Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich developed the MiG-31 “Foxhound,” a supersonic interceptor aircraft, at the height of the Cold War. She was the successor and replacement of the MiG-25 “Foxbat,” sharing similar elements of the latter but better, particularly in speed. Taking off her maiden in 1975, she was initially commissioned into the Soviet Air Force in 1981, but when the Soviet Union collapsed, most of its units fell under the Russian Air Force, and over two dozen were operated by the Kazakh Air Force.

But like a fine wine, the MiG-31 aged well and remains among the fastest combat jets in history. The Russian Defense Ministry expects the MiG-31, now in her forties, to continue flying for another 2-3 years, if not longer. There are plans for developing its successor, known as the MiG-41, but little is known about her and much of what we do know may be hype.  The MiG-41 is way behind schedule in terms of its first test flights and the current war in Ukraine is not likely to make that happen any sooner.

MiG-31 General Specs

General specifications of a two-seater MiG-31 include two D-30F6 engines, which are responsible for the aircraft’s incredible Mach 3 at high altitudes and contribute to its base range of 1,900 miles. It also has an SBI-16 Zaslon fixed-phased array antenna radar for long-range and high-altitude air defense and can carry a Gsh-6-23 23mm cannon and a variety of long- and short-range missile combinations.

A photo of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

The MiG-31 has undergone numerous upgrades and modifications over the years, with the most successful being the MiG-31B, MiG-31BM, and MiG-31BSM, which will be the focus of this article.

MiG-31 BSM, F-22’s Worthy Opponent

BSM is an upgraded BS version with similar aspects to the BM standard, considered “the most capable active Russian jet in air-to-air combat.” It’s also among the heaviest in the world and, to some, a worthy opponent of the F-22. In contrast to the MiG-31 BS, the BSM has an air refueling probe and an upgraded aircraft canopy that enables her to go extensive distances at a cruise speed of 3,000 km/h without suffering damage.  That damage would be the heat generated by these high speeds melting the canopy.

While both versions carry powerful radars that can “detect stealth fighters at far greater ranges,” BSM has a new, faster central computer in addition to the multi-functional displays its pilots can operate. A rear-view periscope is another feature of BSM that is absent from BS standard, which is located above the front cockpit canopy.