Russian Air Force Describes MiG-31 Upgrade

 - February 24, 2012, 10:55 AM
Among upgrades for Russia’s top-of-the-line MiG-31 interceptor is a new air-to-air missile. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Russian air force commander Gen Alexander Zelin told Russian media that a new air-to-air missile will be accepted into service shortly and “double the combat capability” of the MiG-31 interceptor. A Russian air force spokesman added that the service plans to modernize 60 aircraft to the MiG-31BM standard by 2020. The upgrade includes a new radar (believed to be the Zaslon-M capable of detecting up to 10 targets simultaneously at a range of up to 175 nm); new mission computer; and new color cockpit displays.

The missile is thought to be the reworked version of Vympel R-33, sometimes referred to as the R-37, with the Western reporting name AA-13/AA-13 Arrow.

At the Moscow Air Show in 2011 this active radar-guided weapon was exhibited as the RVV-BD, the Russian acronym for “Missile Air to Air–Long Range.” Vympel provided the following data: range “against certain targets” of 108 nm, at altitudes up to 82,000 feet; launch weight less than 1,150 pounds; warhead 132 pounds; and length 13 feet. The MiG-31BM can also carry R-77 infrared-guided air-to-air missiles, Kh-31 air-to-surface missiles and KAB-500 EO/IR-guided bombs, among many other weapons.

The Russian defense ministry awarded RSK MIG a contract to modernize 30 MiG-31s into the BM variant in summer 2011. The work involves airframe as well as avionics upgrades. This was apparently the second contract for 30 conversions to the new variant, after prototype conversions in the first half of the last decade. By mid-2011, some 20 of the 180 MiG-31s in the Russian inventory had been upgraded.