Douglas Barrie/LONDON

Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

AN EXPORT VARIANT OF the Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound heavy fighter, dubbed the MiG-31E, is undergoing flight trials, according to Vladimir Pomolov, general manager of Russia's Sokol plant, which builds the aircraft.

Confirming that the export version is being flight-tested, Pomolov adds that, " is stuck in the test programme because of a lack of money".

The MiG-31E is believed to be based around the MiG-31B Foxhound-A interceptor, already in service with the Russian air-defence forces. Likely changes are downgraded electronic countermeasures and simplified radar-engagement modes.

The primary air-to-air missile would be the Vympel R-33 (AA-9 Amos) beyond-visual-range semi-active air-to-air missile (AAM).

The export Foxhound is aimed at China, India and Iran. Unconfirmed reports suggested that China ordered MiG-31s several years ago, although there remains scant evidence of this.

Mikoyan has also been trying to interest India in the Foxhound to act as a fighter-controller aircraft for its Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbeds when they are upgraded. Target hand-off from the Foxhound's S-800 Zaslon phased-array radar to the MiG-21s would be via a datalink. The Indian air force has also been conducting a technical assessment of the Sukhoi Su-30MK to fill the gap in its inventory.

Pomolov also indicates that the MiG-31M Foxhound upgrade programme is struggling because of a lack of funding. The aircraft is believed to have a considerably improved radar capability, based on the Zaslon-M, along with the Vympel R-37 long-range dual-mode AAM. The Sokol plant has produced at least six prototypes of the MiG-31M.

One senior Mikoyan official says that the MiG-31M has effectively completed what he describes as its " design testing. It is now ready go through its military certification."

He says that the Government now needs to decide whether to proceed with the MiG-31M programme to equip Russia's air-defence forces.

Source: Flight International