Russia is developing an interceptor to demolish a US satellite constellation
The state corporation “Rostec” on January 22nd 2021, in its publication, literally reported the following: “The development of the next generation of fighter jets/interceptors has already begun. The project of a promising long-range intercept aircraft complex (PAK DP) is at the stage of development work.”
This article was published just in time for the holiday – the Day of Aviation of the Russian Air Defence Forces and was devoted to the modernisation of the MiG-31 interceptor fighter to the MiG-31BM version.
After the announcement of further work on the PAK DP project, a number of publications appeared in the Russian press that questioned the need for this development, since the interception tasks can be assigned to the fighters already in service, and the funds allocated for the PAK DP project can be redistributed to other, more urgent purposes.
Let’s try to understand this issue. To date, the tasks of intercepting and destroying various air targets (bombers, cruise missiles, reconnaissance aircraft, refueling aircraft and fighters) in any conditions and at any altitude are worked on by the MiG-31 supersonic all-weather long-range interceptor fighter. The MiG-31 can destroy even low-flying satellite objects.
This jet was adopted in 1981 and was produced until 1994. A total of 519 aircraft of various modifications were produced.
Since 2008, there has been an active process of upgrading the MiG-31 to the MiG-31BM version, which should be completed by 2023. 114 combat vehicles will be updated. Thanks to the new Zaslon-AM radar, the aircraft can detect air targets at a range of up to 320 kilometres and hit them at a range of up to 280 kilometres. It became possible to simultaneously track up to 10 targets and hit 6 targets with missiles.
Importantly, in the MiG-31BM version, the aircraft has turned into a multifunctional combat vehicle. It can interact with anti-aircraft missile systems of air defences, as well as direct guided missiles at air targets from other fighter jets that are approaching the enemy at the range of destruction by missile weapons in a radar silence mode. In addition, the MiG-31BM is able to play the role of a kind of air command post for coordinating the actions of other types of fighter jets whose radars have less power.
Due to the modernisation of avionics and weapons, the effectiveness of the MiG-31BM compared to the MiG-31 increased by 2.6-fold, but, according to experts, this modernisation potential of the system is actually exhausted. The designers believe that the upgrade to the MiG-31BM version will increase the service life of the aircraft by 10 years.
Thus, the MiG-31BM will be able to operate until 2033. It turns out that until this time, the troops should receive a new combat vehicle capable of solving long-range interception tasks, with higher flight and combat characteristics.
The most optimal solution is the project of a promising long-range interception aircraft complex (PAK DP). Of course, the designers do not disclose all the details of this development. But still, bit by bit in the open press, one can collect information and come to certain conclusions based on it.
What’s very important for the PAK DP project is that the aircraft will not be created from scratch, but on the basis of the MiG-31. We remind you that 519 MiG-31 aircraft of various modifications were produced. This fighter jet/interceptor has a body made of titanium alloy, the resource of which is almost inexhaustible. Conclusion: the MiG-31 airframe will be the basis for the PAK DP.
Thus, the question arises about the appropriate modern contents of the new fighter jet/interceptor. We believe that the PAK DP should receive a new generation radar – a radiophoton radar with a high level of efficiency. The efficiency of a radiophoton radar is estimated at 70%, and conventional radars have an efficiency of no more than 40%.
It is obvious that the PAK DP will receive an electro-remote control system instead of a cable control system. The jet will become more manoeuvrable. In addition, this will be a step towards the unmanned version of the PAK DP.
Of course, the new fighter jet/interceptor will be equipped with new or improved engines. Only they will be able to provide it with a speed of Mach 4.3 (more than 4500 km/h), and according to some sources – up to Mach 5.
It should be noted that the maximum permissible flight speed of the MiG-31BM reaches 3,400 km/h, which allows them to reach the launch line of cruise missiles by strategic enemy bombers in the shortest possible time. And for the PAK DA, this indicator will be higher by at least 30% – 4500 km/h.
The R-37M long-range air-to-air missile has a maximum range of 300 kilometres. The combat range of the MiG-31BM is 720 kilometres. With the R-37 missile, the MiG-31BM, taking into account its announced combat range, can hit an aerial target at a range of up to 1020 kilometres from the take-off airfield.
This significantly exceeds the range of ground-based air defence systems. For example, the range of the S-400 air defence system reaches 400 kilometres, and the S-500 “Prometey” air defence system – 600 kilometres. Thus, in a number of combat missions, ground-based air defence cannot replace a long-range fighter jet/interceptor due to the shorter range of destruction.
That is precisely why, at the end of its service life, the MiG-31BM should be replaced by a PAK DP that can quickly reach the desired area and use missile weapons on strategic bombers before they launch cruise missiles, and if necessary, hit the cruise missiles themselves.
The ability to reach high altitudes up to near space will allow PAK DA to work on satellites. The demolition of the enemy’s satellite grouping can deprive them of their eyes and ears, and lead to loss of control.
Front-line fighter jets are not able to work on long-range interception tasks, because their flight characteristics do not allow this: they do not have such a high speed and a large combat range. Therefore, we will not compare them with the MiG-31BM. But take the latest Russian fifth-generation fighter, the Su-57. Let’s compare the flight characteristics of the Su-57 fighter with the characteristics of the MiG-31BM interceptor.
The maximum speed of the Su-57 is 2600 km/h, and the MiG-31BM is 3400 km/h. The practical ceiling of the Su-57 is 20,000 meters, the MiG-31BM is 20,600 meters. The practical range of the Su-57 is in the range of 2000-4300 kilometres (depending on the flight mode), the average range of the Su-57 is 2700 kilometres, the MiG-31BM is 1450 kilometres.
Thus, the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jet in terms of flight performance surpasses the long-standing MiG-31BM in only one parameter – flight range. With the PAK DP, this parameter will be significantly improved.
To date, the troops have received one Su-57. Until 2028, 76 combat vehicles of this brand should be in service. It is obvious that such a number of Su-57 aircraft will not be enough to work on tasks for the main purpose and to perform tasks for long-range interception.
The flight characteristics of the Su-57 and the estimated number of these aircraft in service suggest that our Armed Forces need a separate combat aircraft – a long-range fighter jet/interceptor.
According to “MiG”, the PAK DP will use new types of aircraft weapons, it will be created with the use of new stealth technologies, will be able to transport the necessary number of weapons and operate at a very large interception radius.
Thus, the need for the further work of “MiG” on the project of a promising long-range interception aircraft complex (PAK DP) is not in doubt. Using the MiG-31 fighter as the basis for development will not require a large amount of financial resources to complete this urgent task.