Russian Ministry of Defence on January 10, 2020, released a video showing the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31 supersonic interceptor combat aircraft successfully conducting an aerial refuelling. The all-weather long-range MiG-31 fighter is seen taking off from an airbase in Chelyabinsk Region of Russia and approaching an Ilyushin Il-78 tanker.
The IL-78 then extends its refuelling nozzle which fits into the MiG-31 nozzle. During the entire refuelling process, the MiG-31, as well as IL-78, maintain a flying speed of 500 kilometres per hour.
News website Sputnik reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that such manoeuvres are carried out by experienced pilots. "Only experienced pilots are allowed to perform such difficult flights. To maintain the required distance, pilots have to manually control engine power," the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
One of the fastest combat aircraft in the world, the MiG-31 can fly supersonic even as low altitudes. The jet's main function is to intercept and destroy cruise missiles and their launch aircraft, UAVs and helicopters as well as escort long-range strategic bombers. They can also be tasked with providing air defence of areas not covered by ground-based systems.
Fitted with Zaslon S-800, a phased array radar, the MiG-31 can independently fire long-range air-to-air missiles. The Zaslon S-800's maximum range is almost 200 kilometres, The radar can track up to 10 targets and simultaneously attack four of them.
A newer version called MiG-31BM's Zaslon-M radar can simultaneously track 24 aerial targets and attack six of them. Its detection range has increased from 200 km to 400 km. The MiG-31BM can carry the anti-radiation Kh-31 missiles.
Capable of carrying four R-33 air-to-air missiles, the MiG-31 also has one GSh-6-23 23 milimetre cannon with 260 rounds. The aircraft can also carry six R-37 in place of R-33 missiles. The MiG-31BMs can carry the hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile which has a range of almost 2,000 km. The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, which can be equipped with both conventional and nuclear warheads, can reach a top speed of Mach 10 (12348 kmph).