To protect its vast airspace, Russia relies on the powerful, long range and speedy Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound.
But while Moscow continues to upgrade the venerable Mach 2.83-capable interceptor, the jets have not been produced since 1994.
While Russia’s current fleet of MiG-31s will likely be able to serve into the 2030s, the Kremlin will eventually have to develop a replacement.
Indeed, the Kremlin has funded some preliminary work on developing a successor to the venerable Foxhound that is tentatively being called the MiG-41.
“There are some discussions and initial research about development of a MiG-31 successor – but it is at the very early stages,” Russian defense analyst Vasily Kashin at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) told The National Interest.
The MiG-41 would be a completely separate development from Russia’s fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA air superiority fighter.
The potential new interceptor would be more of a so-called sixth-generation effort similar in concept to the U.S. Air Force’s Penetrating Counter Air or the U.S. Navy’s F/A-XX or Next Generation Air Dominance programs.
Supplies of Russia’s MiG-41 interceptor aircraft, known earlier as the PAK DP, will begin in the mid-2020s, Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG Director General Ilya Tarasenko told reporters at the Army-2017 forum Tuesday.
According him, MiG-41 will be an “absolutely new jet,” not a modernized version of MiG-31 it would replace.
“The PAK DP is a logical development of our MiG-31 aircraft. Once contacted by the Defense Ministry, we will take up this project closely and I think that its deliveries will begin in the mid-2020s,” Tarasenko said.
There is not very much known about the MiG-41 because everything about this plane, just like with all top modern military projects, remains classified.
The Mikoyan bureau has been working on the design of a long-range interceptor, based on their MiG-31, since 2013 as part of a plan to replace the ageing fleet of MiG-31 fighter jets whose active service life expires in 2028.
Even though the MiG-31 is the fastest military aircraft around, it will eventually have to make way for newer and more advanced types of aircraft.
The main features of the MiG-41 are not yet known, but it is reported that the MiG-41 is designed to fly at Mach 4.0 and even Mach 4.3.