MiG working on a new interceptor, capable of Mach 4

Mar 05 2014 - 29 Comments
By Jacek Siminski

The Russian Armed Forces are working on the Mig-41, a new supersonic  fighter based on the Mig-31 Foxhound.

According to the famous experimental pilot Anatoliy Kvochur, the MiG-41 is to be capable of reaching speeds above Mach 4, even Mach 4,3. That would make the plane faster than the (now retired) American SR-71 Blackbird. Currently, the Foxhound is capable of flying at speeds of Mach 2.8.

Nevertheless, while developing a Mach 4+ replacement for the Foxhound, the Russians will to continue the modernization program of the Foxhounds, overhauling over 100 aircraft.

MiG-31 is an interceptor based on MiG-25 Foxbat, with a combat radius of 720 km. A group of  four Foxhounds is able to control an area that is 1000km wide; 190 MiG-31s are currently in service within the Russian Air Force, 100 of those are still flyable. 

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image credit: oboudna.org


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  • DocStrangelove

    Sounds awful. While everybody is pursuing stealth, supercruise and manoeuvrability good ol Russia will build the fastest interceptor of the World. Russia builds the fastest planes, the biggest dams and the biggest micro chips. What an achievement!

    • Ben


      The new stealth seems to be speed and altitude (again)

      This tendency is also noticable in the USA, with the Hyper-X….

    • Cody McCall

      Biggest ‘micro’chips lol

  • Gbooth

    Sounds like a fascinating project. I will be interested to see if it survives beyond the design stage. Whether Russia needs such an aircraft is an important question. Whether it can afford one is yet another.

  • Elliot17189 .

    The problem is that materials and manufacturing process will be extremely costly in terms of time and money… Just the tungsten and titanium requirements will be astronomical and extremely heavy, and developing a new super thermal composite is juts impossible in that time table.

    • Jacek Siminski

      Remember where the US did get the titanium for the SR-71? :)

      • Elliot17189 .

        Maybe titanium is not a problem for Russia, but Tungsten and Platinum does, despite the fact Russia produces both in large quantities, and they will be necessary if they want to achieve that speed. Just remember the failed projections behind XB-70 and Boeing 2707, the involved forces and temperatures will require a mass amount of energy, structural strength and heat protection, even small experimental vehicles were unable to develop the necessary safety standards to achieve operative conditions, like de D-21, X-15 or the more recent X-51, now you might achieve it but it will cost an astronomic amount of money just in R&D.

        I’m just trying to be realistic, there are some material limitations to this project and with the small, scarce and highly complicated process behind the mining, refining and manufacturing of these metals will increase any cost to produce these kind of aircraft, I honestly don’t think it will worth it, or at least not at this cost. Russia should produce a new super nano plastic for these but it will take time and money.

        Trans-hypersonic flying is a very complex aspiration.

        • Jacek Siminski

          True that. The X-15 did not use Titanium for that matter. The X-15 program used InColNel-X, from the family of austenitic nickel-chromium based superalloys. But on the flipside, the X-15 was an experimental aircraft, featuring experimental, on-the-spot solutions. I don’t know whether that would work in a mass-produced interceptor.

          And I think we must bear in mind the fact that the Cold War in the scope it was present in the defense budgets pre 1989 does no longer exist. Hence the R&D process would be very painful in the scope of financing.

  • OG_Locc

    Neat to see somebody who still wants to make something that goes fast – but I’ll go right out and say this idea absolutely came from people who don’t grasp the technology involved with a Mach 4 interceptor – and the idea will be dead the second it ever reaches the desks of the people who’d be responsible for really making it happen.

  • FoilHatWearer

    Need to lay off the vodak, Anatoliy.

  • R.Lopaka

    Plz be sure to let is know when it “really” flies!!

  • phuzz

    However fast an aircraft you can build, it’s always easier to build a missile to go faster.

    • Ed

      What is your point, exactly? That it would be better for Russia to invest in S-400 systems? Or that they’d better build a slower plane with better missiles? Or that going faster isn’t a viable strategy to avoid getting hit by missiles?

