The MiG-31 Foxhound, a Russian supersonic interceptor, has proven to be a devastating war machine in the Ukrainian conflict. However, both India and China have avoided acquiring it. What are the reasons behind this decision?

The MiG-31 in action

The MiG-31 has been a terrifying force in the Ukrainian conflict, shooting down enemy aircraft with its long-range R-37M air-to-air missiles. These hypersonic missiles have kept Ukraine and NATO at bay, protecting Russian airspace.

In addition, the MiG-31BM, an upgraded version of the Foxhound, can simultaneously track and attack up to eight air targets and uses a wide range of missiles, including anti-radar, air-to-ship and air-to-surface.

Despite its devastating capabilities, India and China have chosen not to procure the MiG-31.

The lethal MiG-31 Foxhound: Why didn't India and China buy it?
File: MiG-31BM – Russian Social Media.

Technical considerations

The MiG-31 is an older platform designed primarily for high-altitude, high-speed interception. It cannot be compared to modern multi-role aircraft, such as the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKI, which India has already procured.

Although the MiG-31BM boasts improved avionics and multi-role capabilities, it remains a purpose-built machine, which may limit its usefulness in a modern and changing theater of warfare.

The lethal MiG-31 Foxhound: Why didn't India and China buy it?

Costs and logistics

The Soviet Union developed the MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft during the Cold War. Despite the fact that the precise cost and logistics of operating the MiG-31 can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the specific model and the country that operates it, some general considerations can be discussed.

Cost:

The precise cost of a MiG-31 depends on a number of variables, such as the model and the year of manufacture. It is, however, a relatively costly aircraft to operate and maintain. For instance, estimates indicate that a single MiG-31BM, the aircraft’s most advanced variant, could cost up to $50 million.

Logistics:

The MiG-31 requires extensive logistical support to operate. This includes everything from aircraft maintenance to the provision of fuel, ammunition, and other supplies. The aircraft’s large dimensions and advanced technology make it more difficult to operate and maintain than many other aircraft, which can exacerbate the logistical burden.

The MiG-31 is predominantly deployed as an interceptor aircraft to defend against incoming threats. This necessitates stationing the aircraft in strategic locations, such as along a country’s borders or in vital air defense zones.

Overall, while the MiG-31 is a powerful and proficient aircraft, it is also an incredibly expensive and difficult-to-maintain platform. Therefore, nations operating the MiG-31 must typically make substantial investments in the aircraft and its supporting infrastructure to deploy and utilize it effectively.

Acquiring and maintaining a fleet of MiG-31s ​​would be costly for India and China, especially considering that both countries already operate many different aircraft. Adding just 10-12 MiG-31s would add logistical complexity to their air forces.

Furthermore, India is already investing in its own anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities and is not interested in the ability of the MiG-31 to launch ASAT missiles.

Preferred Alternatives

Both India and China have chosen to procure variants of the Su-30 instead of the MiG-31. The Su-30 is more maneuverable and versatile than the MiG-31, making it a more attractive option for dealing with a wide range of aerial threats.

In addition, India is investing in the local production of fighter jets, such as the Tejas, and developing its own advanced medium fighter aircraft, which reduces the need to import aircraft such as the MiG-31.

Summary

Although the MiG-31 Foxhound is an impressive and deadly interceptor, India and China have chosen not to procure it due to technical, logistical, and cost considerations. Instead, they have invested in more modern multi-role aircraft and developed their air defense capabilities.

The evolution of air warfare and the growing importance of stealth capabilities, versatility and maneuverability have also influenced decisions by India and China. 

The adoption of fifth-generation fighter jets, such as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and India’s developing AMCA (Advanced Medium Fighter Aircraft) project, shows the preference of both countries for more advanced and technologically superior fighter platforms in comparison with the MiG-31 Foxhound.

In summary, although the MiG-31 is a lethal and effective interceptor, it does not fit India and China’s air defense needs and priorities in the current context. Both countries are seeking more advanced and versatile options to keep up with the emerging threats and challenges in the modern air warfare landscape.