Interceptor MiG-41: "Foxhound" of the XXI century

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Interceptor MiG-41: "Foxhound" of the XXI century
Interceptor MiG-41: "Foxhound" of the XXI century

The PAK DP program (a promising long-range intercept aircraft complex) is attracting more and more attention. Let's figure out what it is and whether Russia will have a new combat aircraft.

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Park renewal

Russia has almost received the first serial fighter of the fifth generation, made under the PAK FA program, and in the foreseeable future, a presentation of a promising strategic bomber known as PAK DA - or "Messenger" may take place. The first will replace fighters built on the basis of the old Su-27, such as the Su-27SM and Su-30, as well as the few surviving MiG-29s: the prospects for its successor, the MiG-35, are still vague. PAK YES, respectively, is replacing all strategic and long-range bombers.

In this regard, they are increasingly talking about the need to replace the MiG-31, especially since these aircraft are unique and are considered the fastest of the winged combat vehicles in service. The maximum speed of the 31st is 3000 kilometers per hour, the cruising speed is 2500. This is significantly higher than the performance of any modern fighter, including the new, fifth generation.

The MiG-31 fighter is made on the basis of the Soviet MiG-25, which took off in 1964 and largely predetermined the development of aviation. Fearing the speed of the MiG-25, the Americans finally abandoned the development of the Valkyrie super-high-speed bomber: in the new realities, its capabilities no longer guaranteed invulnerability.

It was a sin not to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the Soviet interceptor in the 90s, and the country's leadership understood this. This is how the MiG-31BM appeared - an upgraded version. The aircraft received a new armament control system and a radar station that can detect targets at a distance of up to 320 kilometers. Let's note in fairness that this applies to targets that do not have radar stealth - that is, not stealth.

MiG 31

Another important plus of the MiG-31BM is the possibility of using the latest R-37 long-range air-to-air missiles. This is a development of the old Soviet rocket R-33, which can be used by the MiG-31. However, if the old missile has limitations on target overload of 4 G (which means that it cannot effectively hit maneuverable targets), then the R-37 should have this figure of 8 G. We can say that the MiG-31 aircraft was transformed from a highly specialized interceptor capable of effectively to fight only with cruise missiles and strategic bombers, in a multifunctional complex that can withstand even the fighters of a potential enemy.


But not everything is so simple. The problem lies in changing the generation of military equipment, or, to be more precise, in the already mentioned stealth, around which a modern aviation complex, such as the F-22, F-35 or Su-57, is being built. The MiG-31 has never been a stealth, it will never reach the performance of aircraft that were originally created with an emphasis on "invisibility". That is, to put it simply, it will not become a combat vehicle of the 21st century. We need another plane.

Missed opportunities

MiG understood this perfectly well, nevertheless, the company missed its chance, in contrast to Sukhoi, which has been heard since the beginning of the 2000s. Recall that on February 29, 2000, a prototype of the fifth generation MiG 1.44 fighter, which was created in contrast to the F-22 fighter, and which, as reported, surpassed the American "hawk" in a number of characteristics, for the first time took to the skies. So, the maximum speed of the MiG 1.44 was supposed to even exceed the speed of the MiG-31 and reach 3200 kilometers per hour. However, then scandals, revelations followed and the general plight of the industry affected.In 2002, a government decree was issued on the creation of the Su-57, which finally put an end to the history of the MiG 1.44. Until now, disputes about the correctness of this decision do not subside. But, if you remove emotions, you need to admit one fact.

MiG 1.44

The advantage of the Su-57 concept over the MiG 1.44 was that the aircraft was originally built as a stealth, while the MiG prototype was devoid of even a hint of stealth - in the modern American sense of the term. Perhaps this was the reason for the abandonment of the project.

Also, the heavy interceptor Project 701 (Project 70.1?), Which was allegedly developed in the early 90s, could also become the successor to the MiG-31. The flight range of the giant 62-ton aircraft was supposed to be seven thousand kilometers, and the maximum speed was 2500 kilometers per hour. However, the reliability of the information about the interceptor raises many questions. Most likely, such a car would never have appeared, even if the country had money for it in those years.

"MiG" of the future: the first data

The future of Russian interceptors, if any, is associated with the PAK DP (Advanced Long Range Intercept Aircraft Complex) program, also known as the MiG-41. What is this program and how active it is now - let's try to figure it out.

