On November 30, three squadrons of MiG-31BM fighter-interceptors landed at Tsentralnaya Uglovaya air base near Vladivostok to enter service with the Russian military. The new aircraft will replace Su-27SM and previous modifications of MiG-31 planes. The first 24 modernized MiG-31BM fighter jets were delivered to the Russian military in April.
The Russian Air Space Forces plan to finally have 130 MiG-31BM aircraft in service. 12-13 jets will undergo modernization into the BM version each year. According to Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, after the modernization the plane can remain in active service 40-50 years.
The MiG-31 (Foxhound) is a long range, two-seat, high-speed, high-altitude fighter aircraft developed on the basis of the proven Mig-25 Foxbat interceptor. It is designed to intercept and destroy cruise missiles, low-flying satellites, stealth aircraft, and other aerial targets of all types at all possible altitudes, during day or night, and in adverse weather conditions. The MiG-31BM is one of only a few aircraft able to intercept and destroy cruise missiles flying at extremely low heights. The BM upgrade is supposed to allow MiG-31s to remain in service until 2030.
According to Captain 2nd rank Vladimir Matveev, Eastern Military District spokesman, the aircraft’s combat capabilities increased by 2.6 times as a result of modernization. Classified as a long-range interceptor, the modernized MiG can now destroy both air and ground targets.
The plane is powered by two D-30F6 fuel-efficient engines developing a top speed of 2883km (1,860 miles) per hour at high altitude and about 1,554km/h (960 mph) at low altitude. The MiG-31 can break the sound barrier while flying level or ascending, whereas the majority of supersonic aircraft break the speed of sound in a shallow dive.
Moreover, the MiG-31 can go supersonic at medium and high altitudes without turning on afterburners. It can accelerate up to 2,500km/h (1553mi). At the maximum speed, is faster than any similar aircraft in the world, by at least 500 kilometers per hour. Duration of the MiG-31 supersonic flight is only limited by the fuel supply.
Its combat radius, depending on speed, varies between about 708km (440 miles) and 1,448km (900 miles).
During the drills, the aircraft broke a record for the longest non-stop flight, spending seven hours and four minutes in the air while covering the distance of 8,000km (4,970mi) from Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region to the Astrakhan region in southern Russia with three mid-air refueling procedures performed en route.
The Zaslon-M weapons control and radar system, developed by V. Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design, provides increased target detection range – nearly 320km (199 mi) – and a firing range of about 280km (174 mi). The system can detect a fighter aircraft at a range of 320 kilometers (198mi) with the ability to engage them at a distance of 280 kilometers (173mi). The upgraded radar can track up to 24 aircraft while engaging up to ten airborne targets simultaneously. The Zaslon-M also enables the use of air-to-air missiles, smart bombs and anti-radiation missiles.
The equipment includes digital secure datalinks. The RK-RLDN datalink is for communication with ground control centers. The APD-518 datalink enables a flight of four MiG-31 to automatically exchange radar-generated data within 200km (124 mi) from each other. It also can direct other aircraft to targets spotted by MiG-31BM. A group of four of these aircraft can control the air space of a front line 800-900 km (497-559mi) in length. The MiG-31BMs can perform as airborne early warning and control aircraft freeing A-50 AEW planes for other missions.
The plane carries 10 R-37M or RVV-BD missiles with an operational range of 320km (198mi). The range is 189km (117, 5 mi) for stealth targets. The missile is designed to shoot down AWACS and other C4ISTAR aircraft whilst keeping the launch platform out of range of any fighters that might be protecting the target. It can attack targets ranging in altitude between 15–25,000 meters (5 – 82,000 feet).
The R-37M is believed to track its targets with both semi-active and active radar homing. The R-37M can also use a fire-and-forget mode where it is completely independent of its launch platform. Its high explosive fragmentation warhead is huge — 60 kilograms — and capable of critically damaging large aircraft. The speed is incredibly high – about 7,350 km/h or Mach 6.
The Mig-31BM is also equipped with a six-barrel rapid-fire gun.
In the air-to-surface operating mode, the fighter can be used for mapping the terrain and attacking ground and sea targets by using a wide range of guided missiles and precision-guided bombs.
It can be equipped with antiradar missiles Kh-31 and Kh-25), air-surface rockets Kh-59 and Kh-29, guided bombs KAB-1500 or to eight KAB-500 with television or laser guidance. The maximum mass of combat load is 9000 kg (19841lb).
Able to undertake long-range interception, precision strike and defense suppression tasks, the aircraft is on the list of ten top aircraft in the world. The MiG-31BM variant will form the backbone of Russia’s air defenses.