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Russia’s ‘revolutionary’ MiG-31 fighter jet to be heavily modified amid tensions with NATO


MiG-31: Russia has given a boost to its combat capability by modernizing the Foxhound or MiG-31 fighter plane. The development comes shortly after Moscow unveiled a “Checkmate” medium fighter jet while projecting it as a game changer, and signed an agreement with China to develop a heavy lift helicopter.

Earlier this year, two Russian MiG-31 interceptors flew over the North Pole, marking a milestone for the country’s navy.

The MiG-31 Foxhound set several world records. It reached an absolute maximum altitude of 37,650 meters in 1977 and set a record of 35,000 meters in 4 minutes and 11.78 seconds, both set by famous MiG test pilot Alexander Fedotov.

Needless to say, Russia has made constant efforts to modernize its air power and the MiG-31 upgrade is the latest effort in that direction.

The country is currently testing the improved MiG-31 fighter-interceptor with an electric flight control system, officials at the Sokol aircraft factory told Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko during his visit. in the facility on November 25.

Krivoruchko inspected the unit’s production capabilities and checked the pace of repair and upgrade work on MiG-31 fighters. He also held a meeting on the completion of the defense procurement plan, as part of his working trip to the Volga region.

“There is an option to upgrade this aircraft where we go from the mechanical control system to the electric flight control system, resulting in a multitude of computers mounted on the aircraft,” said Sokol Aviation Enterprise.

A MiG-31DZ A MiG-31DZ in flight over Russia, 2012. (Wikipedia)

The hunter’s on-board equipment will be completely replaced; The fighter aircraft will also be examined for defects to replace corrosion parts which could represent 15 to 50 percent of the total weight. The hunter’s canopy, as well as all wiring and rubber parts, will be completely overhauled.

Sokol’s main task is now to carry out substantial repairs to the MiG-31 fighter-interceptor, as well as a heavy upgrade to the MiG-31BM level, which has been underway since 2007.

The modification of the MiG-31 high altitude fighter-interceptors will improve the efficiency of their operations, in particular by protecting Russia’s northern borders against the backdrop of growing interest from other countries in the Northern Sea Route, a said Major General Vladimir Popov, a senior military pilot and defense expert.

As tensions between Russia and NATO countries increase in the region and as Moscow announces that its radars have intercepted some 40 spy planes and drones in about a week of tension, the announcement comes at the right time.

In March of this year, two Russian high-altitude MiG-31 Foxhound supersonic interceptor planes flew over the North Pole, marking a milestone for the country’s navy.

MiG-31 in the Russian fleet

Launched in 1981, the MiG-31 is a two-seater long-range supersonic interceptor aircraft. Day or night, the MiG-31 can perform well in any weather situation while complying with visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight regulations (IFR). The MiG-31 was the first Soviet fighter jet to be able to look down and shoot down.

In July 2020, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed its intention to invest in a program to modernize and extend the life of the MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor. The MiG-31 has a streamlined and aerodynamic fuselage that allows it to fly at high speed and at low altitude. The aircraft is designed to track multiple high altitude targets at the same time.

One of the most powerful variants of the MiG-31 is the MiG-31BM. It is a multi-functional, long-range, high-speed fighter aircraft capable of killing both air and ground targets.

Upgraded avionics, manual throttle and stick controls (HOTAS), color liquid crystal multifunction displays (MFDs), a rugged on-board computer system, digital data links and phased radar are all included in the variant. It has the ability to intercept 24 targets at a time.

24 MiG-31BM fighter jets ordered for the Russian armed forces
Mig-31BM (via Rostec)

The MiG-31 is equipped with four Vympel R-33E long-range air-to-air missiles. The R-33 can be launched in inertial navigation mode to shoot the target at long range.

For initial acquisition and mid-term updates, it can be steered in semi-active radar (SARH) mode. The Cold War era warplane was designed to take out huge, fast targets like the American SR-71 Blackbird, B-1 Lancer Bomber, and B-52 Stratofortress.

The aircraft is also equipped with four R-60MK short-range missiles and two Bisnovat R-40TD1 medium-range missiles. A 30mm six-gun internal cannon (Ghs-6-23M) is installed above the starboard main landing gear bay of the aircraft. The barrel holds 800 rounds and can fire at a rate of over 10,000 rounds per minute.

The MiG-31BM can accommodate the AA-12 Adder missile and various Russian air-to-surface missiles (AGMs) such as the AS-17 Krypton anti-radiation missile (ARM).

The Zaslon N007 electronic scanning radar on board the MiG-31 is the world’s first electronic scanning radar. It is also known as SBI-16 Zaslon (Flash Dance) and it is controlled by a Weapons System Officer (WSO) from the aft cockpit. Early warning radar (EWR) and air traffic control and warning systems can send signals to it (AWACS).

Zaslon can scan a distance of 200 kilometers. The radar can track 10 targets and engage four of them at a time in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft (behind and under the aircraft).

According to a count, there are 252 MiG-31s ​​in the inventory of the Russian Air Force. Moscow began modernizing its Foxhound fleet to the MiG-31BM and BSM variants from 2010 with plans to upgrade 100 by 2020.

The 35-year-old MiG-31 is expected to serve until 2030. Moscow says the MiG-41 or PAK-DP, a dedicated “Mach 4” interceptor, will be developed to replace the Foxhound in the air defense role.

This is puzzling, given that the Kremlin has so far only funded the manufacture of 10 advanced PAK-FA stealth planes, which begs the question of whether it can afford to deploy a platform as well. much more specialized.

How will the upgraded MiG-31s ​​help you?

The combat effectiveness of the MiG-31 fighter-interceptors will be tripled after substantial repairs and upgrades, says Sokol.

“In the meantime, the upgrade, in which the on-board radio-electronic equipment is completely replaced with cutting-edge technology, plans to use the latest air-launched weapons, which will increase the aircraft’s combat efficiency. about three times, ”Sokol management said.

The MiG-31 is one of the most widely deployed fighter jets in Russia, with several hundred more in reserve.

Russia’s MiG-31 fighter jets (via Twitter)

According to Aleksandr Osokin, chief designer at the Sokol aircraft factory, where MiG-31s ​​are repaired, the new variants of the Foxhound are around 2.6 times more efficient than the original Cold War planes.

The aircraft was intended to intercept not only all types of enemy aircraft, from bombers and observation aircraft to fighters and airborne early warning aircraft, but also missiles, with the aircraft being particularly capable of intercepting low-altitude cruise missiles.

Now, with the latest upgrade, the capacity is expected to increase dramatically. Fly-by-wire systems are computer controlled. The “hands-on” design allows pilots to have a clear and tactile idea of ​​how the aircraft handles aerodynamic forces as it flies. This will improve combat power by limiting the number of manual controls the pilot must otherwise perform.

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