The problem is that the few statements by pilots and aircraft manufacturers do not so much answer the questions posed as add even more confusion. So, in 2014, test pilot Anatoly Kvochur announced about the car. “Such modernization should have taken place 20 years ago. However, this did not happen then, so now the requirements are increasing. They include (increasing. - Author's note) the speed of the interceptor to Mach 4-4, 3,”he said. In 2017, Viktor Bondarev, the now former commander-in-chief of the Aerospace Forces, also made his statement on this score. “The radius of action will be in the range from 700 to 1500 kilometers. It is planned to equip it with an R-37 air-to-air missile, as well as fundamentally new missiles,”the military said. "It is supposed to be the fastest fighter in the world."


It is not clear why an aircraft needs such a speed: achieving such indicators in practice will require unthinkable forces and technologies, which, apparently, no other country has. In addition, by the time the aircraft is put into service, the far from new R-37 missile (in a broad sense, just a modification of the Soviet R-33) may become completely obsolete.

However, now, on the basis of the already mentioned R-37, a new RVV-BD missile is being developed, which, according to sources, has a dual-mode solid fuel rocket engine and an improved seeker 9B-1103M-350 "Washer" seeker. Visually, the new missile differs from the R-37 in a head compartment shortened by about 15 centimeters with a radial radome of a modified shape. It is assumed that the missile will be able to hit targets at a distance of more than 300 kilometers. However, it is necessary to take into account a number of circumstances, some of which have already been considered.

R-37 (RVV-BD)

First, when a missile is launched at a maneuvering target (say, a fighter), it will itself be forced to make maneuvers, losing energy. Secondly, guiding a missile at an inconspicuous target is associated with a number of difficulties, so that the effective launch range against inconspicuous aircraft can be less than 100 kilometers, not to mention 300. In addition, long-range and ultra-long-range missiles are traditionally expensive and even exceed the cost medium-range missiles, such as the AIM-120 or R-77.

Most likely, both long / ultra-long-range missiles and medium and short-range missiles could enter the arsenal of the future interceptor, as can be seen from the example of the early upgrades of the MiG-31. It was assumed, for example, that the MiG-31M would be able to carry up to six R-33 / R-37 missiles under the fuselage and four RVV-AE medium-range missiles on the underwing nodes.Thus, R-33 missiles could be used against low-maneuverable targets such as "strategic bomber" or "cruise missile", while medium-range missiles would be used to fight fighters.

Obviously, in case of real interest of the PAK DP on the part of the Ministry of Defense, they will try to make it as multifunctional as possible, but with an emphasis on interception. The functions of a multipurpose fighter, we recall, will be performed by the Su-57, which is more suitable for these tasks than an interceptor.

Invisible fighter

Finally, we come to the most important thing: what exactly will distinguish the conventional MiG-41 from the 31st and its numerous upgrades.

First, the speed. If you believe the words of Anatoly Kvochur about the speed of Mach four, it must be said that achieving such indicators within the framework of the old platform is impossible. Consequently, the aircraft will most likely have to be built from scratch - with an emphasis on higher performance. Secondly (this is perhaps even more important), there is reason to believe that they want to see the PAK DP as an inconspicuous vehicle, like the Su-57 or F-22, as we have already said.

"A promising aircraft (PAK DP) will use new types of aviation weapons, it will be created using new stealth technologies, it will be able to transport the required amount of weapons, and will operate at a very large interception radius," said the general director of the MiG aircraft building corporation in 2019 »Ilya Tarasenko.

The head of the company added that these requirements are laid down in the appearance of the aircraft, and scientific and technical work on it should be completed by the end of 2020. Recall that in 2018, Tarasenko announced the reality of the development. “This is not a mythical project, the project for MiG is a long-standing one, now under the auspices of the UAC we are intensively conducting this work and will soon present them to the public,” he noted.

In 2017, the scientific director of FSUE GosNIIAS, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yevgeny Fedosov, said that the military considers the PAK DA strategic bomber (a promising long-range aviation complex) as a long-range interceptor.

However, one version of the transformation of the MiG-31 into the PAK DP still cannot be ruled out. Let's recall the American project Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle, aimed at partially converting an old aircraft into stealth. The F-15SE fighter was equipped, for example, with a V-shaped vertical tail, and some of the weapons (also for the sake of maintaining radar stealth) were removed to the internal compartments. The “inconspicuous plane for the poor,” as it was nicknamed, did not meet with much interest on the market, since there are more advanced machines and the device can no longer fully satisfy modern requirements.


