Russia delays air force MiG-35 deliveries to 2016 over industry snags

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Programme delays have postponed the delivery of 37 RAC MiG-35 advanced multirole fighter aircraft ordered by the Russian air force until 2016, instead of this year as originally planned.

Yury Borisov, deputy defence minister, blamed the hiatus on the industry's "unreadiness to fulfil the contract".

"We are shifting the purchase of the MiG-35s to 2016 and will buy 16 MiG-29SMT aircraft for now," Borisov says. "The finance ministry is not against this," he adds.

Borisov's comments on 20 August follow a report a few days earlier in the Russian business daily Kommersant that revealed the order, which the paper said was worth $1.1 billion, had been delayed.

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"The MiG corporation will have three years to perfect the design of the MiG-35 and prepare for its smooth transition to mass production," a defence ministry source told Kommersant on condition of anonymity.

"Meanwhile, we will work together on the MiG-29SMT, which is already in service [with the Russian air force], and at the same time support our [aircraft] industry," the source said.

The Russian defence ministry had originally intended to sign the MiG-35 deal with RAC MiG in June, but the manufacturer's general director Sergei Korotkov told Russian media then that the contract had still not been signed.

Russia's air force already operates 28 MiG-29SMT fighters previously rejected by Algeria in 2007, which were later overhauled and fitted with new equipment before being delivered into service.

While there has been no comment from the air force, it is unlikely to be pleased by the move. The SMT variant was intended to integrate features designed for the MiG-29M in old-model MiG-29A fighters, including extra fuel tanks, the Zhuk-ME multimode radar, advanced cockpit displays and upgraded - but not thrust-vectoring - RD-33 turbofan engines.

The MiG-35, however, features the Zhuk-AE active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, OLS-35 optical locator system and optional thrust-vectoring engines.