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Putin’s Dream Weapon: Meet the MiG-41 6th Generation Fighter

MiG-41
Artist Rendering of MiG-41 stealth fighter. Image Credit: Russian internet.

Meet the MiG-41: Russia has plans for a 6th generation fighter to keep up with the United States and China.

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But don’t hold your breath.

Western sanctions are keeping aviation components and microprocessors in short supply in Russia. The MiG-41 next generation fighter could be a bridge too far with a lack of money and resources to develop it fully. There is a war on, and priority is with the army that is more focused on the building of tanks and the air force striving for more stand-off missiles. The MiG-41 may never make it to fruition, but let’s take a look at what Russia is planning to get a better idea about what a next-generation fighter means for Moscow.

MiG-41: Difficult Timeline

The Russian air force wants to replace the MiG-31 Foxhound by the early 2030s.

First flight of the MiG-41 could happen in 2025, if the designers and engineers at Mikoyan OKB have the resources.

This milestone is optimistic, and it shows that Mikoyan is already getting ahead of its skis. Even if the war in Ukraine stopped tomorrow, Russia would still not be able to meet that deadline.

Is the Technology Mature for Such an Ambitious Airplane?

The MiG-41 program will likely only be able to conjure up a technology demonstrator in the coming years. The MiG-41 specs are that ambitious. Start with the advertised MACH 4 to MACH 5 speed. This will create a substantial amount of heat from air friction that would burn up the stealth coating. Canopy design would be difficult in that environment. The airplane would have to launch hypersonic weapons like the Kinzhal, which could be possible.

Russia may lean toward designing the MiG-41 like the SR-72 Darkstar Son of Blackbird to safely fly at those mega-speeds.

Fuel Needs Would Affect Performance and Level of Radar Evasion

The MiG-41 would thus have a high ceiling, high enough to fire anti-satellite missiles. It could be powered by a ramjet or turboramjet engine which would allow for the plus-MACH 4 speeds similar to what powers some hypersonic weapons. At that velocity, it could perhaps shoot down enemy hypersonic missiles, which would be an interesting capability. But MACH 4 would also require a substantial amount of fuel which would make the airplane heavier and less maneuverable.

Aerial refueling would affect the stealth attributes of the MiG-41.

Solving High-Speed Issues

The heat from high speed flight would likely create damage to the airplane and that would require significant amounts of maintenance and increase the cost of each flight hour. Could the MiG-41 someday deliver the stealth, long-endurance, and armaments flying at MACH 4?

This is the biggest question for the MiG-41. Perhaps engineers and designers use the MiG-31 airframe as a point of departure for design. This could speed up the timeline for development. First flight by 2025 just does not seem likely.

Other Stealth Fighters Are Not Exactly Thriving

Russia is already struggling with its fifth-generation fighters such as the Su-57 and Su-75. These programs have slowed down since the war started. There have been reports of a few flights of the Su-57 flying over Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Su-75 needs at least one foreign partner and buyer to allow that program to be jump-started.

More Questions than Answers

If the MiG-41 doesn’t answer all the questions it has, the program could die on the vine. If it were peacetime, maybe engineers and designers would have the funds and wherewithal to allow the MiG-41 to meet some of its milestones. Russia needs to keep up with China and the United States in aerospace endeavors as both countries have plans for 6th generation fighters. But the MiG-41 is looking like more myth than reality at this point. That could change depending on how long the war lasts.

At this point, the project will not advance beyond the conceptual stages.

MiG-41

MiG-41. Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.

MiG-41

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

MiG-41

MiG-41 image. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

MiG-41

MiG-41 Fighter Artist Concept. Image: Creative Commons.

MiG-41 or PAK DP

MiG-41 or PAK DP Screenshot from YouTube.

MiG-41

Image: Russian Media/Screenshot.

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood 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. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Cheburator

    January 22, 2023 at 12:14 am

    – The illustrations are nonsense. They depict a light single-engine aircraft.
    – MiG-31 is a heavy fighter with a takeoff weight of about 50 tons, MiG-41 will be at least in the same weight category.
    Well, do not underestimate the level of secrecy in Russia – the appearance of new missiles turned out to be a shock, although the presentation was long ridiculed as cartoons.
    – As for the Su-57, as far as we know, it is actively used in the war in Ukraine and makes it impossible for Ukraine to use aviation.
    So the delivery of F16 and F15 aircraft can be regarded as the delivery of targets for practical shooting for Russian pilots and anti-aircraft troops.

  2. 404NotFound

    January 22, 2023 at 8:27 am

    The USAF is finished, Mr Easyweood. Finished, once russia introduces its MiG-41 super duper interceptor.

    F-15 & F-16 can’t hold a candle to the MiG. Due to its scorching top speed.

    At mach 5, the canopy would be about 500°C and no sane USAF pilot would want to get anywhere near the plane.

    Way back in the sixties, USAF wanted the burbank-built F-12B interceptor, but the costs were too great and no plane was ever delivered.

    But now, with NATO forces right on its front doorstep, russia has no choice but to build its MiG-41.

    But, at the end of the day, russia can actually skip all this hullabaloo about the great mach 5 crap and go all out for spaceplanes & spacegliders.

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