The Mig-31 Foxhound is a substantially improved derivative of the Mig-25 Foxbat. The Mig-31 is an all weather, two seater interceptor with advanced digital avionics. The MiG-31 is a two-seat supersonic (Vmax=3,000 km/h) aircraft with a tapered moderate-swept wings, all-swept twin-fin tail unit and all-moving tailplane. The MiG-31 airframe is an all-metal monoplane with lateral air intakes. Provision is made for installation of two underwing fuel tanks with a total capacity of 5,000 liters.

The most capable Russian air defense interceptor aircraft, the FOXHOUND has a multiple-target engagement capability and was the first Soviet fighter to have a true look-down, shoot-down capability. The N007 Zaslon radar was the first electronically scanned phased array radar to enter service in the world. It could scan 200 km forward and track 10 targets simultanieously. This radar could also track and engage target flying behind and below the aircraft. The Zaslon antenna is of the fixed type, instead of being mechanically directed the radar beam is moved electronically. This allows the full fuselage diameter to be used for the antenna, a considerable advantage since antenna diameter and effective operating range are directly related. Electronic steering of the radar beam is faster than can be performed mechanically, and it is also more accurate. All signal processing is digital.

The radar ensures simultaneous search and attack of several targets using long-range missiles and makes possible to interact within a group. The MiG-31 interceptor fighter can intercept air targets in VFR and IFR weather conditions, day and night and in continuous and discontinuous field of control and guidance commands (solo and in group), of regardless target defensive maneuvers and ECM.

The aircraft avionics enables the use of missiles with radar- and IR-homing heads. The FOXHOUND carries the long-range AA-9 air-to-air missiles, and can engage 4 different targets simultaneouly with the M-9.The MiG-31 aircraft weapons mix comprises four R-33, four R-60M and two R-40T missiles and a GSh-6-23 built-in gun.

The airframe was extensively redesigned for supersonice flight at low altitude, with the welded nickel steel content reduced from the Mig-25's 80% to 49%, with 16% titanium, 33% aluminium alloy and 2% composites. The wings of the aircraft are high-mounted and swept-back with square tips and a negative slant. There are four underwing pylons. There are two turbofan engines in the fuselage. The aircraft is powered by two D-30F6 turbofans developing a takeoff thrust of 15,500 kgf each. The mixed-flow turbofan is fitted with an afterburner and fully-variable flapped jet nozzle. The new Soloviev D-30F6 engine was specified for the MiG-31 in order to improve range, the key performance parameter for which an improvement over the MiG-25 was demanded. There are rectangular and diagonal cut air intakes on sides of the fuselage. The exhausts extend beyond the tail plane. The fuselage is rectangular from the intakes to the exhausts and has a long, pointed nose. The aircraft has a bubble canopy. The tail fins are back-tapered with angular tips and canted outward. The flats are swept-back and tapered and mid- to low-mounted on the body.

The first Mig-31 flew in 1975. By 1987 over 150 FOXHOUNDs were operationally deployed at several locations from the Arkhangelsk area in the northwestern USSR to the Soviet Far East. The FOXHOUND is dedicated to the homeland air defense mission.

In 1992 the Chinese reached agreement with the Russian Federation to buy 24 MiG-31 Foxhound long-range interceptors. The MiG-31s were expected to be assembled at a newly set-up factory in Shenyang, with production at a rate of four per month expected by 2000. The last aircraft was to be delivered by the year 2000. According to some reports the agreement included a license to build as many as 700 aircraft, and some projection envisioned that at least 200 would actually be deployed by the year 2010. None of this had happened as of late 2008

Two specialized MiG-31Ds were built in 1987 as carriers for an antisatellite (ASAT) missile, in imitation of a contemporary US ASAT program that used a McDonnell Douglas F-15. These two Foxhounds featured triangular "webbed feet" wing endplate fins, like those fitted to some MiG-25 prototypes, in this case intended to provide improved flight stability at high altitudes for missile launches. A single large missile was to be carried under the fuselage, and a special upward-looking radar and associated intercept fire-control system was to be fitted to production machines.

