RuAF acquired new ‘carriers of Kinzhal’ – modernized MiG-31s
The esteemed Nizhny Novgorod Aviation Plant “Sokol”, a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation, recently completed an impressive task. They delivered a fleet of refurbished and upgraded MiG-31 fighter interceptors to the Russian Ministry of Defense, as confirmed by the KLA’s press service.
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The project was executed under the state defense order, and the renovated aircraft have been dispatched to their respective airfields. The enhanced fighters return to active service with not only their original flight performance intact but also augmented functions and capabilities, a testament to the Corporation’s innovative approach.
As integral components of the Russian missile defense system, the MiG-31 interceptors are tasked with the essential duty of annihilating cruise and ballistic missiles across any altitude range. Their advanced technology enables them to detect and obliterate satellites, fifth-generation stealth aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and low-flying targets that follow a terrain-hugging flight path.
Currently, the military is receiving an upgraded version of the MiG-31BM aircraft. Notably, these interceptors are equipped with a novel weapon control system and radar stations during the modernization process. This advanced system facilitates the detection of targets up to 320 km away and enables their destruction at a distance of 280 km. Furthermore, the MiG-31BM can monitor up to ten air targets and simultaneously strike six of them.
The MiG-31BM aircraft stand ready to undertake missions at altitudes exceeding 20,000 meters, and at speeds up to a staggering 3,000 km/h, showcasing their formidable potential in modern warfare.
MiG-31 variant delivery remains unclear
Two upgraded MiG-31BM fighter interceptors were delivered to Russia’s Central Military District in Krasnoyarsk Territory last December, according to EurAsian Times. Their specific variant remains unknown and has led to speculation they may be the MiG-31BM version.
The MiG-31BM, an advanced version of the original MiG-31 Foxhound, can destroy cruise missiles at low altitudes. It can be equipped with various Russian missiles and intercept up to 24 targets simultaneously.
Currently, Russia has roughly 90 MiG-31BM fighters. Without information on the variant or number of upgraded MiG-31s, it’s difficult to know if there’s been an additional shipment of MiG-31BM.
Experts speculate that the MiG-31 may have been upgraded to the MiG-31K variant, which carries Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. For example, Indian Air Force veteran Vijainder K. Thakur suggests the MiG-31s may have been upgraded to carry hypersonic missiles.
Procuring additional MiG-31 Interceptors could enhance VKS combat capabilities. The aircraft has performed well in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
MiG-31’s role in Ukraine war
The Su-30SM and Su-35S, two advanced jets of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), have been effective against Ukrainian aircraft. However, the MiG-31 Interceptor has performed remarkably well. According to a study by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the VKS’s defensive patrols, armed with long-range R-37M and MiG-31BM missiles, have proven challenging for Ukrainian pilots.
The RUSI study highlighted that the Ukrainian fighter, Su-27, cannot match the MiG-31’s altitude, speed, or range. The MiG-31 can reach Mach 2.5 and fly at about 18 kilometers for over 700 kilometers.
Other than the MiG-31BM, the MiG-31K variant has also been challenging for the Ukrainians. The MiG-31K, armed with the hypersonic Kh-47 Kinzhal, has been particularly effective. The VKS has increasingly used this missile on Ukraine, especially against their Patriot missile defense system.
Since the start of the conflict, the MiG-31’s importance to the Russian Air Force has grown. Only one MiG-31BM has reportedly been lost in a non-combat incident.
Experts suggest that Ukraine might need to acquire the F-16 Fighting Falcon from NATO to counter Russia’s high-altitude interceptors.
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