MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti) – MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors are going on round-the-clock duty in northern Russia as part of a snap combat readiness check of the nation's aerospace defense capabilities, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
The fighters, “in conjunction with A-50 airborne warning and control system aircraft, are performing continuous missions to protect the airspace, including from cruise missile strikes,” the ministry said in a statement. The aircraft are to be refueled while still in the air.
The three-day exercise, in which the fighters will fend off aerospace attacks, is part of a series of random checks of the Russian armed forces that began in February. It involves Air Force units from the Western Military District, General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said during a teleconference, adding that the upcoming maneuver had been ordered by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
A total of 8,700 personnel, 185 warplanes and 240 armored vehicles are participating in the checks, overseen by Col. Gen. Vladimir Zarudnitsky. The checks include missile launches at the Ashuluk test range in Astrakhan, Zarudnitsky said.
In late February, a raft of random tests of military preparedness revealed a number of systemic shortcomings, in particular in the Central and Southern Military Districts, the Airborne Assault Forces and military air-transportation units.
Alert-duty officers in some units were slow to respond to orders via automated combat command and control systems, especially in the airborne forces and at the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan. Other problems included poor accuracy in firing, especially by tanks and infantry fighting vehicle crews.
The checks, which the Defense Ministry said are being carried out for the first time in the past 20 years, will now be conducted on a regular basis.