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?
‘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.’
‘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.
‘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.
‘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
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