Skip to comments.Mig-25 defection: How a Soviet Pilot Brought a Secret Warplane To The West
Posted on 07/19/2013 6:26:41 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Mig-25 defection: How a Soviet Pilot Brought a Secret Warplane To The West
Viktor Belenko, is a Mig-25 pilot who defected to the United States via Japan on Sept. 6, 1976.
The then Lieutenant Belenko was a pilot with the 513th Fighter Regiment, 11th Air Army, based in Chuguyevka, Primorsky Krai, in the east of the country. When he brought his Mig-25 Foxbat to Hakodate he gave the Western intelligence officers the opportunity to give a first close look at one of the most secret airplanes of those years: a supersonic interceptor featuring a powerful radar, four air-to-air missiles and a top speed above Mach 3.
In order to assist the American experts in evaluating the aircraft, Belenko brought with him the pilots manual for the MiG-25 Foxbat, expecting to assist American pilots in evaluating and testing the aircraft.
Even if the Japanese government didnt originally give full access to the plane, the Americans were later invited to examine the aircraft extensively: the Mig was dismantled for such purpose and later returned to the Soviet Union.
Leonid Faerberg (transport-photo.com)
In his Mig pilot book (1983) John Barron claims that Viktor Belenkos defection was completely voluntary and was the result of Belenkos distrust on communist regime.
The MiG was delivered to Japan without the missiles, which were to be introduced in the Belenkos training later on.
The mission was launched earlier than initially planned, because the KGB was about to stop Viktor Ivanovich Belenko from defection.
Image Credit: testpilot.ru
Although pilot defections during the Cold War were not a rarity, what made Belenkos defection unique was the fact that the MiG-25 was completely unknown in the West.
This is the main point to bear in mind when thinking about Belenko and, unfortunately, this fact is often forgotten.
The ideological background for the events which took place in 1976 is deeply rooted in the beginnings of the post-war period.
As the Cold War was in progress there were many incidents and crises which closely led to a confrontation of the two superpowers.
One of these events was Francis Gary Powers U-2 spy flight on of May 1, 1960.
Powers U-2 took off from USAF Peshawar Air Base in Pakistan for a GRAND SLAM mission, to investigate the Soviet missile and plutonium production plants.
Targets were Sverdlovsk, Plesetsk (ICBM sites) and Mayak a plutonium plant.
The U-2 was a plane designed to fly well above the Soviet air defense Surface to Air Missile systems.
Its operational ceiling was out of the range of the Soviet interceptors and missiles but Powers flight was expected, all of the units and surface-to-air defenses were put on alert.
The MiGs pilots were ordered to ram the aircraft if necessary. The U-2 was eventually shot down by an S-75 Dvina missile near Degtayrsk in the Ural region. Because of high g-force Powers had no chance of reaching the airplanes self-destruction button and had to eject.
What is interesting is the fact that SAM crews did not know that the plane had already been shot down because MiGs IFF transponders were not updated (May 1st is a national holiday), therefore several MiGs were also shot down by S-75 rockets.
The political consequences of the spyflight were severe.
Shortly after the incident the Americans created a cover up story for Powers failure. NASA had announced in a very specific press relase that the pilot, having lost consciousness due to the problems with the oxygen equipment, had strayed into the Soviet territory with his autopilot engaged while doing a weather flight.
On May 7, Khrushchev announced that Powers has survived the crash and, nine days later, on May 16, 1960, during a Four Powers Paris Summit meeting with Harald MacMillan, Charles de Gaulle and Dwight Eisenhower he called the U-2 incident an act of a deliberate aggression.
Eisenhower refused to apologize for the incident, claiming that the U-2 flight was not of aggressive nature, having only a purpose of ensuring US safety. The meeting collapsed.
At the time, Eisenhower was a proponent of so called Open-Sky Policy, according to which both sides would allow for reciprocal reconnaissance flights over their territories. Khrushchev did not agree. Powers was sentenced to 7 years of hard labor in a Gulag, but he was exchanged for a Russian spy Rudolf Abel on the famous Glinecke Bridge in Potsdam, connecting West and East Germany.
Image Credit: allaccess.com
Gary Powers incident sparked the development of the American Oxcart programme, with the goal to design the SR-71 spy plane, which in addition to flying high, also flew very fast, out of the range of the Soviet missiles operational envelope.
What is more, a D-21 drone reconnaissance system was created, to be carried by SR-71 as a parasite. The drone would be dropped, fly over the Soviet Union, return over the Pacific and drop the reconnaissance materials on a parachute.
Both these designs led to the development of a Soviet countermeasure the MiG-25, known in NATO code as the Foxbat.
