What we know about Russian PAK DP Mig-41 sixth-generation fighter

The PAK DP is a highly classified project, but the Russians have already defined its key performance parameters. Russia appears to be ahead of the United States, which is yet to appoint a contractor for its NGAD sixth-generation fighter program. The project is not a simple replacement for the MiG-31.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India, portal publishing news and current affairs. He holds an M.B.A in International Business from the Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, USA. Twitter: @chackojoseph *views are Personal.

On October 18, 2018, the Russian TASS news agency reported that the United Aircraft Building Corporation (UAC) of Russia had transferred documents to the Ministry of Defense on the PAK DP project, a futuristic long-range interception aircraft. The new interceptor should replace the Soviet-era MiG-31, which came into service on May 6, 1981.

The project is called PAK DP, in which PAK stands for “Perspektivny aviatsionny kompleks” or Prospective air complex, and DP stands for “Perspektivny aviatsionny kompleks dal’nego perekhvata” or Prospective air complex for long-range interception. The PAK DA is referred to as a sixth-generation fighter project.

Key Characteristics of the PAK DP

Since 2013, the MiG Design Bureau and the Avia Design Bureau have implemented the project under the auspices of the UAC. In August 2018, Ilya Tarasenko, General Director of RAC MiG, said the PAK DA would be a completely new aircraft designed using modern technologies. It will be capable of performing combat missions in the Arctic and near space, reaching speeds of at least Mach four to five. In addition to the manned version, an unmanned version can also be made. The aircraft will have new stealth technologies, operate at a vast interception radius, and new types of aviation weapons. He also said that the plane’s range would be over 6000 km / h.

One of the former commanders-in-chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Viktor Bondarev, told Interfax that the Mig-41 would have a range of 700 to 1,500 km, compared to the MiG-31s’ 700-720 km, and it would be armed with R-37 air-to-air missiles and fundamentally new missiles. Bondarev said that the MiG-41 would be the fastest aircraft in the world and as invisible to radar as possible. He noted that the fighter would be able to intercept not only cruise missiles, bombers, and drones but also be ready to shoot down hypersonic missiles. According to Izvestia, the sixth-generation fighter will carry a multifunctional long-range interceptor missile system capable of hitting hypersonic missiles.

Mig-31 Fighter Aircraft 

The PAK DA aircraft has to replace a worthy plane. The fourth-generation heavy interceptor fighter MiG-31 is considered the most potent air fighter in the world, despite the appearance of fifth-generation combat vehicles. The fighter can carry an arsenal weighing more than 9 tons at a speed of 3000 km / h and use weapons at altitudes up to 25 thousand meters. The MiG-31BM and now Mig-31I are equipped with hypersonic missiles. These fighters take off from the airfield in a few minutes and can fly at a distance of up to 3000 km without refuelling. The targets include command posts, aircraft carriers, and other critical enemy military facilities. The cruising speed of the MiG-31 – is a record Mach 2.3 and a maximum of Mach 2.8.

The MiG-31 interceptor withstands long-term dynamic and thermal loads due to the design of a durable body consisting of 50% steel, 33% aluminium alloys and 16% titanium. It is likely that the MiG-41 features space technologies and composite materials, invisible to radars, and is resistant to overloads and high and low temperatures. At speeds close to hypersonic, the aircraft is enveloped in a plasma cloud.

Mikhyon designers have to solve the most complex technological problems, like building artificial intelligence, robotic control systems that respond faster to threats and targets, overcoming exorbitant overloads without issues, and performing manoeuvres at speeds close to hypersonic.

Design features

As per the Russian media, the MiG-41 is designed according to the standard aerodynamic scheme with a medium wing placement. The sweep angle is 37 degrees and is mechanized, consisting of slotted flaps, ailerons, and deflection socks. The airframe is made mainly of aluminium alloys and steel; titanium and composite materials are also widely used in the design. The tail unit consists of two swept-back solid-hull fins mounted with a 25-degree bend to reduce radar visibility. Compartments at the base of the keels accommodate the system for ejecting false thermal targets. 

As for the power plant, the aircraft is built around a turbojet engine with a complex system of oil pipelines and a variable thrust vector. Three adjustable dampers are used to control the incoming airflow into the engine.

Artist impression of the PAK DP Mig-41 long range interceptor
Artist impression of the PAK DP Mig-41 long range interceptor

The chassis is a classic tricycle. It has increased strength and improved shock absorption, which makes it possible to compensate for the increased loads when landing on the deck of aircraft carriers.

The front landing gear has two wheels, and two LED landing lights and a towing cart attachment.

Low radar visibility on the MiG-41 is obtained due to the design of the aircraft airframe and the use of materials that scatter radio waves. In addition, all the weapons of the vehicle were placed in special compartments, the hatch doors of which were made of a complex sawtooth shape, which also effectively scattered radio waves.

Availability

PAK DA is expected to be available in another few years. According to Colonel-General Viktor Bondarev, PAK DA will not be able to enter service until 2025. Avia, a Russian media outlet, says the first flight should take place by 2025 and will enter service by 2028. The construction of the prototype will be completed by 2023, after which the ground tests will begin, followed by test flights. It is not known if the deadlines will be met. It is speculated that the Mig-31s will remain in operation until 2028, after which the decommissioning process will start.

The creation of the MiG-41 multifunctional fighter project is not a simple replacement for the MiG-31 and is a technological revolution. And here, Russia appears to be ahead of the United States, which is yet to appoint a contractor for its NGAD sixth-generation fighter program. Like the NGAD program, the PAK DP is a highly classified project, but the Russians have already defined its key performance parameters. 

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