February 28, 2011:
A Russian official was recently sentenced to eleven years in prison for trying to sell four MiG-31 jets (worth at least $35 million) for scrap. This happened four years ago (and was discovered two years ago), and was just another instance of a popular post-Cold War scam, where still valuable military equipment was declared scrap, sold as same, and then spirited out of the country to buyers who would ask few questions and pay what the stuff was really worth.
There are many examples of this, many involving MiG-31s. Eight years ago, a tractor trailer driver in St Petersburg was arrested when it was discovered that his load of "scrapped aircraft parts" was actually a disassembled MiG-31 fighter. The buyer was never discovered, and the case was apparently hushed up.
The MiG-31 is one of the better high speed, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, although it is considered a fighter. It is derived from the MiG-25 high altitude interceptor, which also served as a recon aircraft. The 22 ton (empty, as when disassembled) aircraft can fly up to 22,000 meters (68,000 feet) and has a range of 1,200 kilometers. Its top speed is about 3,000 kilometers an hour (833 meters a second). The MiG-31 is used by Russia and Kazakhstan. Countries like North Korea, Syria and Iran would like to have some.