By Bijan Razzaghi
The Mig-31 remains a premiere threat aircraft currently used by the Russian Air Force. As a high-speed interceptor the Mig-31 offers a unique capability that other air forces do not possess, the ability to fly at nearly Mach 3 and with a combat radius of over 640 miles. This gives the Russian Air Force the ability to deploy the Mig-31 to intercept aircraft at a great distance and at high speeds beyond the range of even the most advanced SAMs such as the S-300 and S-400. Once at launch point the Mig-31 can deploy up to 4 R-33E active radar homing missiles. These missiles can hit targets up to 100 miles away and at speeds of Mach 4.5 making them hard to out run or maneuver if painted. The newer R-37 missile deployed on Mig-31BM can exceed speeds as fast as Mach 6.0.
The Mig-31BMs radar Zaslon-M can track targets as far as 250 miles away. The Mig-31 can be used to counter airborne threats long before they reach the target area making the threat similar to that of S-300 or S-400 Surface to air missile system. The Mig-31 is not without its weaknesses. The aircrafts thrust to weight ratio is 0.85 and g limit 5, this makes the Mig-31 a sitting duck in at visual range and in close combat. In order to effectively counter Mig-31s low observable platforms such as the F-35A and F-22 can be used to get close and eliminate the Mig before the Mig can detect them. Non-stealth aircraft remain vulnerable to the Mig-31. For Air Forces that use 4th and 4.5 generation aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon or F-16 Block 50/52 can utilize ECM jammers such as Raytheon’s AN/ALQ-184 and BAE Systems EPAWWS. These jammers can interfere with the Mig-31s radar and missiles guidance systems.
The Russian Air Force currently operators 250 Mig-31s with at least 100 of them are the modernized Mig-31BMs while Russian naval aviation operates 16 Mig-31s. Kazakhstan operates 32 Mig-31s. In 2009 there was speculation that Syria had purchased 8 Mig-31s from Russia possibly the BM variant. Experts believe the deal never went through as Mig-31s have not been detected over Syrian airspace. Russia plans to eventually replace the Mig-31 with the PAK-DP concept in development.