The High-Speed Russian Fighter Jet That May Jump The SR-71 Blackbird As Fastest Plane

One of the most interesting, and potentially concerning, aviation stories of the past few years is the saga of the MiG-41. As far back as 2015, prominent figures in Russian politics have made bold claims regarding a fighter jet due to take to the skies in 2025. The MiG-41 was the ultimate result of PAK-DP, a major Russian initiative to develop a next-generation fighter/interceptor to replace the aging MiG-31.

According to Russian state officials, the MiG-41 has the best of everything. It boasts cutting-edge stealth technology and a ramjet engine delivering unprecedented speed. If Russian state claims are to be believed, the MiG will blast past the Mach 3.2 record set by the American SR-71 surveillance jet, potentially reaching Mach 4.5 or even 5 and making it fast enough to intercept not just enemy jets but hypersonic cruise missiles.

The operative word, of course, is "if." Russian state sources have been known to take liberties with the truth. Per Science, The Russian people did not receive a working COVID vaccine in August 2020, even though Vladimir Putin said they did. Per the New York Times, the Russian government has not managed to shut off its citizens' access to the global internet, even though they said they would.

In short, Russian state media is questionable, and thus far only Russian state media has broadcast the MiG-41's wild claims. What do other interested parties think?

Fighter or fantasy?

On the whole, experts are skeptical about the hypersonic speed and other longshot qualities of the MiG-41. SOFREP suggests that a lack of reports is the most telling, addressing claims made by Defense Minister Ilya Tarasenko in 2018: "Note that he stated this four years ago, and no official reports have surfaced regarding an update on this matter." The same source notes that Russian media has shown no images of the supposed plane. Military Aerospace Aeronautics agrees, calling the MiG-41 "military vaporware" unlikely to emerge from development with anything like the promised specs.

National Interest feels otherwise, however. It takes a 2021 announcement from Russian aerospace manufacturer Rostec at face value. As National Interest rightly notes, Rostec's announcement avoided the wild claims from state sources in favor of a simple (and considerably more plausible) statement:

"The development of the next generation of fighter interceptors has already begun. The project of the Advanced Aviation Complex for Long-Range Interception (PAK DP) is at the stage of development work."

With conflicting sources and suspect claims, all that can confidently be said about the MiG-41 is that a next-generation interceptor is probably in production in Russia, and will probably not see wide use until 2025 at the earliest. But whether or not it will be the fastest jet in the world remains very much in doubt.