Russian Naval Aviation to Arm MiG-31 Interceptor Aircraft with Kh-47M Kinzhal Hypersonic Missiles

The Russian Navy (Voyenno-Ðœorskoi Flot) has armed its MiG-31 interceptor aircraft with Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. Izvestia reported that the 98th mixed regiment, part of the Northern Fleet on the Kola Peninsula; and the 317th Pacific Regiment in Kamchatkawil, will receive the new version of long-range MiG-31s with K index that will be armed with Kinzhal missiles. Currently, a squadron of MiG-31K aircraft armed with hypersonic missiles is on experimental combat duty in Russia’s Southern Military District. The first air unit equipped with the Kinzhal system started test air alert flights to master fundamentals of its combat use since December 1, 2018.

The Mikoyan MiG-31 (NATO reporting name: Foxhound) is a supersonic interceptor aircraft that was developed for use by the Soviet Air Forces. The MiG-31 has the distinction of being among the fastest combat jets in the world. It continues to be operated by the Russian Air Force, the Russian Naval Aviation and the Kazakhstan Air Force following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian Defence Ministry expects the MiG-31 to remain in service until 2030 or beyond and was confirmed in 2020 when an announcement was made to extend the service lifetime from 2,500 to 3,500 hours on the existing airframes.

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A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal  being carried by a MiG-31K interceptor
A Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles being carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K interceptor aircraft

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“dagger”) is a Russian nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM). It has a claimed range of more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi), Mach 10 speed, and an ability to perform evasive maneuvers at every stage of its flight. It can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads and can be launched from Tu-22M3 bombers or MiG-31K interceptors. The missile is designed to target US and NATO warships posing a threat to strategic missile systems in Russia’s European part and to destroy NATO missile defence system and ballistic missile defense ships and land objects close to Russia borders, such as one in Romania. The Kinzhal unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2018.

It is allegedly designed to overcome any known or planned US air or missile defense systems including MIM-104 Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Aegis Combat System. It is capable of attacking fixed and movable targets such as aircraft carriers. The missile accelerates to hypersonic speed within seconds of launch and performs maneuvers at all stages of the flight trajectory to evade enemy missile defenses. Russian media claims the missile’s range will be 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi; 1,100 nmi) when carried by the MiG-31K and 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi; 1,600 nmi) when carried by the Tu-22M3.

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