40-year-old “miracle weapon”: how the Russian mass media is trying to increase the importance of its own armed forces


Russian mass media spread an article singing the eulogy of their Air and Space Forces and MiG-31 interceptor. Is it so?

«These aircraft have no competitors with comparable capabilities, MWM writes. For the West, they are still a mystery,» the publication reports, referring to the English-language website Military Watch Magazine*.

* Military Watch Magazine is characterized as «centre-right and dubious based on promoting pro-Russian propaganda and a complete lack of transparency about who is responsible for the website and where it comes from.»

Photo of the MiG-31. Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Russian_Air_Force_Mikoyan-Gurevich_MiG-31P.jpg/

The MiG-31 is a Soviet development that was adopted back in 1981. Production continued until 1994, and now aircraft of this type are in service with the Air Force of the Russian Federation and the Air Force of Kazakhstan. The service life of the MiG-31 in the Russian army is determined at least until 2030.

The MiG-31 was designed to perform the following tasks:

interception of cruise missiles and their nose planes, based on the launch range of the missiles in the shortest possible time after leaving the waiting area;

— detection and destruction of low-flying cruise missiles, UAVs and helicopters;

— to provide a long-range escort of strategic bombers;

— provide strategic air defence in areas not covered by ground air defence means.

Various sources acknowledge its modernity at the time of its creation, its powerful anti-aircraft defence systems, and its ability to shoot down fighter jet-sized air targets at a distance of 200 km.

Currently, the Russian «miracle weapon» is used to launch missile strikes on critical infrastructure facilities. The MiG-31 has never engaged in combat with class 4+, 4++ and 5 fighters. The main fighter of the Ukrainian Air Force is the MiG-29, which was designed more than 45 years ago, so it is simply impossible to compare the MiG-31 in combat with Western models.

Currently, NATO countries use mainly modern fighters of the 4+, 4++ and even the fifth generation. The two most modern types of NATO fighters: F-22, and F-35 have a fleet of more than a thousand modern models, while the number of MiG-31s in the Russian Air Force is no more than 250, with no more than 130 modernized models.

Given that the modernization of the MiG-31 is very expensive and difficult, it is unlikely that a massive increase in the number of aircraft of this type in the Russian Air Force is expected. It is all the more important to note that the number of events involving aircraft of this type is increasing over time. Over the past 12 years, Russia has lost 11 such aircraft in non-combat operations. On October 1, 2022, at the Belbek airfield in Crimea, one of the MiG-31s rolled off the runway and exploded.

The retrospect of the MiG-31 aircraft disasters can be seen in many materials, starting from 2010.

One of the most dangerous features of the MiG-31 is that it carries the Kinzhal hypersonic missile.

In March and August 2022, missiles of this type were launched towards Ukraine from the MiG-31 aircraft. At least one missile fell on the territory of the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian military admits that fighting such weapons is extremely difficult.

«Using the existing means of air defense, it is extremely important to detect and shoot down these missiles, in fact it is impossible… it hits the target at a speed of up to 12,000 kilometers per hour,» said Yuriy Ignat, the Spokesman of the Air Force Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

But at the same time, the US and NATO allies have effective means of destroying such missiles. It is worth noting the possible presence in Europe, Poland and Romania, in particular, of anti-aircraft guided missiles SM-3. They are extremely effective against both missiles and satellites.

If the allies go beyond their own limitations and start supplying Ukraine with the latest complexes, even the most modern missiles of the Russian Air Force will no longer appear to be an insurmountable threat to the civilian infrastructure of Ukraine.

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