While meant to be the renaissance of Soviet fighters, the MiG-29 ended up being the worst fourth-generation fighter. After a lengthy development, its successor was all this jet needed to be.
It was developed to be a multi-purpose fighter with an array of weaponry and electronics that can “go head to head” with whatever the West throws at them. This is how the MiG-35, or the Last Fulcrum finally took to the skies.
In 1985, Russia was in chaos. The Russian Spy Bureau just found out that one of their top engineers, Adolf Tolkachev, had just sold information to the West. Information like radars for their magical Su-27, phenomenal MiG-29, and even the S300 to the CIA. All of the Soviets’ hard work for their fourth-generation fighter was now in vain- the Americans could easily counter this aircraft. To match the west, the MiG-29 M was started.
Also, when the Chornobyl disaster happened, it turned the Soviet economy upside down. Many military projects had to be stopped and paused for the time being- one of them was the MiG-29 M.
However, soon enough, MiG saw an opportunity for retribution with another project- a new carrier-born fighter, the MiG-29k. Still, despite great avionics and a smaller size making it more optimized for carrier ops, there was a big problem with the range.
Oceans were vast and the government wanted a jet that had a considerable range for carrier-based operations. So, MiG lost the contract, but the war for the future of the Russian Air Force was still to be won- that battle would take place in an entirely different country.
To sum it all up, the MiG-29 platform is what the F-16 became in the 90s. But the MiG-35 changed all of that.
The Indian Air Force needed new jets for their Air Force- a multi-billion dollar contract that would give the MiG bureau a complete rebirth. Thus, they further modified the M2 variant, integrating a targeting pod on the right engine gondola.
The Russians even agreed to transfer this new tech to the Indians for local manufacturing. They called this new jet, the MiG-25. MiG thought it was an easy win, but the competition was fierce. The Indians chose the Rafale.
The Last Fulcrum
Regardless, the MiG-35 is a capable and light multirole plane. Just like the F-16, it could be a cheaper workhorse carrying a bunch of weaponry and doing any kind of mission. All of this though may be a cloud of hot gas since only six planes have been delivered with the contract after the Russian Air Force was downsized.
In the end, there’s a reason why they call this the Last Fulcrum. That’s maybe because the plane is finally what it was envisioned to be right from the very beginning- a capable light multi-role fighter. However, the future will show if there’s a place for this plane in the skies or if it was all for nothing.