It has long been known that the development of aircraft of the next, already sixth, generation is in full swing in Russia. True, earlier this could only be judged by fragmentary information and by very streamlined statements by the military and representatives of the military-industrial complex. But then it happened - on the Rostec website there was official information about the development work on the long-range intercept fighter under the designation MiG-41. According to the developers, this will be a completely new machine, and not a deep modification of the MiG-31 interceptor. And during its creation the most advanced technological solutions will be used.
At first glance, this is good news. Still, the MiG-31, which has no analogues in the world, will be replaced by a new, more advanced sixth generation machine. We will be able to be even more proud of the achievements of the national defense industry, and the damned adversaries will quietly cry in the corner from the realization of their powerlessness. And all would be fine, if not for one nuance - conceptually, the MiG-31 was not a very necessary aircraft. His successor, whose concept in principle has not changed in any way, risks becoming the same - an advanced, modern, but completely unnecessary aircraft for Russia. Which, despite its uselessness, will require huge investments both at the design stage and at the procurement stage...
It is clear that the author's thought is not at all obvious even for those who are directly related to the army. Indeed, the MiG-31 is, albeit a specific, but very advanced fighter for its time. Record speed, altitude, powerful radar system, long-range and ultra-long-range missiles - all this makes him a very formidable guard of our northern borders. And yet I would venture to say that the Russian videoconferencing system does not really need this machine, and its successor, if serious conceptual changes are not introduced into the program, will become a complete waste of huge money. Even if all the characteristics that the designers are going to achieve become reality. How is this possible? Well, let's think together...
The MiG-31 really, without any exaggeration, has no analogues in the world. But this is hardly a consequence of the technological backwardness of the Americans or, for example, the French. No, our bosom "partners", having weighed all the pros and cons, came to the conclusion that they simply do not need such an aircraft.
The United States, like the USSR, faced a very serious task - covering the northern direction, through which an attack by enemy strategic bombers, including those equipped with cruise missiles, is possible. But to solve it, they took a different path - the creation of three radar belts in the northern direction (mainly in Canada and Alaska), and later AWACS aircraft were added to this in conjunction with fighters. Perhaps this is a rather expensive option for cover, and the USSR could not afford it purely financially, but one way or another, the Americans coped with the task. Moreover, specifically for its solution, only radars and some surface-to-air air defense systems were created. Everything else, such as AWACS planes and fighters of various types, is universal means and, if necessary, can be successfully used in any operational direction.
The USSR, on the other hand, took the path of creating specialized interceptor aircraft, which were supposed to combine the functions of an early warning aircraft and the functions of a fighter. It started back in the late fifties of the last century, when the Tu-128 interceptor was created on the basis of the Tu-98 bomber (!), Developed at the Tupolev Design Bureau. In the car, it was possible to combine the mentioned characteristics - a powerful radar for those times, supersonic speed, a missile system. In addition, a practical range of over two thousand kilometers was ensured, which is very important in the vast Russian North.
But the political and military leadership of the USSR was forced to reckon with the likelihood of the appearance of the enemy's supersonic strategic bomber XB-70 "Valkyrie", which was supposed to develop a speed of about 3M. In addition, during this period, the SR-71 "Blackbird" super-high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft was actively developed, the speed of which also reached three Mach numbers. Therefore, it was decided to focus on the same fast interceptors, and the MiG Design Bureau developed the MiG-25 interceptor, which is still the owner of many records in terms of speed, flight altitude and other parameters. And later it was replaced by the MiG-31 - externally and conceptually very similar, but more advanced interceptor.
To better understand the essence of my claims, I will outline some key points. The combat radius of the MiG-31 is 700 kilometers. This is not enough in any conditions, not to mention the vast expanses of the north. In fact, the conversation about the active patrolling of the endless northern expanses by this aircraft can only be held conditionally, because in fact it is more "sharpened" for the attack of previously detected targets located in relative proximity to the home airfields.