  • Thenut

    I’m by no means a self appointed expert, but I am very skeptical for a number of reasons.
    1) I don’t see how the Mig-31 provides a good basis for a Mach-4 aircraft. I’m assuming a Mach-4 interceptor would need to carry missiles internally plus would need to be powered by advanced ramjets and I don’t see how they could take the basic shape of the 31 (which seems far too draggy in the first place) and fit big enough weapon bays, more powerful engines and the large amount of fuel needed.
    2) I doubt that the Russian air force and the almost bankrupt Mikoyan can find the money to fund this probably hugely expensive and difficult program, especially when half of the fleet is aging considerably and there is no money to modernize the existing Mig-31’s for example.
    3) I can’t see the mission for it. Is this a response to the Sr-72? if so, its far too slow and probably unnecessary since you can probably build a SAM that can do the job better and more cheaply. I don’t see what its supposed to intercept that requires that high of a speed. (maybe Putin knows something we don’t :D) Besides, isn’t it weird that we come to know about it just like this? Wouldn’t you expect a bit more secrecy?
    4) I don’t know if Russia has enough experience with flying at these speeds, dealing with the stresses and heat problems of mach 4 enough to make a big, complex interceptor work.
    Again, I’m no expert and in truth I do hope to be wrong, it would be a magnificent feat if they pulled it off

    • OR

      1) agree – claim that this could be a good basis for Mach 4+ aircraft is at least suspicious.. well the whole article is.. what are the sources of this info?

      2) Russian economy is quite specific.. I guess if Putin does decide that this ephemeral Mach 4.3 is a priority there will be money for this (I feel that no more than a 10th fraction of the Sochi Olympic’s budget will be enough)..

      3) Tend to disagree: there is a mission for 4+ interceptor.., speed is always advantage, especially when you need to cover territories like Russia has.. – question is at what costs and if it is indeed economically/technologically viable why not? Also, it does not necessary need to respond to yet another ambitious and expensive project (sr-72) ..which I am sure won’t be cost efficient and the won’t be swarms of Sr-7X in the skies.

      4) Disagree again: Russia surely has some experience building fast crafts: T-4, capable of doing 3M in 1975, their old Mig 25/31 were also quite fast for the time when they were built, civilian Tu-144, etc, ..also Russia as I understand has invested well during the last years in their supersonic missile technologies – that I would expect will help to address your concern related to finding right materials for high tempretures.. So, I would not be so sceptical about their abilities and experience. They have proved, and not once, that they are capable of coming up with ideas and designs that do the job quite well and for the fraction of price Northrop/Boeing/etc charge.

      So I would not be surprised at all if they do pull it of.

      • Ed

        Besides the planes you mentioned, I believe Russia also has experience with ramjets and scramjets, even leading to some cooperation with the US. So they are able to make things go fast at least.

        I don’t really understand the need for a faster plane though; how could speeds greater than that of the MiG-31 be worthwhile, to the degree that a new fighter programme should be launched? Wouldn’t it be more logical to (re)open more bases, or to go with ground-based systems as the S-500? I do agree that having the MiG-31 as a starting point seems sketchy, to say the leest.

        I don’t see the SR-72 happening any time soon either; had the DoD wanted it, it would be secret for starters, and secondly LockMart wouldn’t need to try to get public attention for it as much. Finally I doubt it would be worth the investments, with the spy sats and stealth drones that the US has and is developing.

        Likewise I’m not sure whether the Mach 4 MiG would be necessary, as mentioned… It wouldn’t be another attempt at keeping MiG occupied, would it? How’s Skat doing then? That programme makes much more sense…

      • katzkiner

        You do realize the SR 71 was circa 1965 tech for the USA.
        The MIG 25s https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/df4bb0d8d3d20c543d8507f932edfc08dc8464d838fd6904ad35a36424ba7484.jpg / 31s blew many Russian engines trying to play tag with the SR 71.
        (The MIG engines had a 3 minute life expectency at full military power.)
        Never got close.
        We could land an SR 71 on the Kremlin square with a bow and the Ruskies could not reproduce it in a decade.
        The Chinese are further behind.
        I take Russian, Chinese & Iranian military chest pounding with a grain of salt.
        About the only danger a Russian interceptor would pose to an SR 72 is if it broke up in the American craft’s flight path.

