Will the MiG-41 Ever Fly for Russia? The U.S. military has long boasted air superiority over enemies across the globe. In 1997, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor took to the skies for the first time, emerging as the world’s first fifth-generation fighter.
In the years since, American adversaries have worked hard to develop formidable counters to U.S. stealth fighters.
Moscow and Beijing in particular have been modernizing aerial capabilities in order to compete with America’s next-generation platforms.
In 2018, the Kremlin revealed that it was developing a sixth-generation fighter.
Over the last five years, few details have emerged regarding this platform, but Moscow insists that the MiG-41 will blow its American counterparts out of the water once produced.
Considering Russia’s scarcity of funds and resources amid its war effort in Ukraine, there is probably little room for it to develop this mysterious fighter.
The MiG-41’s Known History
The MiG-41 is being developed by the manufacturer Mikoyan, and it is known in Russia as the Mikoyan PAK DP. Initial details remain a mystery, but the fighter’s design was reportedly finalized in 2019.
The new jet will purportedly be outfitted with either a ramjet or turboramjet engine that would push the airframe to speeds of Mach-4.3 or even Mach-5. If these numbers are accurate, Russia’s new fighter would become the fastest military aircraft on the globe.
Moscow has also claimed that this sixth-generation fighter would sport anti-satellite missiles that would allow it to function in near-space environments.
MiG-41: Supposed “Specs and Capabilities”
As explained by Slashgear, the Kremlin has many hurdles to overcome if it expects the rest of the world to believe the claims surrounding the MiG-41:
”First, sustained supersonic flight requires lots of fuel, and carrying tons of it adds weight. Moreover, flying at Mach-4 produces an unfathomable amount of heat, and extreme temperatures caused by air friction require a new-age material that repels heat while retaining any stealth coating.”
In addition to the unlikely claims about the MiG-41’s speed, the airframe’s reported weapons storage appears exaggerated.
While Russian engineers have suggested that the MiG-41 will pack a punch, other industry experts and analysts are skeptical, considering the science surrounding supersonic speeds.
As outlined in a previous 19FortyFive piece, weapons like cannons and guns could be rendered useless on supersonic airframes. There are recorded instances of jets inadvertently shooting themselves due to flying so fast.
Don’t Expect to See the MiG-41 Soon
While much remains unknown, there has been minimal acknowledgment from Russian officials that research and development work on the MiG-41 fighter is underway. A Russian State Duma Defense Committee official announced 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.”
Perhaps Moscow is pursuing its new stealth fighter, but the chance is extremely low that such a technologically advanced airframe will be completed in the coming years.
Considering reports that Moscow is short on weapons, funds, and resources amid its Ukraine invasion, the notion that the country could develop and produce such a pricey platform at the moment is almost laughable.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.