MiG-31 can alter the targeting of a launched Kinzhal missile

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Reliable sources from the Russian military have affirmed the capability of in-flight mission directives for the Kinzhal [Dagger in English] missile is indeed a reality, as revealed to Izvestia on October 25. This information was also corroborated by alternate voices within the Russian military-industrial complex [MIC]. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

These assertions arise in response to speculations in the Western world. Some have suggested that recent modifications have allowed the Dagger aeroballistic missile to adjust its targeting while in flight, contrasting to the previous limitation of ground-level adjustments only. 

Sources in conversation with Izvestia stressed that this mid-flight redirecting protocol has actually seen several practical applications already, specifically during military operations involving Kinzhal-equipped MiG-31 carrier aircraft. 

“The MiG-31K aircraft’s crew consists of a two-person team, the pilot and the operator-navigator. While the pilot is in charge of aircraft management, the operator tracks the missile status including the input of target coordinates and flight parameter selection. Availing either the radio communications or the automated control system, the operator can receive target coordinates remotely from the ground,” one of the sources further elucidated.

Kinzhal’s ‘new role’

The recent addition of the Kinzhal capability plays a pivotal role in the application of the MiG-31 by the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces [VKS], as highlighted by the statement made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 18. 

This statement saw him declare the commencement of continual air surveillance over the Black Sea by the Russian Aerospace Forces. Further, he indicated that the MiG-31 aircraft utilized in these operations would be equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems. 

Contrary to potential speculations, Putin reassured that these measures did not pose a threat to anyone. He emphasized that the primary objective of this step is to maintain situational awareness and uphold monitoring efforts, the Russian leader underlined.

The aerial targeting advantage

The advantage of the MiG-31 changing the targeting of a Dagger missile after it has been fired by the MiG-31 is that it allows for real-time adjustments and increased accuracy. When the targeting is done from the ground, there is a delay in communication between the ground control and the missile, which can result in outdated information.

Photo credit: YouTube

Another advantage is the element of surprise. By changing the targeting of the Dagger missile after it has been fired, the MiG-31 can keep the enemy guessing and make it harder for them to anticipate the missile’s trajectory.

Furthermore, changing the targeting of the Kinzhal missile from the MiG-31 allows for better coordination and integration between the aircraft and the missile. The MiG-31 has advanced radar and targeting systems that can provide real-time data on the target’s position and movement.

Lastly – a higher level of operational flexibility. In dynamic combat situations, the ground control may not have the most up-to-date information on the target’s location or may be unable to communicate with the missile due to jamming or other interference.

Photo credit: YouTube

Re-targeting process

The process of re-targeting aero-ballistic missiles involves a complex set of procedures and technologies. It requires a sophisticated guidance system that can receive updated target information from the launching air platform.

This information is then used to calculate the necessary adjustments to the missile’s trajectory, ensuring that it reaches the new target accurately.

Photo credit: Wikiepdia

Additionally, the re-targeting process may involve communication between the launching air platform and other command and control systems, allowing for coordinated re-targeting efforts and effective utilization of available resources.

It’s not news, it’s understanding

The Kinzhal’s ability to change its targeting by command from the launch air platform is not new in missile systems development. On the contrary, for years it has been part of the understanding of the use of missiles of this type, called guided missiles.

Photo: MBDA UK

For example, one example of a Western missile that can change its trajectory is the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile [JASSM]. This long-range, precision-guided missile is capable of altering its flight path during its journey to the target. It uses an inertial navigation system combined with GPS and infrared imaging to navigate and identify targets.

Another Western missile that can change its trajectory is the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile. This short-range missile is primarily used for air-to-air engagements and is capable of high maneuverability. The AIM-9X utilizes thrust vectoring, which allows it to change direction in flight by adjusting the direction of its exhaust.

The Tomahawk cruise missile is yet another Western missile that can change its trajectory. It uses a combination of inertial navigation, GPS, and terrain contour matching to navigate to its target. During its flight, the Tomahawk can receive updates from its onboard control system, allowing it to adjust its trajectory and avoid obstacles or engage secondary targets if necessary.

The reverse process

In military operations, it’s possible to reverse the missile-launch process, allowing for retargeting of ground-launched missiles from the air. 

An example of this came to light only a day ago, as reported by the TASS agency. They highlighted a new deployment strategy concerning the Beriev A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft. In alignment with the revelation by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that 24 aircraft were downed in five days, it was implied that Beriev A-50s played an instrumental role in these accomplishments. 

Analyzing the TASS report elaborates on the beneficial collaboration between the A-50 and S-400 systems. The report conveys that the S-400 system targeted aerial objects stationed approximately 1 km above with newly designed warheads of anti-aircraft guided missiles, demonstrating the effectiveness of maximum-distance firing. 

Photo credit: Twitter

This missile deployment technique is not exclusive to one side of the conflict; it’s evident in both. NATO aircraft and the allies of Ukraine disseminate accurate information to Ukrainian ground troops regarding the exact position of enemy units. Consequently, if there are any location changes, the airborne teams have the favorable ability to alter the trajectory of the missiles launched from the ground.


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