The head of the MiG-31 fighter-interceptor program Valery Vasilkov has died, the MiG corporation reported on Wednesday. The causes of Vasilkov’s death are currently unknown, the press service of the corporation said.
“Unfortunately, this is true. Valery Olegovich passed away at the age of 62,” the company said.
The release noted that he was the current head of the aircraft modernization program – the MiG-31BM.
The MiG-31 (NATO codification: Foxhound – “Foxhound”) is a two-seat supersonic long-range interceptor fighter designed for long-term patrols and combating high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, strategic bombers, and low-flying targets. The Mig-31 Foxhound first flew in 1975, is a substantially improved derivative of the Mach 3-capable Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-25 Foxbat, first flown in 1964. The MiG-31 became the first Soviet fourth-generation combat aircraft. The fighter was put into service in 1981. Its production was curtailed in 1995, by that time more than 500 MiG-31 and MiG-31B aircraft had been built. It is the only fighter in the history of the Soviet and Russian Air Force, officially referred to as an “airship”. It is designed to intercept and destroy targets, including cruise and ballistic missiles, at extremely low, medium and high altitudes even in difficult weather conditions. Currently, the Russian Armed Forces are receiving the upgraded MiG-31BM (Bolshaya Modernizatsiya – Big Modernization) and Mig-31K. Russia still has about 122 MiG-31s. Earlier Russia had announced the potential retirement of Mig-31 by 2028.
MiG-31 variants include MiG-31A, MiG-31B, MiG-31BS, MiG-31E, MiG-31F, MiG-31BM, MiG-31FE, MiG-31LL, MiG-31M, MiG-31D, MiG-31S, and MiG-31K. Some notable variants include commercial satellite launch variants MiG-31A and MiG-31S used to train astronauts and MiG-31D is an anti-satellite missile carrier.