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Russia’s upgraded MiG-31 fighters to provide security for Northern Sea Route

It was reported on March 26 that for the first time in the Russian Navy’s history two MiG-31 fighters performed a flight over the North Pole with mid-air refueling

MOSCOW, November 26. /TASS/. The upgrade of MiG-31 high-altitude fighter-interceptors will boost the efficiency of their missions, in particular to protect Russia’s northern frontiers amid other states’ growing interest in the Northern Sea Route, Merited Military Pilot of Russia, Major-General Vladimir Popov told TASS on Friday.

The pilot spoke about the modernization of MiG-31 fighters currently underway at the Sokol aviation enterprise in Nizhny Novgorod in the Volga area.

"We are planning to use MiG-31 high-altitude interceptors for protecting Russia’s sovereign airspace in the northern directions and there we are limited to airports and airfields, which are very few in that region," the pilot said.

By now, Russia has rebuilt ten airfields in the Polar region that existed in the Soviet period, he recalled.

"Several more airfields are being prepared for operation," the military pilot said, adding that other states had been showing an increasingly greater interest in the Northern Sea Route lately.

"A great number of countries has displayed interest in the Northern Sea Route. Both climatic and geographical conditions have become better there," he explained.

It was reported on March 26 that for the first time in the Russian Navy’s history two MiG-31 fighters performed a flight over the North Pole with mid-air refueling. Russia’s Defense Ministry also reported that groups of MiG-31 long-range interceptors were already on combat alert in the Arctic to keep a close watch on the region.

The Soviet engineers who developed the MiG-31 fighter incorporated huge modernization potential in the combat plane, the merited Russian military pilot stressed.

"A strong feature of our hardware, and this is recognized at the world level, is that our planes feature quite broad potential for their repair and upgrade. The hardware itself allows operating aircraft, especially combat planes, for a long period and change equipment sets," Popov pointed out.

MiG-31 fighter

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko visited the Sokol aviation plant (a branch of the MiG Aircraft Corporation) in Nizhny Novgorod to inspect the work on the upgrade of MiG-31 high-altitude fighter-interceptors. The plant’s management reported to the deputy defense minister that the combat efficiency of MiG-31 fighter-interceptors would grow about threefold after their major repairs and upgrade.

Today the main task of the Sokol aviation enterprise is to carry out major repairs of the MiG-31 fighter-interceptor with its heavy upgrade to the MiG-31BM level and this work has been going on since 2007, the plant’s management said.

Russia is carrying out state trials of the upgraded MiG-31 fighter-interceptor with a fly-by-wire control system. As the Sokol aviation enterprise reported, "there is an option of upgrading this aircraft where we switch from the mechanical to the fly-by-wire control system, which yields a host of computers mounted on the plane."

"The option with the fly-by-wire control system is already being implemented: now this variant of the upgraded interceptor is undergoing trials," the plant’s management said.

The fighters’ major repairs will provide for their reliable and fault-free operation, the Sokol managers stressed. In the course of the fighter’s upgrade, its onboard equipment will be completely replaced. The combat plane will be also checked for faults to replace corrosion sections that may account for 15-50%. All the wiring and rubber pieces will be completely replaced along with the fighter’s canopy. Foreign components on MiG-31BM were fully replaced by domestic items.

The MiG-31 long-range supersonic all-weather fighter is the first fourth-generation combat plane created for Russia’s air defenses. The fighter has become an aerial platform for developing the Kinzhal airborne hypersonic missile system and the new plane has been dubbed the MiG-31K.

Russia’s Defense Ministry signed a state contract at the Army 2021 international arms show on the repair and upgrade of MiG-31K interceptor-fighters and the repair of MiG-31 aircraft with their upgrade to the MiG-31BM level. Currently, a squadron of MiG-31K fighters with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles is on experimental combat duty in Russia’s Southern Military District. It was also reported that an air regiment stationed in Kansk in the Krasnoyarsk Region in Eastern Siberia was set to be rearmed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles by 2024. The air regiment currently operates MiG-31BM fighters.