INITIAL TESTING of the upgraded Mikoyan MiG-31BM interceptor is nearing its end at the Chkalov State Flight Test Centre (GLITs) in Akhtubinsk. A preliminary report is due before the end of the year which will lead to a programme to upgrade the Russian Air Force’s MiG-31 fleet. The first aircraft was upgraded and flight-tested by the Sokol plant in Nizhny Novgorod in September last year before going to GLITs for further trials. The second joined it soon afterwards.
Under Stage I of the upgrade, the MiG-31 receives an improved Zaslon-AM fire control suite with an advanced computer and the latest software package, whilst its cathode ray tube tactical display at the navigator/weapons control officer’s combat station is replaced by a multi-function liquid crystal display (LCD). New missiles are added, including R-73 dogfight and K-37M long-range air-to-air missiles. Stage II will bring a more radical change to the cockpit management system. Both crewmembers will get two multi-function LCDs and the fire control suite is modified to handle advanced air-to-air missiles. The concept of the MiG-31 upgrade was promoted by Tikhomirov NIIP, prime contractor for modernising the MiG-31’s fire control suite and developer of the Zaslon, the first fighter fire control system to utilise phased-array radar. Sokol has modified MiG-31s for the tests, and will also upgrade the rest of the Russian AF’s MiG-31 fleet.
«The MiG-31 fighter, which embodies a whole range of unique technologies, has been the mainstay of the national air defence’s interceptor fleet,» General Vladimir Mikhaylov, chief of the Russian Air Force, told an OSCE delegation that was visiting the Russian AF Combat and Conversion Training Centre (CCTC) at Lipetsk on September 5.
He said the MiG-31 ‘s main strengths were an extended acquisition range for terrain-hugging threats, long-range missiles to deal with them, and the ability to operate as part of an interceptor package while tracking and engaging multiple aerial threats. For more on the MiG-31 Foxhound, see the article on pages 42-48 of this issue.