The United States and NATO got a plane dropped in their laps when a USSR elite pilot decided he was done with the Soviet Union. When Lieutenant Victor Belenko defected, he brought the flight manual and a MiG-25 “Foxbat” along with him for the U.S. and NATO to examine.
Belenko was a fighter pilot with an elite Soviet Union Squadron. However, life in the USSR was filled with constant propaganda and shortages.
He heard that life in the United States was filled with plenty and opportunity but was afraid it was not completely true. But he was done. So during a training flight on September 6, 1976, he turned off his radio and flew to Japan’s Hakodate airport.
Belenko narrowly missed a civilian plane, almost ran out of fuel, and missed the runway, making for a rough landing. However, intelligence agencies were thankful for the chance to scour the plane for intel and design since they had never seen one before.
The USSR wanted the plane back, and Japan agreed. But they wanted to be reimbursed for the shipping. However, the plane was short about 20 key components when it returned, and the Soviets wanted $10 million. Neither country paid the other.
The MiG-25 was thought to be a powerful and advanced fighter plane that was more advanced than any fighter plane NATO currently had. However, that was not entirely true.
The plane was incredibly fast and projected to top out at Mach 3.2, almost as fast as the U.S. SR-71 spy plane. The plane also contained a powerful radar for its size.
However, beyond those two advancements, the plane did not have anything else too spectacular. The engines were bulky, and the combat and cruising range was short. Plus, it could not fly fast at a low altitude. In addition, the plane did not have any weaponry for ground attacks.
The plane’s huge wings made it useless in dogfights. In addition, the electronics were outdated, and the frame was so weak that it could bend.
The Soviet Union had more than a thousand planes built and sent to various countries where its success rate was 50/50. The MiG-31 eventually replaced it and fixed many of the issues in the MiG-25.
For Belenko, America was more than he ever imagined. He became a citizen in 1980 and worked as an aerospace engineer.