BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:20 P.M.) – First introduced into service in the early 1980s, the Mikoyan MiG-31 interceptor aircraft has proven to be one of the most versatile jets in the Soviet and Russian air forces, with recent upgrades enabling the planes to carry Russia’s new Kinzhal hypersonic missile.
The Russian Defence Ministry has released footage of MiG-31 fighters practicing combat in the stratosphere during drills by Pacific Fleet naval aviation in the Far East region of Kamchatka.
The video shows the planes roaring into the sky from their airfield, climbing to an altitude of about 20,000 meters, where they practice intercepting an enemy intruder before coming back down to land.
To complicate the exercise, pilots were tasked with searching out the conditional ‘enemy’ without the help of ground-based air defences.
Despite its introduction into service nearly 40 years ago, the MiG-31 remains one of the fastest series of military aircraft in the world. The first such jet was designed by the Mikoyan design bureau in the 1970s to chase down high-speed US spy planes such as the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
Capable of accelerating to breakneck speeds of up to 2,500 km per hour (Mach 2.35), the aircraft is classified as a fourth-generation all-weather supersonic interceptor, and has the NATO reporting name ‘Foxhound’.
The MiG-31 has repeatedly made it into the news in recent weeks amid a major uptick in NATO reconnaissance and training operations near Russia’s borders, with the jets scrambled to intercept foreign planes and drones over the Barents Sea in the northwest and the Seas of Japan and Chukotsk in the Far East.
Russia expects to continue operating the MiG-31 platform until at least 2030, and has about 250 MiG-31s of various kinds in its inventory, including 10 modified to carry the Kinzhal hypersonic missile.