MOSCOW, April 11 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Air Force is hoping to receive a new long-range fighter-interceptor by 2020 and retire its existing fleet of MiG-31 interceptors by 2028, Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said on Thursday.
“We have started development of a new aircraft of this type and I think we can develop this plane before the state armament program ends in 2020,” Bondarev said at a meeting with Russian lawmakers.
“The new plane should replace the existing fleet by 2028,” he said.
Bondarev spoke out against restarting production of the MiG-31, which was stopped 20 years ago, saying the country needs a totally new interceptor to meet modern requirements.
The Russian Air Force has 122 MiG-31 interceptors in service and more aircraft in reserve, he said.
The MiG-31, the fastest fighter-interceptor in service anywhere in the world, has recently been the subject of a comprehensive upgrade to MiG-31BM standard.
The MiG-31BM has a range of 900 miles (1,450 km) on internal fuel, which can be extended to 3,355 miles (5,400 km) with air-to-air refueling.
The modernized version boasts upgraded avionics and digital data-links, a new multimode radar, color multifunction cockpit displays, and a more powerful fire-control system. It can simultaneously track up to 10 targets.
The two-seat MiG-31 can intercept targets up to 124 miles (200 km) away thanks to its advanced radar and long-range missiles. The Air Force said in 2012 it was testing a new long-range missile for the MiG-31, which analysts who spoke to RIA Novosti said was likely to be the K-37M, also known as RVV-BD (NATO AA-X-13 Arrow).
The Russian Air Force has previously said it intends to take delivery of up to 60 MiG-31BMs by 2020, under a contract signed with United Aircraft Corporation in 2011.
MiG-31 interceptors are an integral part of a comprehensive aerospace defense network being created in Russia to thwart any potential airborne threats, including ballistic and cruise missiles.