    • AviatorSRB

      Here’s a few answers from me, since I’m air force enthusiast:

      1. MiG-31 is a very good basis for a Mach-4 aircraft, since it can reach speeds of over Mach 3 (although that speed comes with a maintenance risk for engines). The reason is technology used in making the Foxhound, specifically the alloys.
      2. Well, the problem with your doubt is that you think that Mikoyan is manufacturer. The truth is that Russian aerospace industry is very decentralized. It is divided into Institutes, construction bureaus, and aircraft production factories. All of them are united into single government corporation.
      3. It is true that interceptors are now replaced by multi-role fighters, but against SR-72 they’re ineffective. Therefore a high speed high altitude interceptor is a must. Will it be effective for SR-72? That I don’t know. Will it be more effective than SAM? Yes, definitely. Also it can be used for shooting down enemy satellites in LEO(Low Earth Orbit).
      4. Russia has experience with Mach 3 and had those problems with air frame stresses and heat. How will they solve it, well, we shall wait and see…

      Hope this is a better insight. Cheers…

  • sferrin

    April Fools is still 3 weeks away.

  • michael

    I’m seeing 3 issues:
    1. for what?
    2. money?
    3. Making it more costly (flight hours, etc) by another aircraft type? It has a reason why nations just own one, two, maybe three fighters.

  • The MiG-25 was clocked at Mach 3.2 so it’s certainly possible given advances in both airframe and engine technology since the late 60’s (the biggest limit on the MiG-25 is the engine — the engine was toast after a few minutes at that speed). The problem is, why? About the only use for such a high speed on such a (relatively) small airframe is for recon overflights of small states like Israel where the short range at top speed isn’t an issue and you want to be able to outfly SAM’s and be out of the airspace before opposing fighters can get in your way. Most air combat happens around Mach 1, either below or just above, and more speed than the MiG-31 already has just isn’t that helpful.

    • Jim Brown

      MiG-25/31 isn’t a fighter, his combats happens in BVR, flying high and fast. It has see first shoot first philosophy. And it is not recon aircraft (well you can make one out of it of course) so it is not about Israel size states, on a contrary it is for a huge size states. MiG-31 is like mini AWACS but reacts very quickly thanks to its better mobility and great speed, especially on a vast Siberian and Far East lands.

      • MiG25/31 has short combat radius (900 miles) and marginal loiter time so is of limited use as an AWACS. It was designed as an interceptor to intercept enemy bombers and fighters and functioned well in that role in service with Syria, Iraq, and India as well as in Russian service — indeed, the MiG-31 is the only aircraft to have ever intercepted the SR-71 Blackbird. As with other very fast aircraft, it was also used in a recon role by both Syria and India though its relatively short range at high speed kept it from being useful against adversaries larger than Israel and Pakistan. The MiG-25 is still the only Soviet-era aircraft to have shot down a modern US decade-series fighter, though its lack of maneuverability means that it’s basically a hit-and-run interceptor rather than a general-purpose fighter.

  • Tim OBrien

    Well they could pull the Buran Soviet Shuttle out of a museum, copy it and go Mach 20 but what exactly is your target? They can barely afford to fly what they have now….

  • wolfram

    what exactly did world get out of you winning the war though? no thanks necessary.

  • Callsign Vega

    Mach 4 in that tub? Ya, maybe with new scramjet engines for one second before the whole thing blew up..

  • Stewart Hughes

    at high altitudes, they could reach match 4,, but not any where near the surface,, my guess,,,
    any way,, I am still waiting for my ship to saturn..

  • Mig 41 Terminator, beautiful ! Monomotor ?

  • MiG-31 is an interceptor based on MiG-25 Foxbat, with a combat radius of 720 km. A group of four Foxhounds is able to control an area that is 1000km wide; 190 MiG-31s are currently in service within the Russian Air Force, 100 of those are still flyable.