Just before the Cold War began, the United States had a Russian jet dropped into their laps when an elite USSR fighter pilot decided he was done with the Soviet Union.
On September 6, 1976 USSR Lieutenant Victor Belenko defected to the United States and brought a MiG-25 “Foxbat” along with him for the U.S. and NATO to examine, complete with the flight manual.
Fed-Up With Soviet Russia
Belenko was a fighter pilot with an elite Soviet Union Squadron. However, life in the USSR was filled with constant propaganda and shortages of resources.
He heard that life in the United States was filled with plenty and opportunity but was afraid it was not true. Regardless, he decided it was worth a shot. So during a training flight he turned off his radio and flew to Japan’s Hakodate airport.
Belenko almost crashed into a civilian plane, nearly 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 get an idea of the design since they had never seen one before.
The USSR wanted the plane back, and eventually Japan agreed as long as Russia paid for the shipping cost.
However, on arrival to the Kremlin, the jet was short about 20 key components and the Soviets demanded $10 million from Japan. Neither country ever ended up paying the other.
The MiG-25 Foxbat
Before the defection, the MiG-25 was thought to be a powerful and advanced fighter jet. In fact, it was believed to be the most advanced at the time, likely due to Soviet propaganda. However, this turned out not to be true.
The plane was incredibly fast and projected to top out at Mach 3.2, almost as fast as the U.S. Air Force SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. The plane also contained a highly powerful radar for its size.
However, beyond those two advancements, the plane did not have any other technologically superior features. The engines were bulky, leading to a short overall range and an unimpressive low altitude airspeed. Additionally, the MiG-25 did not carry an ground attack armaments.
The plane’s large wingspan made it useless in dogfights and the electronics were outdated. The frame itself was so weak that it could bend, especially in high g-force applications such as maneuvering to avoid other fighters or surface to air missiles.
The Soviet Union had more than a thousand MiG-25’s built and sold them to various countries. It’s lackluster service record saw a success rate of only about 50/50. TheMig-25 was eventually replaced by the MiG-31, which improved upon many of the issues in the MiG-25.
For Belenko, America was more than he ever imagined. He was floored by his first visit to a supermarket, believing it to be a trick put on by the CIA. He became a citizen in 1980 by an act of congress and worked as an aerospace engineer.
Victor Belenko’s defection became a defining moment of the Cold War, a black mark on Soviet Russia and he is hailed as a hero for turning against the communist tyranny of the USSR.