Is this pure propaganda on the part of a Moscow regime in desperate straits, or does it demonstrate the inability of Russia to line up its Sukhoi Su-57 Felon stealth fighters? In any case, Moscow is increasingly announcing the presence of Mikoyan MiG-31BM Foxhound-B air superiority fighters over the Ukrainian theater of operations. Now the spokesmen of the Russian Ministry of Defense do not hesitate to talk about the use of R-37M hypersonic air-to-air missiles. They claim two air victories in the past week, without any confirmation from Kyiv.
Until then, the big fighters of Soviet origin were conspicuous by their absence from the “special denazification operation” conducted on the orders of dictator Vladimir Putin. This gap has been filled by Moscow, which now announces their presence over the north and east of Ukraine. This is undoubtedly a way to respond to the Atlantic alliance and its recent deployments of high-level fighters such as the French Dassault Aviation Rafale F3R and the American Lockheed-Martin F-22A Raptor. On paper, the Mikoyan MiG-31BM Foxhound-B is probably still the best way to defend an airspace. Especially since the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E has demonstrated its uselessness in this war.
And in order to support the allegations of the presence of MiG-31BM Foxhound-B in the region the Russian Ministry of Defense argues that there have been two air victories against Ukrainian military aircraft.
Thus, if we are to believe its statements, on Thursday 27 October 2022 a Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft bearing Ukrainian nationality markings was targeted by one of these Russian fighters. It is said to have shot down the plane using an R-37M hypersonic air-to-air missile while the Ukrainian plane was flying over the Kherson region. On Monday 31 October 2022, a Ukrainian Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter was shot down by another Foxhound-B using an R-37M. The plane was reportedly destroyed near the coast of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula under Russian occupation since spring 2014.
The presence now affirmed by Moscow of the trisonic fighter could therefore return to the concept of game change. Finally if we believe its statements.
Because if Kyiv confirms that Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot were indeed engaged in raids against the positions of the Russian army and the Wagner nebula above the outskirts of Kherson no loss is currently recognized by the Ukrainian media. Neither by the officials nor by the social media. Even worse, the MiG-29 Fulcrum story seems hard to believe since these Ukrainian fighters never patrol the immediate vicinity of Crimea. One may therefore wonder about the veracity of the information relayed by Moscow.
The assertion of recourse to the R-37M missile is, on the other hand, rather clever for Russia. Indeed, with a range of 300 kilometers, this BVR air-to-air missile with a speed of Mach 5 allows Russian fighters to shoot down their opponents without ever leaving the sovereign airspace of the Russian Federation. The marauding MiG-31BM Foxhound-Bs are then considered as border patrols and not as direct participation in the “special denazification operation”.
Known within NATO as AA-13 Axehead, the R-37M hypersonic missile was previously considered primarily as an anti-AWACS weapon.
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