first scaled down mock-ups of the airplane were manufactured for test in IAMI/ HESA’s wind tunnel. Finally in 2016, especially while the defence budgets had been reduced, a budget was assigned to the development of the Kowsar-88, after Russia firmly turned down Iran’s request for procurement of at-least 24 Yak-130 advanced jet trainers.

Work on the construction of the first Kowsar-88 prototype was started in 2016. In-order to reduce the costs, the airplane is using most of the Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter components from avionic, hydraulic systems, landing gears, to engines which can make it easier to build under sanctions by means of recycling parts of three surviving RF-5As and six F-5As of Iranian Air Force.

It was planned to be flown for first time in February 2017, but due to delays in preparation of its engines and other parts (due to installation of the engines on a new Qaher F-313 mock-up for a propaganda show) the airplane was remained incomplete when it was brought from Shahin-Shahr to Tehran on lorry and was unveiled to public for first time during a propaganda show in Tehran on 15th April 2017.

Taiwanese prospective behind design and development of indigenous AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung was considered during conceptual design of the Kowsar-88 which has made it even visually similar to the advanced Jet Trainer. IRIAF has projected to operate a fleet of 50 F-5E Saeghes and 14 F-5F Saeghe IIs as its future fighter airplanes in case of existence of arm sanctions until 2045. All these Saeghes will be made from existing fleet of ageing F-5E/Fs while the Kowsar 88s which will take role of existing F-5Bs and Simorghs will be used for advanced pilot training.

In case of IAMI’s inability to procure parts and engines from black market for manufacturing more Kowsar-88s, IRIAF will deliver its fleet of six grounded F-5As and six ageing F-5Bs to IAMI to recycle their parts for use in project Kowsar-88. By means of these old Freedom Fightes, a squadron of 16 Kowsar-88s can be formed within next ten years while the existing fleet of eleven F-5B Simorghs will be used as complementary jet trainers beside them.