NATO called it Foxhound, but it was officially named MiG-31. It was aircraft used by the Russian, and this airplane was a true mystery for the West. In the last decade of the Cold War, a series of images of the plane appeared, but the Western powers were only able to speculate about its capabilities. This airplane remained inconspicuous, even after the end of the Cold War, because it was tasked with home defense.
They were never exported nor used in combat which baffled the Americans, but the Russians still keep hundreds of these fighters in the inventory, maintaining their defense network in the air. Before this plane, there was the MiG-25 Foxbat which was quite disappointing. The Foxbat was supposed to be the fastest airplane in the sky, and it was made to combat the US XB-70 Valkyrie which never rolled out of the factory. However, the Russians had the advantage since the Western powers remained unaware of the Foxbat’s abilities. Once they caught it flying over Japan, they realized that it was hard to maneuver and it couldn’t maintain supersonic speeds at low altitudes, which limited the airplane’s potential drastically.
The Soviets put the MiG-25 for sale and they focused on building another high-speed interceptor which was supposed to be much better and much harder to notice in the sky. The final product featured new radar, a back seat Weapon Systems Officer as well as enhanced long-range air-to-air missiles. The difference between the MiG-31 and its predecessor was in a backseat Weapon Systems Officer, or WSO which operated the Zaslon S-800 Passive Electronically Scanned Array Radar. The radar had the range of 125 miles, and it could detect targets that flew underneath, which was not that common at that time.
The production of the Foxhound started in 1979, and the plane was first used in 1981. Even though it was not as movable as expected, the Foxhound earned the notorious reputation in NATO intelligence reports. Because of this, the MiG-31 was imagined as if it benefited from stealth technology and as if it was operated by thought. This was in the 1982 movie Firefox with Clint Eastwood, just so there isn’t any confusion.
The MiG-31 did look fearful, and the Western countries were scared that it could chase down the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane which reached speeds of Mach 3.3 or higher. According to the Soviet pilots, they could use the aircraft to lock on to a Blackbird. But why did they never fire? Although some believe that the Blackbird entered the Soviet airspace, this isn’t true. The Blackbird spy planes only flew alongside the airspace, and that was the reason why Foxhounds just tracked them and never attacked.
The Foxhound changed over years, and it became even better. In 1985, the Soviet aeronautical designer Adolf Tolkachev exposed the secrets of the radar used by the Foxhound to the CIA, and that is why the MiG-31Bs and BSs were using different radars with brand new hardware upgrades. The Foxhound is so unique that it never went outside the Russian border and no other country except one has these planes. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakh Air Force inherited 30-50 of those, and they are the only ones next to Russia that has them in their arsenal.
It was rumored several years ago that one of the MiG-31s was sold to the Syrian forces, but that turned out to be false. Even if these planes were sold to the Syrians, they would find little use of them in the midst of the civil war. Their MiG-25s have proved poorly, and they are not adapted to the air-to-air conflict.
MiG-31 also known as Foxhound is a legendary airplane in the Russian air force. Moscow claims that another Mach 4 interceptor which will be named MiG-41 will be produced to replace the famous Foxhound.