Almost exactly two years ago, a Russian Air Force MiG-31 Foxhound supersonic interceptor went down during an exercise over the Telemba proving grounds in Buryatia, a Siberian semi-autonomous Russian republic that borders Mongolia. (Telemba was one of the sites for Vostok, Russia’s giant wargames staged last fall with Chinese and Mongolian troops in attendance.) The incident was described by Russia’s Defense Ministry at the time as a simple mishap: the fighter “crashed during a training flight,” and both crewmembers had ejected and parachuted to safety.
Now, however, the independent Russian news organization Baza has revealed leaked government documents that give somewhat more embarrassing details about the incident: the jet was shot down by another MiG-31. The accident was caused as a result of the second aircraft crew’s “violation of safety measures and missions for flight, expressed in the premature activation of the aircraft’s on-board radar station by the navigator and the unauthorized launch of the R-33 guided missiles by the commander,” the leaked report states. But the incident was also the result of a failure of the aircraft’s target-identification system (also known as an identification friend or foe, or IFF, system).
The MiG-31 was the first aircraft to use a phased array radar—the Zaslon passive electronically scanned array radar, capable of being used for both search and weapons targeting. (The passive phased arrays can be used to electronically steer radio signal beams, allowing some antennas to remain in search mode while others are used to lock on for a missile attack.)
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