The MiG-31S [or MiG-31A] was a commercial small satellite launch variant, with Fakel OKB Micron missile capable of delivering a 100 kg (220 lb) payload into a 200 km (124 mile) orbit or a 70 kg (154 lb) payload into a 500 km (311 mile) orbit. The type could also launch the Aerospace Rally System rocket-powered suborbital glider, for astronaut training upper atmosphere research or space tourism.

The MiG OKB showed off a multirole fighter variant of the MiG-31B at the Paris Air Show in 1995. This machine was designated the "MiG-31F", with "F" standing for "frontovy / front AKA tactical", and was fitted with air-to-surface weapons for the strike or particularly the SEAD role.

The Mig-31M is an improved version of the basic Mig-31. The key to the MiG-31M's effectiveness is the SBI-16 Zaslon fixed phased array antenna radar, codenamed 'Flash Dance' by NATO, which is said to be the world's most powerful fighter radar. The cockpits were upgraded in the Mig 31M with a number of Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) and an increased number of missiles.

The MiG-31E export model provides facilities for vectoring up to three fighters, types MiG-21-93, MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-29, Su-27 to ensure a covert attack. A group of four MiG-31E fighter-interceptors is capable of interchanging data in the automatic mode on presence of air targets in the zone up to 800 km wide. MiG-31E fighter-interceptor is designed for interception and destruction of aerial targets flying at altitudes of 50 to 28 000 m in front and rear hemispheres including those on ground clutter, under normal and adverse weather conditions, the target maneuvering and enemy deploying active and passive countermeasures.

Aerial targets can be intercepted by a single MiG-31E aircraft or by a group of up to 4 MiG-31E aircraft. Interception can be performed with the aid of guidance by ground automated control system or autonomously with optimum target distribution among the members of the group. In a group of MiG-31E aircraft information exchange among aircraft of the group is possible about their position and availability of tracked targets. A group of 4 MiG-31E aircraft in formation flight can scan airspace on width of 900-1000 km that is especially important in case of the absence or destruction of the ground air-defence system. Data exchange between MiG-31E and a group of aircraft of other type in the interaction mode has been provided. The aircraft is equipped with IR seeker unit enabling to detect and acquire a target by its heat emission in the passive mode of a blind attack.

During a combat mission a single MiG-31E aircraft can simultaneously track up to 10 targets and attack up to 4 of them having various headings, altitudes and speeds. MiG-31E is equipped with the automatic control system offering automatic control of aircraft flight on assigned route, aircraft homing on targets being attacked by guidance of the aircraft to the area providing optimum position of the interceptor relative to the target being attacked (according to maximum probability of their kill) in attack of several targets.

The first stage of tests of the upgraded MiG-31BM high-speed multifunctional long-range jet fighter were completed in mid-1999. The main difference between the MiG-31P (Foxhound, according to the NATO classification) and the new MiG-31BM multifunctional air strike system is that the latter is capable of destroying both air and ground targets. The designers and manufacturers of the MiG-31 hope that the new modification will result in international sales. The upgraded MiG-31BM is fitted with a powerful onboard computer system and a radar with a phased array which will allow the pilot to simultaneously activate the air-to-air and air-to-surface missile fire modes. When working with air targets, the MiG-31BM is capable of intercepting up to 24 targets simultaneously.

In 2013 Parliamentary research revealed that “quite a few” stored MiG-31s (from an original production run of 500) can be restored to flying condition, while new production could be restarted at Sokol at a cost of Rouble 25 billion ($800 million). No new MiG-31s had been produced in the 10 years up to 2013, but several partially built airframes were completed for Kazakhstan. Eight more were destined for Syria but remain incomplete after cancelation of the order.

Russia’s MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors will stay in service until “at least 2028” or possibly five or 10 years more, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said 30 August 2013. “We are satisfied with this aircraft; it performs its functions wonderfully,” the general said, adding that as next-generation long-range missiles and aircraft are developed, interception functions could be assigned to newer warplanes as well. Bondarev’s remarks seem to be a little bit at odds with his comments in April, when he said the Air Force hoped to receive a new long-range fighter-interceptor by 2020 and retire its existing fleet of MiG-31s by 2028. He also spoke out against restarting production of the MiG-31, which was discontinued two decades ago, saying the country needed a totally new interceptor to meet modern requirements. The Russian Air Force has 122 MiG-31 interceptors in service and more aircraft in reserve, the general said at the time.

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