Russia has launched flight tests of its latest lightweight fighter, MiG-35. The military aircraft, which has been constructed to be potentially equipped with laser weapons, will in the near future replace previous generation jets in the Russian Air Force.The new fighter jet by the Mikoyan Aircraft Corporation (MiG) can fly at speeds of over 2,700 km/h (1,700 mph) and reach heights of up to 17,500 meters (57,400 feet). Its strike radius is 1,000 km (620 miles), while it can be in action twice as long as previous generation fighters, as there is an option to replace the second pilot's seat with an extra fuel tank.
"The 3,500 kilometers [2,175 miles] that MiG-35 is able to fly suits us very well," Russian Air Force Commander Viktor Bondarev has said.
According to Bondarev, flight tests of the new fighter are expected to be completed in summer this year, right after which a contract to purchase 30 MiG-35 jets will be concluded between the Mikoyan corporation and the Russian Defense Ministry. "Then in a short while we will replace the whole fleet of lightweight fighters with such jets," he added, saying there are plans to purchase no less than 170 MiG-35 planes.
At the international premiere of the fighter, which took place in the Moscow region on Friday, the head of Russia's Air Force confirmed that the new multifunction military jet will also be deployed in tests of laser weapons right after its flight trials are concluded.