If the deal is successful, Malaysia will become the first country in the world, after Russia, to own this very advanced fighter.
Russia is expected to join the race for the Malaysian fighter jet contract with MiG-35. Previously, India, Pakistan and South Korea were pitching their fighters to this Southeast Asian country. Malaysia has launched a tender procedure to strengthen its air force. Part of the auction includes the purchase of fighters. Accordingly, Moscow has made an offer to Malaysian counterparts to buy 18 MiG-35 units – one of the last Russian-made fighters.
If the deal is successful, Malaysia will become the first country in the world, after Russia, to own this very advanced fighter. So far only India and Egypt are interested in the MiG-35, but no concrete action has been taken to reach an agreement.
According to Russian sources, Russia has a chance to win the tender due to two indicators – low price and high technical and combat performance. The MiG-35 multi-purpose combat aircraft is a modernized version of the Soviet MiG-29M2. Unofficially, the MiG-35 is also called the Super Fulcrum. The MiG-35 is currently available in two versions, the single-seat MiG-35 and the two-seat MiG-35D.
From a purely external point of view, the changes compared to the MiG-29 model appeared to be minor. Above all, clearly visible changes are enlarged air inlets and a new kind of protective net against foreign bodies in the air inlets. The previous additional air intakes on the top were no longer available, and the space freed up was used for additional tanks.
The MiG-35 has a built-in state-of-the-art optoelectronic system that provides an automatic overall defense to the fighter. This system allows the aircraft to detect ground targets and engage them with high-precision weapons. The aircraft is fitted with extremely powerful RD-33MK engines that have a service life of 40 years, with a total flying time of 6,000 hours.
These features put the fighter extremely close to a fifth-generation aircraft. Plus, the jet is adaptable enough to be equipped with thrust vectoring engines at the customer’s request. This further enhances the fighter’s already high maneuverability.
Of course, Malaysia still has other options. According to Malaysian media, there is information that Malaysia has ditched MiG-35 in favor of FA-50. Malaysia recently retired all Russian aircraft due to its high maintenance cost and unavailability of spare parts from Russia. According to Malaysian Defense Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia would consider a reliable platform based on a good reputation, such as FA-50.
While the $50 million MiG-35 is an overall new than the legacy Fulcrum jet, the Malaysians seem to be moving away from buying Russian-made equipment due to cost. Russian jets like their Su-30MKM are cheap to buy but expensive to maintain as well as due to CAATSA sanctions; the US may levy against them should they move ahead with the purchase.
It seems that the bad impression of the Mig-29s has made Malaysia’s opinion not interested in the Mig-35. Compared to proven fighters like the F-16, it is clear that the combat experience of the Mig-35 is not enough. On the other hand, the maintenance and overhaul costs of the Mig family are another nightmare.