After over five years, Russia’s sixth-generation PAK-DP stealth interceptor is finally official.
Russian defense giant Rostec announced earlier this week that the PAK-DP, the planned successor to the prolific Soviet MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor, is in development. “Development of the next generation of fighter-interceptors has already begun,” read a statement on Rostec’s website. “The project for a long-range interceptor aviation complex is in the stage of development work.”
Rostec’s announcement was part of a larger post paying homage to the legacy of the prolific MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor while charting the company’s future fighter plans.
The PAK-DP, which is reportedly being produced under the “MiG-41” designation, has had a long and winding development path. The first reports of a rumored successor to the MiG-31 emerged as early as 2015. The plane that would become the MiG-41 was still largely an abstraction at that stage. It was in 2018 that Mikoyan Director-General Ilya Tarasenko told reporters that the fighter had entered what he called an “experimental design stage,” adding that the final product was ten years away. The fighter’s design was finalized in the following year, with the latest reports pointing to a stealth-based fighter capable of traveling at top speeds of Mach 4-4.3. There is widespread speculation that the MiG-41 will use the same Izdeliye 30 engines that are made for the Su-57. Despite being billed as the Foxhound’s successor, the MiG-41 is expected to diverge significantly from the MiG-31’s design in its incorporation of a stealthy modern airframe.
The MiG-41 can reportedly fly at extremely high altitudes, with MiG executives suggesting that it can even reach outer space. Russian defense executives have floated the idea of an unmanned PAK-DP variant, though there is no indication that such a project is currently in the works. As military researcher Samuel Bendett previously told The National Interest, “Converting existing manned planes into unmanned versions requires significant technical commitment and resources, which are currently in short supply across Russia.”
The MiG-41’s armaments suite remains mired in mystery. The fighter has confirmed compatibility with Russia’s current R-37 long-range air-to-air missiles, but it also reportedly features “completely new” hypersonic missiles. These could be the modernized R-37M missiles that are currently being developed for the MiG-31BM, the latest revision of the MiG-31, but nothing has been confirmed as of the time of this writing. The MiG-41 will carry a “multifunctional long-range interceptor missile system capable of hitting hypersonic missiles” with multiple warheads. In essence, these are interceptor missiles that split off into smaller sub-missiles that are capable of hunting projectiles as well as targeting enemy missile installations. If they are in fact capable of intercepting hypersonic missiles, the PAK-DP’s interceptor systems would be a major battlefield boon for Russia’s armed forces. Ilya Tarasenko has previously suggested that the MiG-41 will come with an “anti-missile laser”; it is unknown if that feature made it into the MiG-41’s final design.
The first serially produced MiG-41’s are expected to begin replacing the Russian Air Force’s fleet of MiG-31BM fighters into the 2030s.
Mark Episkopos is the new national security reporter for the National Interest.