Losses and Aviation Safety

You can’t be my wingman anytime: MiG-31 Mistakenly shoots down another MiG-31

The Foxhound was brought down by another MiG-31 which fired an R-33 air-to-air missile mistakenly.

As we have reported two years ago, on Apr. 26, 2017 a MiG-31 from Russia’s Eastern Military District crashed during a training flight near the Telemba proving ground, the Republic of Buryatia.

At that time, the Russian Ministry of Defense did not explain why the aircraft crashed.

“A MiG-31 interceptor jet of the Eastern Military District crashed during a training flight near the Telemba proving ground, the Republic of Buryatia, at 12:05 Moscow time,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said at the time.

Both crew members reportedly ejected safely and a search and rescue helicopter was dispatched to the site of the incident.

“The plane crashed at a proving ground in an unpopulated area. Both pilots ejected themselves. They were promptly evacuated. Their life is not in danger,” the Russian Defense Ministry concluded.

It has now emerged that the twin-engine fighter was brought down by another MiG-31 which fired an R-33 air-to-air missile mistakenly.

A report appeared on Baza claims that “… the accident of the MiG-31 aircraft was the result of omissions in the activities of officials in the organization of the LUT (flight tactical exercises – Approx. Ed. precluding their mutual falling into the zone of permitted launches of guided missiles R-33)…”

The report continues: “… the accident of the MiG-31 aircraft as a result of the crew’s violation of safety measures and missions for flight, expressed in the premature activation of the aircraft’s on-board radar station by the navigator and the unauthorized launch of the R-33 guided missiles by the commander of the MiG-31 fighter aircraft…”

In short, the MiG-31 mistakenly shot down its wingman.

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).

Thanks to its astonishing flight characteristics the Foxhound was able to intercept and (according to MiG-31 pilots) potentially shoot down the legendary SR-71 Blackbird.

To undertake this mission the MiG-31 relied on the Vympel R-33 (NATO reporting name: AA-9 Amos), an air-to-air long range missile capable to shoot down fast targets like the SR-71 Blackbird.

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Photo credit: Dmitriy Pichugin via Wikimedia Commons and Konstantin Tyurpeko (http://russianplanes.net/id161326) via Wikimedia Commons

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

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.

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