What is the danger of MiG-31K fighters, which Russia “rattling” in Belarus
In recent weeks, air alerts have been issued more frequently in Ukraine due to Russian MiG-31K aircraft taking off in Belarus. These are fighters capable of carrying the Kinzhal hypersonic missile.
In terms of the number of aircraft fleet, the Russian Air Force continues to hold the status of the second after the United States. However, Russia is mainly armed with old aircraft, including the upgraded MiG-31K. Channel 24 analyzes how dangerous these fighters are for Ukraine.
Alarms can be heard several times a day
Actually, on March 14, an air alert throughout Ukraine was announced 4 times. The Air Force explained that large-scale alarms are connected with the fact that the alarm was announced every time a Russian MiG-31K took off in Belarus.
As you know, this is the carrier of the Kh-47m2 Kinzhal missile and can hit targets at a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers. The maximum speed of the “Dagger” is Mach 10, that is, up to about 12,000 kilometers per hour. They are unsafe in that they can maneuver on the flight path.
The air raids associated with the MiG-31K did not last long, so the Air Force clarified that these were most likely training flights.
Note! The Air Force does not yet have the technical ability to track the moment of launching the “Dagger”.
How many MiG-31s does Russia have
At the beginning of 2021, the Russian Air Force had 131 MiG-31 interceptors . This is a Soviet two-seat supersonic all-weather long-range fighter-interceptor. The MiG-31K is a modification with the possibility of hanging the Kinzhal missile.
The number of Russian aviation is frightening, but the resources of a significant part of the occupiers' aircraft have dried up. The reason is that the planes are inherited from the days of the former Soviet Union, which ceased to exist in 1991.
The release of the MiG-31 ended in 1994. These aircraft are being upgraded to MiG-31BM or MiG-31K variants. Most of these aircraft have served for more than 30 years and the possibilities of their further operation have been exhausted. Potentially, the MiG-41 should come to replace these aircraft.
The fact that the MiG-31 is already an obsolete aircraft is evidenced by many disasters and accidents. There were at least 5 such incidents in 2022:
- On January 29, 2022, in the Novgorod region, a MiG-31 skidded off the runway and broke apart;
- April 8, 2022 in the Leningrad region, the MiG-31 crashed, the crew ejected;
- On October 1, 2022, at the Belbek airfield in the occupied Crimea, a MiG-31K skidded off the runway during takeoff and exploded;
- December 2, 2022 in the Primorsky Territory, the MiG-31 crashed during a training flight, the pilots ejected;
- On December 25, 2022, an engine fire on one of the MiG-31Ks occurred in Belarus.
Another similar incident occurred in January 2023. During the flight of the Russian MiG-31K fighter near Minsk, an “explosion” occurred, which was recorded by local residents living near the military airfield.
The Ukrainian military portal Defense Express, analyzing Russian aircraft, wrote that Russia has about 20 MiG-31Ks . At the same time, the enemy has only three crews that are capable of using Kinzhal missiles on MiG-31K
Russia transferred MiG-31K to Belarus
In November 2022, British intelligence confirmed the deployment of a MiG-31K with Kinzhal missiles near Minsk. This is evidenced by a satellite image of the air base dated October 17, which shows the containers from these missiles next to the parking lot, where two MiG-31s were identified.
According to satellite photos from Planet Labs, as of November 1, 2022 , there were at least 3 MiG-31K aircraft in an open parking lot at the Belarusian Machulishchi airfield near Minsk .
At least one Kinzhal hypersonic missile, painted white, was located next to these aircraft.
MiG-31K with “Dagger” in “Machulishchi”, November 1, 2022 / Photo by Planet Labs
At the same time, the Norwegian edition of Faktisk reported that for the first time the MiG-31K at the Machulishchi airfield were seen on October 18, 2022.
The picture shows three aircraft of this type, also in an open parking lot, except that the cabins are covered with a canvas awning.
Characteristics of the MiG-31K
MiG-31 – was the first Soviet fighter of the 4th generation. According to Defense Express, the MiG-31 was originally intended to intercept cruise missiles and other complex air targets. The aircraft features:
- speed up to 3400 kilometers per hour,
- ceiling 20 kilometers,
- range of 720 kilometers,
- weight 46.75 tons.
For example, not a single fighter that Ukraine has is capable of developing such a speed.
Various modifications of the MiG-31 were used as carriers of advanced weapons and even for launching satellites into orbit. In the early 2010s, the issue of ending the operation of the MiG-31 was discussed, but it was decided to leave the aircraft as a modernized MiG-31BM interceptor, and later to modify it into the MiG-31K.
The Defense Express review says that in the first version with the Kinzhal GR MiG-31K, instead of a radar, a new communication and target designation system was installed on the aircraft.
Due to the size and weight of the rocket, the center of gravity of the aircraft has changed. This required pilot retraining . Until now, only highly qualified crews could use the Kinzhal GR – this required very accurately maintaining the speed limit and flight path.
In fact, the modified MiG-31K performs the function of the “1st stage” of the rocket. It accelerates and gains high altitude, after which it launches. The pointing system allows you to enter the flight task directly from the aircraft.
Not only “Daggers”: what is the danger of the MiG-31K
The upgraded MiG-31K is the main carrier of the Russian Kh-47m2 Kinzhal hypersonic aviation missile system. For the first time, Vladimir Putin spoke about the MiG-31K as carriers of the new Kinzhal missiles in a message to the Federal Assembly in 2018.
MiG-31K with “Dagger” / Photo from Russian media
The aircraft is also a carrier of long-range air-to-air missiles R-37M, which is considered an aviation missile with one of the longest ranges of destruction. The missile develops a maximum speed of up to 6M and is capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 300 kilometers.
The number of MiG-31Ks in Russia is estimated to be negligible compared to over a hundred “linear” MiG-31s. The MiG-31 as a conventional interceptor is quite a dangerous machine due to the presence of powerful radar equipment.
Defense Express notes that Kinzhal missiles will begin to pose a real threat only when they can be launched from MiG-31I aircraft, and not MiG-31K. However, the threat should by no means be rejected.
Scared with “rusty buckets”
But there is one “but”. MiG-31K fighters are really dangerous, given that they can carry “Daggers”. True, the Russians, in their efforts to scare the Ukrainians, do not understand at all that their methods are miserable.
So, they posted a video on the network, which showed the supposedly combat operation of the launch vehicle. It seemed like a normal flight. We can split up. But on it they just showed us the missiles that this MiG-31K holds under its wings. And here are some interesting points:
- inscription with a marker in a hurry “For Bryansk” and “For Donbass”;
- the very state of the rocket.
You can see that her wings are completely covered in rust. We would of course joke that the enemy is using rusty buckets, but not in this case. It should be understood that such missiles are no less dangerous. Moreover, they can be even more unpredictable in their flight path if the structure begins to fall apart in flight.
One clear conclusion emerges. The invaders do not stop using the MiG-31K, including for intimidation. But they are in such a hurry that the materials, the purpose of which is to sow fear among Ukrainians, cause only laughter. After all, they once again demonstrated that they really are the “second army of the world”, but from the end.