|Yefim Gordon & Dimitriy Komissarov|
|$64.95 from Specialty Press|
|Notes:||ISBN 978-1-910809-41-9, 320 Pages, Over 600 photos, profiles and drawings.|
One could easily call the MiG-31 'son of MiG-25'. After all, it was designed to be a replacement for the Foxbat, however, there are a considerable number of differences between the two, despite the similarities in their look. Both are high wing, twin engine, twin tail aircraft with rectangular intakes and a low set horizontal stabilizer, however that is pretty much it in terms of what is the same.
The MiG-31's development started in the mid 1960s as the MiG-25 was entering fairly widespread use. By that time, it was decided that the next generation of interceptors would have a second crewman to handle the weapons and the radar. So the aircraft got something not usually found in Soviet/Russian interceptors, a Weapons System Officer (WSO). This man was also a qualified pilot and could, if the need arose, pilot the aircraft to a safe landing, thanks to a pop-up periscope that you can see in the cover photo.
As with all modern aircraft, the gestation period was fairly lengthy and there were delays in getting all the systems up and operating within specs. In spite of this, the aircraft was put into service as much as to let the units work out the bugs and to let them develop operational procedures for the new plane. It was important to get this out in sufficient numbers to replace the fairly large number of older interceptors such as the Yak-28, Su-15, and Tu-128, all which were nearing the end of their useful life.
The new plane brought with it some issues regarding those pilots who had flown single-seat interceptors. They felt that they had been degraded to 'taxi drivers', while those who had always flown multi-place interceptors were much more accepting and came to appreciate the airplane's attributes. These included a higher speed, greater range, more competent armament (which initially included a gun), and in later builds, the inclusion of air refueling capabilities, though many units did not practice this.
While all this was going on, the Soviet Union broke up. This had an immediate effect on the MiG-31 and on the Soviet air force in general. All of a sudden, money dried up. It meant no more production and those that were in service saw a reduction of units and reduced flying. Crews started to lose proficiency as there was insufficient fuel and spares to keep to the sort of operational tempo that existed earlier.
Some of the MiG-31s ended up with the air force of Kazakhstan, where they had been based before the break up and they are still being flown today. Eventually, after several re-organizations, the tempo increased, production resumed, and thanks to what is called 'the Second Cold War' which began under Putin's watch, money became available to increase flying hours and get units back to their previous proficiency.
The authors are well known to Russian aviation enthusiasts and they have put their excellent research to work in providing what is the best book on this aircraft yet written. There are hundreds of great photos, dozens of color profiles, some really good pilot stories, including some great ones regarding chasing SR-71s, and a listing of each aircraft built. It all makes for a book that I can highly recommend to you.
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