The Russian Aerospace Forces have recently moved three of their MiG-31K fighters armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles from the Belarusian Machulishchy airfield to an unknown location in Russia.
This was first reported by an independent Belarusian military-tracking media outlet, Belaruski Hajun, and has since been confirmed by Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat. The three fighters that left Belarus carried the registrations RF-92215, RF-92445, and RF-95194.
MiG-31K with Kinzhal missiles
Normally, whenever these MiG-31Ks take off, air sirens wail all over Ukraine, fearing an impending air raid. This is because the MiG-31Ks are carriers of the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which has a range of 2,000 kilometers and would cover all of Ukraine.
However, this time the air sirens were not heard all over Ukraine. Yuriy Ihnat told Ukrainska Pravda that the anti-aircraft alert is issued based on the state of the airspace and the possibility of weapons being used.
“Russia has the whole country on edge every time the MiGs take off. These fighters are likely to be flying towards Russia, so no warning was issued.”
These planes have been stationed in Machulishchy since December last year.
❗️According to the Belarusian Hajun, three MiG-31K of the Russian Aerospace Forces are leaving Belarus:https://t.co/OsFl5FOYwp
— Belarusian Hajun project (@Hajun_BY) April 6, 2023
Russia withdraws its fighters away from the conflict in Ukraine.
However, a Ukrainian military expert and Ukrainian army reservist, Colonel Roman Svitan, stated that the jets had been withdrawn from Belarus to move them away from the front line, The New Voice of Ukraine reported.
“They will withdraw their planes from places near the Ukrainian border or from the front line,” Svitan says.
“They are very aware that we have certain weapons of destruction, such as drones. They don’t want to lose their MiG-31Ks, which are few and only have a handful of Kinzhal carriers.” Svitan claimed that the Russians hid their warplanes from the Ukrainian killer drones.
As Russian forces began their massive invasion of Ukraine, some MiG-31Ks were based out of Belarus airfields. Nevertheless, the MiG-31Ks have not flown as many missions as was hoped. Shaikovka airstrip in Russia’s Kaluga Oblast, to the west of the region and near Smolensk Oblast, is where the expert thinks they will be sent.
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Ukrainian drones Attack Russia
In recent months, Russia has been the target of several drone strikes, for which Ukraine has not directly claimed responsibility. Drone strikes on the Machulishchy airbase in Belarus in February 2023 caused damage to a Russian A-50U Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.
After these attacks, Russian military assets, including fighter jets, were not secure near the Ukrainian border. According to a later report from British intelligence, the A-50 Mainstay was likely employed to provide situational awareness to the MiG-31K Foxhound fighter jet.
This Attack may have influenced Colonel Roman Svitan’s latest claim.
Moscow does not want to take risks.
Asked if he agreed with the Ukrainian expert’s assessment, Lieutenant Colonel Jahara Matisek, a USAF officer, told the EurAsian Times: “Yes, the Russians are risk averse of losing their most advanced and expensive aircraft to possible Ukrainian drone strikes and other forms of sabotage.”
They may be forced to perform more comprehensive maintenance at their best facilities in Russia if they continue to shuttle these MiGs between Belarus and Russia. This is often called ‘queue swapping,’ where deployed fighters are exchanged for ones newly maintained in the maintenance depot.”
However, Vijiander K. Thakur, a veteran of the Indian Air Force and military expert, told EurAsian Times: “To say that Russia would abandon a fighter base because of the threat of a drone attack is ridiculous. Aircraft and pilots usually rotate periodically for maintenance, rest, and recovery.
There is no other like the MiG-31K Foxhound.
The Russian Aerospace Forces field some of the world’s most cutting-edge and deadly fighter aircraft, including the MiG-31K Foxhound. These planes are especially useful to the Russian Aerospace Forces since they can launch hypersonic missiles, which their enemies cannot defend against.
The MiG-31 Foxhound is a supersonic, twin-seat interceptor aircraft that can carry a wide variety of long-range missiles. The MiG-31 interceptor, which conducts patrols at high altitudes, is said to have shot down multiple Ukrainian fighter planes with its very lethal Vympel R-37M long-range air-to-air missiles.
MiG-31 in Belarus
In mid-October, more than six Russian MiG-31K fighters equipped with Kinzhal missiles were first sighted flying over Minsk. A few days later, a MiG-31K took off from the Belarusian Machulyshchi airbase armed with Kinzhal, confirming the deployment.
In a later tweet in the month of November, the British Ministry of Defense speculated that Belarus had received MiG-31 Foxhounds armed with “Killjoy” (Kinzhal) hypersonic missiles.
When combined, Russia’s MiG-31K fighter jet and Kinzhal missile systems form the country’s deadliest and most potent conventional weaponry. According to reports, even the most heavily fortified European targets are in danger because of their presence in Belarus. Throughout the ongoing conflict, Ukraine has been targeted by Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, capable of speeds up to Mach 12.
Kinzhal hypersonic missiles
In addition to traveling at incredible speed, hypersonic missiles have an uncertain trajectory. The nuclear weapon they can carry is either 500 kilotons or around 499 kg in weight, making it 33 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
As EurAsian Times has already pointed out, the Kinzhal missile must be launched from a fast, high-altitude aircraft. Therefore, the MiG-31, an air defense interceptor capable of reaching Mach 3, is the best option to carry the missile.
A Threat to Europe
Some Russian reports state that a MiG-31 equipped with a Kinzhal missile can reach most Western European capitals like London, Paris, and Rome in around 7-10 minutes. But, as of right now, only about ten to twenty MiG-31s have been upgraded to shoot Kinzhals.
Because Ukraine lacks an air defense system capable of detecting hypersonic missiles, the missile is extremely difficult to intercept, giving Russia a considerable advantage. The VKS simply cannot function without the MiG-31K and the Kinzhal missile.