The R-33 long-range missile was created for arming MiG-31 fighter-interceptors. It became operational in 1980 and is capable of engaging SR-71 strategic reconnaissance aircraft, B-52 and B-1 bombers, aircraft of front and transport aviation, and also helicopters and cruise missiles. The R-33 may be used at any time of day, under any weather conditions, in the presence of interference and jamming to engage targets flying against earth and water surfaces. The missile is made in a normal aerodynamic scheme and has a cruciform configuration. Lifting surfaces of the R-33 are made with a low aspect ratio and two control surfaces are folding for its semirecessed accommodation beneath the platform's fuselage. Control and stabilization in three angles are accomplished with the help of four mechanically unconnected (differential) aerodynamic surfaces activated by gas drives. The missile is equipped with a semiactive radar homing head that locks onto a target on the trajectory. Guidance of the R-33 to a target is a combination: inertial in the initial phase and homing in the terminal phase.

The R-33 is the first Russian air-to-air missile to use an onboard digital computer, which has stable characteristics compared with analogue devices. It is fitted with an active radar proximity fuze and impact fuze as well as with an HE-fragmentation warhead.

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