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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

MiG-41: Russia’s Mach 4 Sixth-Generation Fighter Dream (That Seems Dead)

MiG-41
MiG-41 Artist Rendering. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Have the Russians quit trying to produce the MiG-41, their sixth-generation fighter? When it sounds too good to be true with few concrete details available in open source intelligence it has probably entered what defense acquisition pros call the “Valley of Death.” This means that going from the planning stages of conceptual development to blueprints to prototypes is impossible without more time, money, and resources. Thus, the MiG-41 is far from a reality.

Producing the MiG-41 Is A Bridge Too Far

Like other planned Russian airplanes such as the Su-57 and the Su-75  – this stealth air superiority fighter has been delayed since it was announced in 2018. It seems to have a wish list of capabilities that are the stuff made of science fiction. The speed is ambitious. Supposedly, the MiG-41 would go over MACH 4 with a ramjet or turboramjet engine.

MiG-41 Specs Are Hard to Believe

It could fly at ultra-high altitude and take out enemy satellites. The MiG-41 could even eliminate hypersonic missiles in their flight and do it all without radar detection in a hyper-effective stealth design. Again, as is always the case with Russia, such capabilities are bragged about but many times neve come to pass.

The Information We Know Is Limited

The Russians are up to something with the MiG-41, we are just not sure what that is.

They have been vague so far while acknowledging that there is some research and development work on the airplane going on. Alexander Tarnaev of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee said during an interview at the Cultural Center of the Russian Armed Forces that “The corresponding decision was taken by the Chief of the General Staff; he has already signed the document to carry out research work on the MiG-41 project,” according to MiGFlug.com.

Could It Actually Fly Faster Than MACH 4?

Flying faster than MACH 4 may be a wish that is not grounded in reality.

This speed would produce ample amounts of friction and heat that could damage the fuselage and deteriorate the stealth coating.

Also, this type of heat would create an exhaust that would allow adversaries to detect it with infrared sensors.

MiG-41: Where Is the Engine Going to Come From?

A fighter engine that would produce that kind of power doesn’t currently exist, at least as far as we know. And the powerplant would need a substantial amount of fuel that could not be carried by such a small airplane. This supersonic plane would likely run out of fuel rapidly.

Simple Weapons Like Cannons Would Be Ineffective

The folks over at WeAreTheMighty.com are highly skeptical of the MiG-41. They say the weapons such as cannons would not be mission-capable on the proposed airplane. “Weapons like guns might be useless on an aircraft that flies at supersonic speeds everywhere. There are recorded instances of fighter aircraft shooting themselves because they were either going too fast or were too mobile and caught their own bullets, the publication said on March 19.

MiG-41 Will Remain on the Drawing Board

So, the MiG-41 is more aspirational than reality. Its presumed capabilities are probably not possible. There is no information about Russia’s budget for the project, but it would assuredly require rubles that are in short supply with the economic sanctions that the United States and the West are enacting against Moscow.

It seems like the Valley of Death awaits the MiG-41 – which would make it an example of a vaporware product from the Russian defense industry.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Zboy

    April 13, 2022 at 6:21 pm

    Summoning. Pure speculation.
    Rubble is stronger than prior to Ukraine war. Gas and petrol prices higher. And buyers are not shying away…
    The plane has passed the draw board and the first prototype construction has initiated.
    Supposed engine is an uprated Izdeliye 30 which is expected to be 30% bigger.
    If Su-25 could go mach 3.4 before destroyed…

  2. Alex

    April 13, 2022 at 9:47 pm

    I am amused by authors who write as if they work in Russian military factories or serve in the Russian Ministry of Defense.

  3. Andrew Morse

    April 14, 2022 at 5:55 am

    I’m no expert on the stealth capabilities of Russian planes but the biggest braggers about their aircrafts capabilities are the Americans. This goes back to World War2.
    Mustang – great plane but only when fitted with a Merlin engine.
    Thunderbolt great plane once they sorted sorted out the poor climb rate P47M yes it could catch and did Me262s but only when it worked.
    Yak 3 . French pilots said it was better than the contemporary spitfire .
    Kozhedub flying La5 and La7 still the highest scoring allied pilot .. shot down a 262 too
    Flew in Korea in Migs .. likely the highest scoring pilot there.
    In summary never discount the Russians and tar them all with the same brush as Putin.
    Personally the US might have been better running the YF23 and F22 rather than the F35.
    Bit like the YF17 – F18 proving in many ways more capable and versatile than the F16.

  4. JR

    April 14, 2022 at 10:20 am

    How many 57 and 75’s are actually operable? Last I’ve heard they only have a handful of demos with engines that don’t have super cruise, and by seeing how inept their military seems against Ukraine that’s totally believable. So we’re suppose to believe this without going in with India for financial help?

  5. JR

    April 14, 2022 at 10:33 am

    @AndrewMorse
    The F-15 Eagle is one of the most successful fighters in modern times which has racked up well over 100 victories for no losses in aerial combat. Didn’t know this was bragging thought it was just a statistic?

  6. Alex

    April 14, 2022 at 11:21 am

    Not being able to fight is taking advantage of technology to destroy cities from the air along with the civilian population like the United States. To be able to fight is to show mercy and free civilians from the Bandera Nazis, whom the bastards use as human shields. That’s the whole difference.

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