‘Not Afraid’ Of U.S. Competition In India Are Russia’s Fighter Jet Makers

Just days after U.S. arms maker Lockheed Martin Corp agreed with Tata Advanced Systems to build F-16 fighters there, Russian military aviation firm MiG said on Friday it was ready to deepen its cooperation with India.

Foreign suppliers must build the planes in India to boost the domestic industrial base and cut outright imports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said even though India’s air force needs hundreds of aircraft to replace its Soviet-era fleet.

By providing planes, service and training centers, MiG had been cooperating with India for more than 50 years, and company remains upbeat about further sales, said the company’s MiG General Director Ilia Tarasenko said in a written interview to Reuters.

“We are not afraid of rivalry with the U.S. in this market,” he said. “On the contrary, we believe that attempts by other players to establish cooperation with this country help us to better understand their needs and better meet them.”

He said that his company was ready to respond to any and all of the changes in Moscow’s approach due to Modi’s “Make in India” initiative at the same time.

“Regarding improvements, we believe that it is necessary to further deepen cooperation within the framework of the ‘Make in India’ concept and are ready to take the necessary steps,” Tarasenko said. He did not elaborate.

He said MiG’s new MiG-35 fighter jet offered countries capabilities that went beyond those of regular “fourth-generation” planes, was 20 percent cheaper to operate over its lifespan and oso slated to debut at Russia’s MAKS 2017 air show next month.

Paving the way for serial production once a contract was signed with the defense ministry, two MiG-35s should complete flight tests by the end of the year or early next, Tarasenko said.

Tarasenko said that MiG expected to make its first exports in 2020. He did not name potential customers and met with 20 potential customers during the Paris event and added that at least one of the two MiG-35 jets would appear at the MAKS 2017 air show.

While not as expensive as fifth-generation aircraft that can evade radar, the MiG-35 was already “stronger, smarter and more versatile” than fourth-generation jets, Tarasenko said and dismissed the importance of grouping jets into “generations”.

“It will be barely noticeable on the radar – due to the reduction of the reflecting surface, the special radio-absorbing coating, and electronic radio-suppressing equipment,” he said.

With data streaming into pilots’ augmented reality helmets to enable more precise missile firing, the MiG’s radar would be able to track up to 30 targets, and lead six of them simultaneously.

In addition, the aircraft could carry up to six tons of weapons, had greater range and could take on more fuel in mid-air and refuel other planes, he said. Work on a new aircraft with increased range and a higher top ceiling range and one that would be “smarter, faster” was already on in Russia, Tarasenko said.

“We are working on perspective projects that by some characteristics are ahead of the current perception of aviation,” he said.

(Adapted from Reuters)

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