While the U.S. military has always been three, if not five, steps ahead of its adversaries in developing technological advancements in its equipment, this doesn’t mean other nations aren’t working their asses to catch up. Oh, their engineers are working alright. But the unveiling of the concept of Russia’s future generation fighter jet they dubbed the MiG-41—which, according to speculations—equipped with an incredible hypersonic speed of Mach 4.3 sounds like a load of bunk.
Russia’s Mysterious Six-Gen Jet
Little is known about this sixth-generation stealth interceptor, but according to reports, PAK DP (also known as the MiG-41) is a planned successor to the “prolific” Soviet MiG-31, aka “Foxhound” interceptor.
In 2018, Mikoyan Director-General Ilya Tarasenko told Russian reporters that MiG-41 is already moving into the “experimental design stage,” adding that the PAK-DP is estimated to be completed ten years from now. Note that he stated this four years ago, and no official reports have surfaced regarding an update on this matter. Although, you must understand that “completion” here doesn’t guarantee a serial production. Hence, as we approach that deadline, it is unlikely to see soaring MiG-41s soon. We must also consider how this project has been kept undercover since it was first announced, with little-to-no information being shared with the public up to this date.
The following year, Tarasenko discloses that the PAK-DP design was finally approved. Still, appearance remained a mystery except for the information that it would use the sophisticated MiG-31 as its base platform. But unlike its predecessor, MiG-41 will allegedly sustain a mind-blowing “top speed of 4-4.3 Mach and a cruise speed of roughly 3 Mach.” In theory, that’s a next-level aircraft potentially surpassing the legendary speed record-holder SR-71 “Blackbird.”
The MiG-41 will also be built to soar up into high altitudes to the point that it is being implied that it is capable of flying in outer space, the Russian media reported—which further sensationalizes the yet-to-be-built hypersonic aircraft.
Here is the problem with flying at these speeds, the air friction over the skin of the aircraft will melt it unless the metal skin is specially made. In the SR-71 Blackbird, the B-120 VCA Titanium alloy could withstand temps of more than 600 degrees. You also had to shield the internals against melting from the heat. As a result, at least 3 types of Titanium alloy were used in the aircraft. The tires on the Blackbird were made of latex and aluminum and were filled with nitrogen to more than 400 psi. It required special fuel and fluids too. The jet fuel used in the Blackbird had to withstand being heated to extreme temps without exploding and the void in the tanks as fuel was expended had to be filled with nitrogen to prevent the vapors from blowing up. The fuel was about 3 times as expensive as the fuel used in other jets. Seals and gaskets on the blackbird had to be metal, no plastic or rubber could withstand the heat, so they leaked fuel all over the runway until the heat generated in flight expanded the metals and sealed the tanks.
While Russia hasn’t released any images of the aircraft, it can make spin these fairy tales about what it can do for years. If they really wanted to make the point that they could do these things, they would show off the canopy design which is one of the most difficult design challenges on such an aircraft. Building aircraft that cruises at super sonic speeds is a lot more than just putting a big engine on an aircraft.
It is very doubtful that Russia will build any aircraft in large numbers that require very expensive fuel and hundreds of maintenance hours for every flight hour it spends in the air.
More Like “Vaporware”
In the tech industry, they’ve coined the term “vaporware” to refer to products that “largely remain in the concept stage” and most often “fails to materialize and never make it to the market” —and MiG-41 is now being called one.
The National Interest reported in 2021 that with MiG-41’s wildly unrealistic functionality, it becoming vaporware wouldn’t be a surprise. Despite the update given by Rostec (a Russian state-owned military tech company) in January of that year that the development had already kickstarted, it seems that “the MiG-41 could be remotely on schedule to make even its first flight by 2025.”
What’s more, it is even impossible at this pace that it can replace the MiG-31 by the end of this decade. It’s just so ridiculous. Some Western analysts support this fact, saying that the features of MiG-41 require tons of money. It can happen but won’t be “until almost mid-century.” Not this decade; it’s just not plausible.
“This is not a mythical project, this is a long-standing project for the MiG and now we are carrying out intensive work under the aegis of the UAC [the United Aircraft Corporation] and will present it to the public soon,” Tarasenko told TASS in 2018.
This perfectly enumerates why this advanced new fighter jet is more likely to be Russian propaganda than a reasonable future combat aircraft.
- With today’s increasingly advancing anti-radiation technology and MiG-41’s hypersonic speed, which will require “an insane amount of energy,” it doesn’t scream stealth.
- They will have to incorporate materials that can withstand the pressure of zooming across like a lightning bolt while ensuring maneuvering capabilities that would save the aircraft and its pilot from getting torn to pieces.
- What armaments could possibly bear the intense pressure speed? Because a fighter jet isn’t a fighter without its weapons. They have to develop a compatible weapon that can keep up with the supersonic speed of the aircraft without getting backfired.
Speed is one thing, but these jets are purpose-built for combat, not for speeding racing. Good, reliable future generation jets should have at least three of these vital aspects, including:
- Stealth, capable of low-profile reconnaissance and surprise assaults;
- Long–endurance, having to consume less fuel to not refueling every now and then, and;
- Sophisticated armaments, allowing its manned or unmanned pilots to give a hella’ fight in the skies
Not just speed.
Even if Russia did meet this ridiculous platform’s design and engineering requirements and proceed to production, they’d need loads and loads of cash to even operate it. Russia’s actual stealth fighter, the Sukhoi SU-57 built in 2012, is not filling the skies over Russia, the program is way behind schedule. Russia was supposed to order hundreds of SU-57s, they have just 3-4 in service.