As already noted, everything speaks in favor of the development by MiG engineers of a new machine, and not of the upgraded MiG-31. Another question is how interesting it is to the Ministry of Defense. In October 2018, it became known that the Russian military department had received materials on the project of a promising long-range intercept aviation complex, which is being created to replace the MiG-31. This was then announced by the General Designer, Vice President for Innovation of the United Aircraft Corporation Sergei Korotkov. But so far there are no official statements that would seriously allow us to talk about the interest in the car from the Russian Defense Ministry.

Can the program exist outside the desire of the Aerospace Forces to get a new interceptor? It's a difficult question, and the most correct answer to it is probably no.

The combat aircraft market is not as broad as the civil aviation market. This can be seen even on the example of relatively popular multipurpose vehicles. There is nothing to say about highly specialized interceptors, as well as about front-line bombers of the Su-34 type. Most likely, international customers for the new aircraft will not be found, even if the aircraft is successful. A heavy interceptor is of interest only to countries with very long borders and, therefore, the need to protect these very borders.There are not many such states, and some, for example China, have their own aircraft industry.

MiG-41: is it needed?

The implementation of the PAK DP program will cost, without exaggeration, fantastic funds, which is clearly seen on the example of fifth-generation fighters. The F-22 development program cost American taxpayers more than $ 60 billion, and the F-35 project cost over $ 50 billion. It can be assumed that the sixth generation fighters will require even more capital investment.

How much will a promising interceptor with the makings of a sixth generation cost Moscow? Nobody can answer this question now, but there is no doubt that the amount will be astronomical, especially by the standards of Russia.

Coupled with technical risks, this raises uncomfortable questions and makes you doubt the feasibility of something like this. The West does not really believe in PAK DP either. Thus, aviation specialist Justin Bronk from the Royal Institute for Defense Research said earlier that he did not see any prospects for the MiG-41, since "Russia does not always bring the matter to the serial deliveries of new military equipment." However, this thesis is only partially true. New technology always requires a long period of bringing to a combat-ready state, that is, no one (at least now) has abandoned either the Su-57 or the T-14 tank. Moreover, this year there was information about the conclusion of a contract for the supply of seventy-six Su-57s to the troops.

More important are the conceptual issues that Business Insider journalists have previously drawn attention to. “The best way to intercept is ground-to-air missiles. And the Russians are talking about the MiG-41 to promote another aircraft - the MiG-29SM,”they note. Indeed, the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, subject to the use of the new 40N6E missile, will theoretically be able to hit targets at a distance of almost 400 kilometers. The combat radius of the MiG-31 is 700 kilometers, and the range of its R-37 missiles, as we have already said, can reach 300 kilometers. Thus, the conclusions of the Business Insider experts are not entirely correct: neither the S-400 nor the S-500 can become a full-fledged replacement for an interceptor aircraft.

However, the functions of the MiG-31 / MiG-31BM can be partially taken over by the Su-57 fighters, which, as previously announced, should learn how to use RVV-BD missiles. Considering the planned installation of the second stage engine - "Type 30" on the Su-57, the cruising speed of the aircraft, in theory, will not be inferior to that of the F-22 Raptor. That is, it can be higher than 1500 kilometers per hour.

So, PAK DP may simply not be needed due to the presence of other modern machines. However, not everything is simple here either. The fact is that a number of experts - both in Russia and in the West - are "wooing" the MiG-41 into sixth generation fighters. Recall that now active work in this direction is being carried out in Europe and the United States: suffice it to recall the American F / A-XX and the European New Generation Fighter. The logic is clear: the F-35 and F-22 will not last forever, sooner or later they will have to be replaced.

So far, the requirements for the sixth generation have not been fully formed. But experts believe that we can talk about an aircraft built using stealth technology and capable of developing hypersonic speeds. This is where the MiG's developments on the PAK DP can come in handy. Simply put, the MiG-41 may in fact be not a replacement for the MiG-31, but a successor to the Su-57. That is, not an interceptor, but a multifunctional fighter that combines high speed, good maneuverability and the ability to hit ground targets. In a word, wait and see.

The article was published in Naked Science # 43, 2019.

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