A great video of the worlds fastest military aircraft in service today. The Mikoyan MiG-31 (Russian: Микоян МиГ-31; NATO reporting name: Foxhound) is a supersonic interceptor aircraft developed for use by the Soviet Air Forces. The aircraft was designed by the Mikoyan design bureau as a replacement for the earlier MiG-25 “Foxbat”; the MiG-31 is based on, and shares design elements with the MiG-25. The MiG-31 has the distinction of being one of the fastest combat jets in the world. It continues to be operated by the Russian Air Force and the Kazakhstan Air Force following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. The Russian Defence Ministry expects the MiG-31 to remain in service until at least 2030.
The MiG-25 made substantial design sacrifices in order to achieve high speed, altitude and rate of climb. It lacks maneuverability at interception speeds and is difficult to fly at low altitudes. The MiG-25’s speed is limited to Mach 2.83 but it could reach a maximum speed of Mach 3.2 or more with the risk of engine damage.
MiG-31BM taking off from Chelyabinsk Shagol Airport in 2012
Development of the MiG-25’s replacement began with the Ye-155MP (Russian: Е-155МП) prototype which first flew on 16 September 1975. Although it bore a superficial resemblance to the MiG-25, it had a longer fuselage to accommodate the radar operator’s cockpit and was in many respects a new design. An important development was the advanced radar, capable of both look-up and look-down/shoot-down engagement, as well as multiple target tracking. This gave the Soviet Union an interceptor with the capability to engage the most likely Western intruders (low flying cruise missiles and bombers) at long range. The MiG-31 replaced the Tu-128 interceptor.
Like its MiG-25 predecessor, the introduction of the MiG-31 was surrounded by early speculation and misinformation concerning its design and abilities. The West learned of the new interceptor from Lieutenant Viktor Belenko, a pilot who defected to Japan in 1976 with his MiG-25P. Belenko described an upcoming “Super Foxbat” with two seats and an ability to intercept cruise missiles. According to his testimony, the new interceptor was to have air intakes similar to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23, which the MiG-31 does not have, at least in production variants.
Serial production of the MiG-31 began in 1979. The MiG-31 is able to maintain combat effectiveness despite the potential use of active and passive radar jammers and thermal decoys by adversaries. A group of four MiG-31 interceptors is able to control an area of air space across a total length of 800–900 km; its radar possessing a maximum detection range of 200 km in distance (radius) and the typical width of detection along the front of 225 km.
The MiG-31 was designed to fulfill the following mission objectives:
Intercept cruise missiles and their launch aircraft by reaching missile launch range in the lowest possible time after departing the loiter area;
Detect and destroy low flying cruise missiles, UAVs and helicopters;
Long range escort of strategic bombers;
Provide strategic air defense in areas not covered by ground based air defense systems.
MiG-31 production ended in 1994. The first production batch of 519 MiG-31s including 349 “baseline models” was produced at the Sokol plant between 1976 and 1988. The second batch of 101 MiG-31DZs was produced from 1989 to 1991. The final batch of 69 MiG-31B aircraft was produced between 1990 and 1994. From the final batch 50 were retained by the Kazakhstan Air Force after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Of the “baseline models”, 40 airframes were upgraded to MiG-31BS standard.
Upgrades and replacement
Some upgrade programs have found their way into the MiG-31 fleet, like the MiG-31BM multirole version with upgraded avionics, new multimode radar, hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls, liquid crystal (LCD) color multi-function displays (MFDs), ability to carry the R-77 missile and various Russian air-to-ground missiles (AGMs) such as the Kh-31 anti-radiation missile (ARM), a new and more powerful computer, and digital data links. A project to upgrade the Russian MiG-31 fleet to the MiG-31BM standard began in 2010; 100 aircraft are to be upgraded to MiG-31BM standard by 2020. Russian Federation Defence Ministry chief Colonel Yuri Balyko has claimed that the upgrade will increase the combat effectiveness of the aircraft several times over. 18 MIG-31BMs were delivered in 2014. The Russian military will receive more than 130 upgraded MiG-31BMs, and the first 24 aircraft have already been delivered, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters on 9 April 2015.
Russia plans to start development of a replacement for the MiG-31