MiG 31

MiG 25 Fighter: Designed to Protect Russia from Non-existent Supersonic Bomber Force

In the 1960s, Soviet air force command was worried that the country is vulnerable to high-speed nuclear bombers fielded by the United States Air Force, like the Convair B-58 Hustler. Powered by four General Electric J79-GE-1 turbojet engines and capable of reaching Mach 2 speeds, B-58 was the first supersonic USAF bomber. It was introduced in 1960 and was a source of great concern for the Soviet air defense planners. To make things even worse, in 1964 USAF launched another nuclear bomber, B-70 Valkyrie. A futuristically looking plane that was even faster, reaching Mach 3 and becoming an even greater headache for the Soviets. Something had to be done and fast.

The task was taken by the famous Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau. As it turned out, it was the last plane legendary Mikhail Gurevich designed before going into the well-deserved retirement. The designers came up with a monster built around two Tumansky R-15 engines. These power plants were the most powerful jet engines Soviet had at their disposal at the time.


On paper, the latest addition to the Soviet Air Force was highly impressive. It could fly at a sustained speed of Mach 2.83, reaching even Mach 3 and higher for short bursts, but you needed an extra pair of engines waiting for you at the airport because the old ones were thrashed after such exhibition. It carried 4 R-40 Air to air missile that had interceptor role and could reach the height of sixty-five thousand feet. A reconnaissance version was packed with the best high-tech cameras and spying equipment the Soviet Union had to offer at the time and had an even higher ceiling.

It was Americans turn to get worried. They first learned of the new design in 1967, when Soviets revealed MiG-25 at the Moscow Domodedovo Airport. According to Western intel, not only did they manage to close the gap in their air defenses, but also gained a formidable fighter that could easily outrun every airplane, except SR-71 Blackbird, USAF had in its arsenal. MiG-25 was considered the greatest threat to the national security since the beginning of the Cold War.

The first step towards eliminating the threat was changing the requirement of the new fighter design being developed at the moment. Instead of a small, multipurpose plane, the focus shifted to a fast and pure air superiority fighter. The program resulted in McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, one of the most successful modern fighters, with more than 100 confirmed kills and not a single air to air combat loss.

The truth about MiG-25 became known on September 6th, 1976, when Lt. Viktor Belenko landed his plane at Hakodate Airport in Japan. Belenko became one of the most famous defectors in history, solely on the fact that he brought with himself one of the most guarded secrets in the Soviet Union. His plane was brand new and allowed Western engineers to see first hand what Soviet state of the art technology looks like.


It turned out that MiG-25 was vastly overrated. It had many flaws, mostly due to the inadequate manufacturing process. The Soviet Union lacked the ability to produce titanium and a large part of the airframe was built from steel, resulting in a very heavy airplane. The entire electronic suite was based on vacuum tubes technology. Although not as sophisticated as solid-state electronics its Western counterparts used, it has several advantages. Most importantly, the onboard radar, Smerch-A, lacked look down – shoot down ability, making MiG-25 useless against low-flying targets.

Soviets got their plane back 67 days later, in pieces, mostly because American engineers didn’t have enough time to put it back together. Realizing that crucial radar and missile technologies were compromised, they started working on a new version, MiG-25PD. This is the most numerous version of MiG-25.

Despite its drawbacks, MiG-25 had some success in combat. It saw action for the first time in 1971 when a detachment of Soviet Air Force was flying recon flights over Sinai from Egyptian bases. One of MiG-25s was tracked at Mach 3.2 during that time, but its engines were destroyed and had to be replaced after the flight.

MiG-25 was flown by Syrian Air Force as well, albeit with not much success. They lost two to Israeli F-15 in 1981. Iraqis were far more successful and their best MiG-25 pilot, Colonel Mohammed Rayyan, is credited with 10 kills.

In the end, MiG-25 wasn’t very successful in terms of design. It was built for a specific mission, but it was never used in that role and the design was far too rigid to be adapted for a different task. Its most important contribution is that it served as a basis for the development of a far better version, Mig-31.

Source: nationalinterest.org

MiG 31 – Legendary Soviet Aircraft

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.

source: nationalinterest.org