The MiG-31BM/BSM Foxhound heavyweight interceptor reportedly saw its archetypal ever aerial to aerial engagements successful October, which represented a large landmark for Russian tactical combat aviation 41 years aft the people first became operational. Although the MiG-31 archetypal entered work successful 1981, and has had capabilities agelong suspected to beryllium among the world’s foremost successful the aerial to aerial domain, the craft is 1 of the fewer successful the Russian inventory which by 2020 inactive had not seen immoderate combat, with the bulk of Russian Air Force assets up to and including intercontinental scope strategical bombers having been employed for operations against insurgent targets successful Syria. The MiG-31K, a Foxhound variant heavy modified for onslaught missions, archetypal saw enactment successful March 2022 conducting a strike connected Ukrainian subject facilities adjacent the country’s borderline with Poland, leaving the MiG-31BM/BSM interceptor arsenic 1 of the fewer untested assets successful the Russian inventory. The craft are inactive wide considered the astir susceptible successful the Russian fleet successful presumption of aerial to aerial capabilities, and aggregate factors successful the plan person led its debut successful combat to agelong beryllium anticipated. War with Ukraine has ensured that Russia is the lone state which has had the opportunity to test modern 21st period combat craft for aerial to aerial operations.
The MiG-31 was developed successful the 1970s arsenic a successor to the MiG-25 Foxbat, a 3rd procreation craft unrivalled for its clip which repeatedly proved all but invulnerable to the Western Bloc's apical extremity anti craft assets successful multiple theatres across the world. In its last engagement with a Western heavyweight, NATO’s apical combatant of the Cold War epoch the F-15 Eagle, the Foxbat successful Iraqi hands claimed an aerial victory for nary losses successful February 1991. With the Foxhound's plan being loosely derived from that of the Foxbat, the older aircraft's precise beardown show grounds led to precocious expectations from the overmuch much ambitious adjacent procreation craft that followed it. The Foxhound improved connected the Foxbat’s show crossed the spectrum, and respective of the capabilities it introduced stay unrivalled today. Carrying the largest radar of immoderate tactical combat pitchy successful the world, the MiG-31 was besides 20 years up of the satellite successful integrating an electronically scanned array radar. These would beryllium introduced by French and Japanese fighters successful 2001 and 2002 respectively, followed by the U.S. Air Force successful 2005, portion the Foxhound had done truthful successful 1981. The craft was besides the archetypal successful the satellite susceptible of cruising supersonically for precise extended periods, and could bash truthful astatine Mach 2.3 speeds allowing it to screen precise ample areas of the Soviet Union’s immense territory and respond to threats quickly. The MiG-31’s operational altitude, and quality to employment each its weapons erstwhile flying importantly supra the Armstrong Limit, besides made it a unsocial asset.
Perhaps the astir important spot of the MiG-31 is its quality to transportation exceptionally precocious rocket payloads, including six oversized R-37M missiles and respective regular sized R-77 and R-74 missiles. The R-37M was introduced successful the precocious 2010s, pursuing the integration of caller avionics and the caller Zaslon-M radars onto the aircraft, and allows Foxhounds to prosecute targets up to 400km away. The missile’s utmost scope and unrivalled Mach 6 velocity complements the MiG-31’s quality to motorboat them erstwhile flying precise precocious and precise fast, providing overmuch much vigor than if different Russian craft had launched them. The R-37M has reportedly besides made its debut successful combat implicit Ukraine, and proven peculiarly effectual alongside the MiG-31 itself, though confirmation has yet to materialise regarding which targets person been neutralised. Approximately 110 MiG-31s configured for aerial to aerial combat are successful work successful the Russian Air Force today, each of which person been modernised to the MiG-31BM/BSM modular with Zaslon-M radars.
Although they person importantly higher operational costs than combatant sized craft specified arsenic the Su-35, the MiG-31’s show advantages are precise important meaning they are improbable to beryllium phased retired of work until a caller dedicated interceptor, presently under development nether the secretive PAK DP program, is considered acceptable for service. An important plus the craft retains is that its capabilities remain largely a enigma to Russia’s adversaries successful the West, arsenic it is the lone people of Russian tactical combat speech from the caller Su-57 not to person been exported with lone Kazakhstan, a adjacent Russian information partner, besides operating the people aft having inherited it from the Soviet Union. Soviet successor states successful Europe which person aligned with the West since 1991 and supplied Western powers with delicate equipment, astir notably Ukraine, did not inherit the aircraft. The Kazakh Air Force’s Foxhounds person notably besides been modernised to the BM/BSM standard, providing the state with the astir susceptible combat craft successful Central Asia. The MiG-31 has nary competitors successful the satellite with comparable capabilities, and whitethorn good spot its numbers successful work successful the Russian fleet further expanded should its proceed to show its beardown advantages implicit Ukrainian skies.