Big Worry for Europe! Russian MiG-31 Fighters Can Now Target Key NATO Bases With New, Upgraded Capability

The Russian Aerospace Forces’ MiG-31I, an upgraded variant of the MiG-31 Foxhound, has received a key upgrade that will allow the aircraft to be refueled in the air. 

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According to information provided by an anonymous defense source to TASS News Agency, the MiG-31I fighter aircraft has been modified and equipped with an air refueling mechanism to expand its combat radius.

“MiG-I fighters of the Russian long-range aviation received a possibility to refuel in the air and increase the combat engagement distance,” the source told the publication. However, TASS did not have an official confirmation of this information.

The claims could not be independently verified by the EurAsian Times.

The Mikoyan MiG-31 (NATO reporting name Foxhound), dubbed the “fastest” operational combat aircraft in the world, has been in service for more than 40 years and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Over the last 40 years, the aircraft has undergone several significant upgrades, with the air refueling upgrade being the most recent. The MiG-31I variant is already a highly modernized variant of the Foxhound.

Although often confused with the MiG-K, a different source who also spoke to TASS on condition of anonymity said that the MiG-31I has “different engines, avionics, and missiles” than the MiG-K variant. The MiG-31K is popular as the carrier of the Kinzhal hypersonic aero-ballistic missile.

MiG-31I aircraft (via Platform X)

Commenting on the implications of the new capability for the MiG-31I, military analyst and avid watcher of the Russian military Squadron Leader Vijainder K. Thakur (Retired) said: “Operationally, most of Europe will now be susceptible to Kinzhal attacks. As far as Ukraine is concerned, the AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) will need to be on a high state of alert for a rather long duration after US/NATO AWACS warn them of a MiG-31I takeoff.”

Several Western aircraft can be refueled in the air, which essentially extends their range of operation. However, landing for refueling also makes a combat aircraft vulnerable to an enemy strike during a conflict.

As per previous reports, the MiG-31K is already being refueled by the Russian Il-78 tanker mid-air. Since a single Il-78 or Il-78M has the capability of two tactical aircraft, two MiG-31Ks can be refueled at one time. With a MiG-31 requiring up to 17.7 tons of fuel on board, one Il-78(M) should be able to carry enough fuel for one to three full refuelings.

What Is The MiG-31I?

TASS cited a previous Izvestia report that predicted the aircraft would eventually receive mid-air refueling capability. Although details about the aircraft are scarce, the fighter is believed to have electronic systems that bolster its characteristics and flying capabilities.

Additionally, the aircraft has an electronic remote control system and onboard computers that automatically align the aircraft with the desired trajectory and launch a hypersonic missile at the predetermined moment.

Russia had previously decided to fly the MiG-31I in the 2022 Victory Day Parade celebrations. However, the ceremony was later canceled due to inclement weather.

Later, the Russian Air Force Commander, Aerospace Forces Deputy Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant-General Sergey Dronov, announced that the MiG-31I would be displayed at the Army 2022 international arms show.

Much like the MiG-31K, which has been extensively deployed by Russia in the ongoing Ukraine war, the MiG-31I is also used as a Kinzhal carrier. In September last year, the Kinzhal missile system aboard the MiG-31I missile carrier was shown to visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu at the Knevichi airfield in the Primorye area.

“At the Knevichi airfield, Russian Minister of Defense General of the Army Sergei Shoigu presented the Russian MiG-31I missile carrier with the latest weaponry – the Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched missile – to the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Kim Jong-un,” the RuMoD said in a statement on Telegram.

Thakur previously noted in his social media post that the MiG-31I is equipped with Fly By Wire (FBW) controls and can autonomously attain the three launch parameters of the Kinzhal missile: attitude, altitude, and speed. This capability, he noted, is currently limited to pilots with outstanding skills and experience in the MiG-31K variants. “The aircraft crew needs to monitor the instruments and launch the missile at the right time.”

There was also speculation that the MiG-31I would be able to double as a launcher of a small spacecraft.


The MiG-31I may be a more upgraded and modernized variant of the MiG-31K. In 2021, reports stated that the Russian Aircraft Corp., MiG, had been given an order for the “overhaul and modernization of MiG-31K aircraft to the MiG-31I variant.”

There is conjecture that, eventually, all the Kinzhal-carrying variants of the MiG-31 interceptor bomber will assume the designation MiG-31I.

While the EurAsian Times could not independently verify these claims, a modernized carrier of Kinzhal hypersonic missiles with outstanding capabilities, like more time in the air, may not be good news for Russia’s adversaries in Europe and the United States.