Military Aviation

US Navy Operations Specialist explains why even though the MiG-31 can detect the F-22 at 18 km the Foxhound pilot has just a few seconds to say a few prayers before he dies

‘The MiG-31 Foxhound pilot is defeated, lost in the race to survival before he realized the race had already begun,’ Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist.

The MiG-31 (NATO reporting name: Foxhound) was developed during 1970s by the Mikoyan design bureau as supersonic interceptor aircraft and was aimed to replace the earlier MiG-25 “Foxbat.” In fact the MiG-31 is based on, and shares design elements with the MiG-25.

The MiG-31 has the distinction of being one of the fastest combat jets in the world and continues to be operated by the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF).

The Russian Defence Ministry expects the MiG-31 to remain in service until at least 2030.

The Foxhound is able to work efficiently in all weather conditions while fulfilling visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR), day and night. Also the MiG-31 was the first soviet fighter aircraft to have true look-down and shoot-down capability.

Given its capabilities can the MiG-31 detect the F-22 Raptor, the stealthiest fighter jet currently in service?

MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors.

‘Yes it can…but only after it is too late, for the MiG to survive,’ Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist, says on Quora;

‘The MiG-31 has a pretty good radar, as Russian radars go. It is intended to be a quarterback in the sky, directing other aircraft on intercepts with its RK-RLDN and APD-518 datalinks. So, it’s a pretty cool aircraft from that standpoint. Unfortunately, its Zaslon S-800 radar is a PESA (Passive Electronically Scanned Array) which, while scanning a large volume quickly, and at decent ranges (400km – versus a 20m^2 target), it does not offer high fidelity for obtaining locks at such long ranges. While attempting to seek the F-22, it will only “detect” the F-22 at a piddling 18km, and it is unknown at what point it could get a lock.

‘Detecting the F-22 at 18km is woefully inadequate. The MiG-31 is more likely to detect the AIM-120D AMRAAM, fired by the F-22, when the missile’s onboard radar goes active in terminal phase. That gives the MiG-31 pilot a scant few seconds to attempt futile evasive maneuvers (the MiG-31 is notoriously unmaneuverable) and say a few prayers before he dies.’

F-22 Raptor

He continues;

‘With most modern fighter aircraft, operating an active radar is a great way to tell everyone in the battlefield, “Here I am! I’m over here!” but the F-22’s AN/APG-77(v1) radar is an LPI (Low Probability of Intercept) radar that defeats most RWRs (Radar Warning Receivers). They do this by shifting frequencies often. RWRs are looking for lots of signals in a single frequency, which indicates an artificial source, but an LPI radar doesn’t do that, shifting frequencies constantly, so the RWR isn’t triggered. Newer versions are supposed to be better, but still cannot compete with the F-22’s system.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-22A Raptor 192nd Fighter Wing, 149th Fighter Squadron, FF/04-4082 – Langley AFB, VA – 2014

‘The MiG-31 doesn’t realize the F-22 has been tracking it for a long time now. It doesn’t even give a warning when the F-22 fires an AMRAAM. The MiG-31 pilot has no way of knowing, he is already dead. The last thing the Russian pilot hears is the blaring of a missile warning when he had no idea he was under attack. For a second or two, he’s stunned, and then he heaves the stick over, but it was already too late and his aircraft cannot maneuver well enough to avoid death incarnate.

Wicklund concludes;

‘He is defeated, lost in the race to survival before he realized the race had already begun.’

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Dmitriy Pichugin via Wikimedia Commons

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • ''While attempting to seek the F-22, it will only “detect” the F-22 at a piddling 18km, and it is unknown at what point it could get a lock.
    ‘Detecting the F-22 at 18km is woefully inadequate. The MiG-31 is more likely to detect the AIM-120D AMRAAM, fired by the F-22, when the missile’s onboard radar goes active in terminal phase. ''

    18 or 1.8kms ? Some questions for the author: Do you have military education and knowledge? What was your grade in physics in the high school ?

    One interesting info for you mate: on Dec.13 2017 in air space over eastern Syria , RuA&SF Su-35S met for the first time USAF F-22A Raptor.That day two Russian assault aircraft Su-25SM performed combat then escort mission. Two Raptors approached from behind when they was performing escort mission and took provocative actions with dispensing flares. Russian AWACS A-50U had track Raptors even before this provocative actiones ( in Jan 1991/oper Desert storm/ ,Soviet AF AWACS A-50 detected and tracked incoming USN BGM-109 Tomahawk as low flying cruise missiles from more then 350kms away ( RCS in centimetric X-band is 0.3sqm ).A-50U then vectored two Su-35S which split of after a while.One was flying in head on aspect and the second in radio-silence mode from behind. That was the first opportunity to turn radar N035 Irbis on .After turning the radar to Illumination mode,the detect range in angle aspect 0/1-1/4 was 180kms ! Yes, the detection distance of incoming leader F-22A was 180kms. Reason for that was simple, max pulse power in High PRF mode is 20kW's and frontal RCS of F-22A in centimetric X band is about 0.3sqm and not that silly and stupid LM value from 2009 ( 0.0001sqm) as something completely impossible to achieve.5th gen fighter like F-22A Raptor is LO not VLO aircraft.Period ! One info from 1980's in ATF program one of tactical and technical demands was to reduce RCS of new fighter by 100 times in comparison with than actual 4th gen fighter F-15 which by the way has frontal RCS as clean of about 10sqm.So,10sqm :100 is 0.1 sqm and not 0.0001sqm! You can reduce RCS by 10 or 100 times but you can not do that by 1000,10.000 or 100.000 or million or billion times! Low of physics are so simple and they are the same everywhere in the world.

    If you want to know ,PESA N007AM Zaslon-AM in MiG-31BM works in so called C-band ( f=6GHz ,λ=6cm) for long-range search-detect-track so detecting distance of incoming Raptor is much greater than of centimetric X-band monopulse N035 Irbis in Su-35S.

    Do not underestimate something that you don't know!

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