MOSCOW (Agencies): In a surprising development, Russia has reportedly deployed its MiG-35 fighter jets in air strikes against Ukraine, according to Sergei Korotkov, the General Designer of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).

The MiG-35, a 4.5-generation aircraft, had previously faded from operational prominence in Russia and had minimal foreign customers. Its sudden involvement in the conflict comes as a notable shift, especially given the fighter’s absence from Russian Ministry of Defence (RuMoD) publicity material over the past 21 months.

The MiG-35, introduced in 2016, boasts advanced features, including reduced radar signature, an active phased array antenna, a helmet-mounted target designation system, new engines with increased thrust, and the ability to act as an aerial tanker. The fighter is designed for operations in high-intensity armed conflicts with dense air defense.

While the exact role of the MiG-35 in the Ukraine conflict remains unclear, experts suggest potential tasks such as supporting combat air patrols, scanning for ground-based air defense systems, and possibly engaging in Suppression of Enemy Air Defense/Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD/DEAD) missions. The fighter’s employment may also serve strategic purposes, including testing its relevance within the Russian Aerospace Forces and generating international interest to secure export orders.

Russia’s decision to utilize the MiG-35 could be a careful strategic move, considering the fighter’s limited numbers in the Russian Air Force (RuAF), currently standing at six units. The involvement of the MiG-35 could be aimed at showcasing its capabilities, both domestically and internationally, and assessing its compatibility with Russia’s overall air force strategy, which has predominantly transitioned to Sukhoi and other MiG series.

The MiG-35’s participation in the conflict might also serve diplomatic and economic purposes, reassuring potential buyers of its operational viability. The fighter’s engagement could influence international arms buyers who often consider the usage of a platform by its country of origin. Russia’s initial order for the MiG-35 was reduced from 37 to 24 and further to just six units, raising questions about its domestic acceptance.

As the conflict unfolds, the MiG-35’s role and impact will likely become clearer. Its participation marks a significant development in the air operations over Ukraine and adds a new dimension to the evolving dynamics of modern aerial warfare.

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