Russian Air Force to deploy new air-to-air missile

Russian MiG-31 aircraft

The Russian Air Force will soon deploy an advanced tactical air-to-air missile designed to enhance its operational effectiveness, Air Force commander colonel general Alexander Zelin has revealed.

RIA Novosti quoted Zelin as saying: ''The weapon is currently in trial at an air force test site. ''

Zelin did not reveal further details of the missile, but added that it will first be used by the MiG-31BM Foxhound supersonic interceptors/fighters and by other warplanes. However, experts believe that the missile in question could be the K-37M, a long-range air-to-air missile designed specifically for the MiG-31BM interceptor.

International Institute for Strategic Studies air warfare expert Douglas Barrie said: ''A likely candidate is the Vympel (now part of TRV) K-37M long-range air-to-air missile. This is a successor to the R-33, which was developed originally for the MiG-31 during the early 1970s.''

Developed under the MiG-31BM programme to update the Foxhound with a new radar and ground attack capability, the K-37 is a long-range air-to-air missile designed to shoot down AWACS and other enemy C4ISTAR aircraft. Barrie further stated that work on the K-37 programme commenced in 1980, but the project was delayed due to funding problems while its design underwent further developments since its original conception.

''The K-37M - it will likely be known as the R-37M when it enters service - will be the primary air-to-air armament of the MiG-31BM, providing the Russian Air Force with an extended range interception capability against combat aircraft and cruise missiles, '' Barrie added.

Image: The Russian Air Force MiG-3131BM Foxhound supersonic interceptor will be equipped with a new long-range air-to-air missile.