Russia sent a MiG-31 into low Earth orbit to intercept aircraft

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In response to NATO warplanes reaching Russia’s northern borders, the Northern Fleet’s MiG-31 interceptor aircraft actively participated in mock stratospheric combats over the Bering Sea. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense [MoD], via an official communique, disclosed, “The Northern Fleet’s separate collective aviation regiment’s MiG-31 fighter jet crew engaged in simulated aerial combat in the stratosphere.” 

In this simulated exercise, an imagined enemy aircraft approached Russian boundaries. The MoD clarified that a Northern Fleet MiG-31 fighter jet was dispatched to identify the intruder and deter any violations of Russian airspace. 

Almost 11,000 meters

The Fleet’s MiG-31 jet soared to nearly 11,000 meters above the Bering Sea in the air exercise. The jet intercepted a missile and eliminated a simulated threat. The MiG-31 Foxhound is known for performing well in high altitudes. 

This drill’s timing is noteworthy, occurring near a recent event when Russia was compelled to deploy a MiG-31 Foxhound jet, to avert a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft from infringing upon Russian territory over the Norwegian Sea. 

Photo credit: YouTube

Respecting the sanctity of Russian borders, a Northern Fleet MiG-31 fighter jet was engaged, “to identify the aerial target and prevent breach of Russian state border,” as declared by the Russian MoD on October 6. 

Air patrols

In the aftermath of the Ukraine conflict, Western military aircraft have consistently patrolled the close airspace, leading to frequent encounters with Russian fighter jets. This heightened aerial activity threatens regional stability due to the potential for misunderstandings leading to unforeseen escalation amid pre-existing tensions. 

The Ukraine conflict has increased tension between the West and Moscow, creating alertness along the Norwegian-Russian borders. NATO, with support from Finland and Sweden, is asserting its influence in this area against Russia’s wishes.

Photo credit: Mil.ru

The MoD stated that during the Finval-2023 exercises, MiG-31 jets simulated the interception of enemy cruise missiles over the Chukchi Sea. The crew effectively intercepted and eliminated the targets with air-to-air missiles. 

Back in 2019

The MiG-31’s engagement in high-altitude combat is not an unprecedented occurrence. In 2019, upgraded MiG-31BM fighter pilots carried out their first upper-atmosphere combat over the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East, simulating the interception of a practice airspace incursion during training, with a similar drill in 2020. 

In September, the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet shared that their MiG-31 jets practiced stratospheric missile attacks. “The MiG-31 pilots worked on flight maneuvers in the stratosphere, honing skills in evading attacks by imaginary enemy aircraft and relocating to operational airfields in the region.” 

Therefore, these stratospheric exercises are not out of the norm for the aircraft. Nevertheless, the location holds significance due to the considerable expansion of the Northern Military District following the Ukraine conflict.

A dangerous aircraft

The Russian MiG-31 interceptor is potent against rival planes and cruise missiles due to its superior speed and range. Reaching a peak speed of Mach 2.83, it ranks among the world’s fastest military planes. This facilitates rapid interception and engagement of distant targets, making evasion or outrunning difficult for enemy entities.

The MiG-31’s effectiveness is enhanced by its Zaslon phased-array radar system. This advanced radar can detect multiple targets up to 200 kilometers away. It enables the aircraft to identify and intercept enemy aircraft and cruise missiles from a distance.

Mig-31’s armament

The MiG-31 is equipped with long-range air-to-air missiles like the R-33 and R-37, capable of hitting targets up to 300 kilometers away. These missiles are built to attack and destroy enemy aircraft and cruise missiles from a distance, providing an edge in air battles.

The MiG-31’s strong structure and potent engines enable high-altitude and adverse weather operations. This makes it a powerful interceptor, efficiently patrolling and defending vast airspace. Its capacity to maintain high speeds and altitudes for long durations increases its effectiveness against enemy threats.

The MiG-31 not only has powerful attack features, but also advanced electronic warfare systems. These can interfere with and mislead enemy radar and missile tracking systems, improving its survival chances and complicating targeting by enemy planes or cruise missiles.

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