Another problem is that the MiG-31 can effectively use its missile weapons only against sufficiently large targets, such as the B-52 or B-1B bombers. And this is not even his fault - the fact is that the capabilities of the radar homing heads of long and ultra-long-range missiles, which make him a full-fledged interceptor, are very limited. A rocket, even large enough, is too small to accommodate a large radar. In addition, its internal energy is too weak to provide a high power of the radar signal. As a result, long-range missiles can capture a fighter-type target, at best, at a distance of no more than 30 kilometers. If we are talking about a stealth aircraft or a low-flying cruise missile, the numbers will be much lower, perhaps by an order of magnitude. We add to this that the MiG-31's own radar is unlikely to see such a target further than a few tens of kilometers, and take it for granted - these aircraft are good only against the two types of American strategic bombers mentioned above.
Of course, one can object to this - why do something else, if from this direction Russia is threatened only by these planes, and even B-2? Okay, for the north we only have one criticism - the shockingly low range. But now let's imagine that everything is relatively calm in this area, but somewhere in the European theater of military operations a serious, high-intensity conflict has arisen.
Alas, in this case, the MiG-31 will hardly be able to seriously help our Aerospace Forces. Yes, it is possible to allow the targeted use of this interceptor to curb air aggression. As an aerial platform for launching missiles, which will be guided by other planes, it will somehow be useful. But throwing it into a front-line meat grinder and hoping for success is unlikely to succeed - in a collision with modern enemy fighters, especially stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35, our interceptor will be guaranteed to be shot down.
In fact, this means that a whole class of aircraft, which are designed to provide the country's air defense, can be relatively effectively used in only one situation. Although now there is another application - the MiG-31 is used as a carrier for the aeroballistic hypersonic missile Kinzhal ("Dagger"). This is useful, by the way. And since we have these planes, why not, as they say ... And yet you must agree - more than 250 not the cheapest planes, the specificity of combat use of which does not allow them to be used in the lion's share of conflicts, is somehow wasteful.
By the way. Ironically, the XB-70 Valkyrie strategic bomber never went into production, and the SR-71 Blackbird scout was retired in the late nineties. That is, at the moment, virtually any serial fighter of the Russian Aerospace Forces can cope with the function of intercepting air targets. Yes, not all types of our fighters can be fitted with long- and ultra-long-range air-to-air missiles, but this is easily compensated for by a noticeably long range.
Of course, in the case of the MiG-31, all the shortcomings are compensated by the fact that we already have these aircraft in stock, and modern Russia did not spend a dime on their development and purchase. But what to do with its direct heir, the MiG-41 interceptor, which is being developed for a minute as part of the Advanced Long-Range Intercept Aviation Complex, or PAK DP (Long-Range Aviation Complex)? If we conceptually copy the MiG-31, it can be called a strategic mistake in advance, which will cost us billions (and if in rubles, then trillions).
The fact is that the problem of covering the northern direction from attacks by strategic aviation and cruise missiles can be solved both much more efficiently and much cheaper. But for this, the money that is planned to be spent on the unnecessary PAK DP (Long-Range Aviation Complex), it is better to spend on the creation of modern unmanned AWACS systems. And to supplement them with serial fighters, which either have the Aerospace Forces at the moment, or should appear in the near future.
At the same time, I in no way want to say that we do not need developments for the conditional "sixth generation". We really need it! But it should not be an interceptor with a very specific range of tasks, but a full-fledged fighter capable of fighting for air supremacy with any existing or promising aircraft of a potential enemy! Moreover, when creating it, we would finally get rid of the complex of an orphan beggar, who, if we spend a pretty penny, then on something universal, so that both ours and yours, and a gamer, and a hunter for submarines. Yes, I'm exaggerating a little, but this is purely for clarity...
No, we should focus solely on creating an air fighter who will clear the skies from the aggressor's planes. And the rest will be handled either by the existing manned aircraft, or by drones of various types, in which so much effort is now being invested.
And PAK DP (Long-Range Aviation Complex), in all its guises, let's leave the fans proud of the records and the fact that we again have something unnecessary (crossed out) that has no analogues in the world...