MiG-31 can down RQ-4B, but S-300B will do better, US expert wrote

The American publication National Interest highlights the capabilities of the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS or RuAF] in tackling American RQ-4B Global Hawk drones. The article cites insights from Igor Korotchenko, a Russian expert and editor-in-chief of National Defense.  

Japan received an RQ-4B surveillance UAV with Raytheon's EISS
Photo credit: Brozo

Korotchenko suggests that long-range surface-to-air missile systems, like the S-400 or S-300B armed with long-range anti-aircraft missiles, would be the most effective counters to drones. The National Interest also notes Korotchenko’s view that the Mikoyan MiG-31 [NATO designation Foxhound], equipped with air-to-air missiles, can take down Global Hawks.  

Korotchenko mentions that the use of air-to-air missiles would require a legal framework, such as a special regime for the airspace segment or specific restrictions set by Russia. Preferably, this framework would be based on an earlier precedent, or Russia might need to establish such a precedent themselves.

Airborne refueling boosts MiG-31I range, poses threat to NATO bases
Photo credit: Twitter

The ‘break’ of the news

These discussions come just days after reports emerged that a Russian MiG-31 might have downed a U.S. Air Force RQ-4B drone. Initially, it was claimed that “Moscow’s declaration of the Black Sea as a no-fly zone led to a MiG-31 shooting down an American RQ-4B.” However, both the “flight area” and the “shot down by MiG-31” claims turned out to be incorrect. 

Speculation followed that the drone may have turned off its radar transponder, causing it to vanish from privately tracked radar apps. The Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber was the original source of this news, posting a cryptic message about the alleged incident: “The beginning has been set (…) There is now increased turbulence in the Black Sea. Let’s see if this is permanent or a one-time event.” This announcement stirred up further speculation as it did not confirm or deny whether the Russian MiG-31 used munitions against the U.S. drone.

Phantom skies: A U.S. RQ-4B drone was lost over the Black Sea
Photo credit: Reddit

Su-27 downed MQ-9 last March

Last year, the U.S. military scaled down reconnaissance drone flights over the Black Sea. This followed a dramatic incident in March 2023, where a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 [known as Flanker in NATO reporting] collided with an MQ-9 Reaper drone. 

In March 2023, headlines were buzzing about an American MQ-9 Reaper drone that crashed into the Black Sea. According to the U.S. European Command, the drone was on a routine mission when it was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 aircraft, causing a “mid-air collision” as the Russian jet allegedly dumped fuel over the drone. However, the Russian Defense Ministry denied any such contact, claiming the incident resulted from a violation of airspace rules. 

MiG-31BMs get R-74M missile hitting targets in the rear hemisphere
Photo credit: MWM

In response to the event, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin affirmed that the United States would continue its flight operations wherever international law permits. He stressed the importance of Russian military aircraft conducting themselves safely and professionally.

Valid target? 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has claimed that RQ-4B Global Hawk drones have been conducting reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea, specifically near Crimea. They noted that one drone was “on duty” on June 23, coinciding with Ukraine’s airstrike on Sevastopol. Several missiles impacted a beach near a Russian area, tragically killing four people, including two children, and injuring more than 100.  

F-35s 'force' MiG-31s to intercept 'threats' in the stratosphere
Photo credit: UAC

Moscow labeled the strike a “terrorist act.” While Kyiv has remained silent on the incident, it occurred a day after a Russian-guided bomb struck an apartment building in Kharkiv, resulting in two deaths and more than 50 injuries.

RQ-4B purpose

The RQ-4B is a drone made by Northrop Grumman for the US Air Force. It’s part of the Global Hawk series, which is famous for flying high and staying in the air for a long time. The RQ-4B helps military leaders by providing them with real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance [ISR] data. 

Su-27 blocked USAF RQ-4B Global Hawk approaching the Russian border
Photo credit: Northrop Grumman

The main job of the RQ-4B is high-altitude, long-endurance surveillance and reconnaissance. It can fly up to 60,000 feet, allowing it to watch large areas and gather important information without being easily detected. This is especially beneficial for monitoring large regions and tracking activities over extended periods. 

The RQ-4B has advanced sensors and cameras like synthetic aperture radar [SAR], electro-optical/infrared [EO/IR] cameras, and signals intelligence [SIGINT] systems. These features help it capture clear images, track moving targets, and intercept electronic communications. This allows the RQ-4B to handle many intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance [ISR] tasks. The RQ-4B also supports military operations by providing commanders with real-time updates. It can send live video and vital data directly to command centers, enhancing decision-making and planning. This is especially useful in fast-changing situations like conflict zones or during disasters. 

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