To be continued
i heard him speak about his defection back in 1988 at an Association of Old Crows convention... fascinating... no, i was not a member of the AOC... i worked as an assistant for two Old Crows... one was a Lt. Col. who reminded me so much Oliver North... it was funny... back then they would tease me and call me Fawn Hall... :)
I recall that Western experts were surprised that the MIG-25 was not built mostly of titanium like US Mach 2+ jets, but of steel.
Interesting reading, have to follow this.
Thank you for bringing back the memory of Blenko & his Mig-25
Not true. I was a war game enthusiast in my early teens, and there was a game called "Foxbat & Phantom" in the early 1970s.
Maybe have been the "game of the month (bi-month?)" in Strategy & Tactics Magazine.
distrust of, not distrust on.
That brings back memories. I rember seeing my dad’s AOC magazines/newsletters coming in the mail as a kid and being fascinated :^)
IIRC there were a lot of guffaws concerning the radio because it was vacuum tube.
Then they realized the radio was relatively immune to EMP.
I have read somewhere that the MIG 25 was a bit of a copy of the Canadian Avro which was cancelled due to so many Soviet spies being involved in the program.
Also tho the MIG 25 had an incredible top speed, it was not all that great as a fighter.
It was designed as a pure interceptor. It was immense and not maneuverable, and would have been a poor dogfighter. Its purpose was to intercept high-flying bombers and recon aircraft; really, it was largely a Soviet counter to something like the USAF’s XB-70 Valkyrie, the Mach 3 bomber prototype tested during the ‘60s but abandoned because of the increasing accuracy of SAMs and ICBMs/SLBMs.
The MiG-25 was built to climb rapidly, dash toward a target at Mach 2+, and fire missiles. But it wasn’t until this defection that the West really understood that the MiG-25 wasn’t some kind of air superiority superfighter. The result of the West’s panic over the MiG-25 were the F-14 Tomcat and the F-15 Eagle, both of which (the F-15 especially) were vastly superior air superiority fighters to the Foxbat.
I played that game as well. I think late 1973 or early 1974.
I had never heard that before. Also, in the West, the S-75 Dvina was known as the SA-2 Guideline.
Robert K. Dornan, who was running for Congress at the time, called the MiG-25 a "flying tank."
Belenko's wife was a real shrew too, and that made his decision to make a run for it in the his Foxbat that much easier.
And it was riveted together, with rust stains on the seams.
Well, a MiG-25 was a pure interceptor, designed to catch and shootdown U-2s and SR-71s. It’s turn radius was a hundred miles, and it could only sustain 3 G’s before the wings would fall off. It was no dogfighter like the F-15, but was designed to fly mostly in a straight line like a bat out of hell.
And that it had rust on it.
Actually, the MIG 19 and MIG 21 were pretty decent planes. They were just pretty decent planes in the late 50’s/early 60’s and it was the 1970’s.
Great designs, bad implementation.
The -25 has the turning radius of B-52 towing a glider
Thanks for posting. The late Richard ‘Moody’ Suter, exceptional fighter pilot, excellent thinker (he created Red Flag in Nevada and Warrior Prep in Germany) and all around great guy was one of the people who debriefed Belenko. I think of this event often because my wife and I drive by Airlie, VA on the way to our daughters to visit. Airlie is a conference center/retreat in Northern Virginia and that’s where The Agency kept Belenko for some time.
I bought and read the defecting pilot’s book (now given to a friend) when it was first published many years ago.
I think this statement was wrong.>
“Although pilot defections during the Cold War were not a rarity, what made Belenkos defection unique was the fact that the MiG-25 was completely unknown in the West. “
We already new what this plane was capable of in speed, but not the actual construction. What we did not know was when the bursts of speed took place, the plane needed major repairs.
It was an very interesting book, concerning life in the military in the USSR.
Yeah, but Cuba just got caught sending a couple of '21s to NK for repair. Under a cargo of sugar...
I thought the MiG-25 was designed to intercept the B-70?
That and bombers. But speaking of recon aircraft, the last time I saw mention of the Mig-25, ironically, was that in the role of a recon aircraft. India, if I'm not mistaken.
I wonder what they were getting in return.
Mikoyan also made a version of MiG-25 for supesonic bombing, armed with the Peleng-2 system. No info on whether it was used al least once, though.
The Aquariums of P yon-Yang is the same type of read when it comes to grocery stores.
I recall after the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a meeting between Russian and U.S. Pilots. They all hit it off becoming friends and discussing shop I guess.
A defector pilot from the Soviet Union, (I am not sure who he was), came up to the Russian Pilots and they would not even speak to him. Totally gave him the cold shoulder.
Yeah, the MiG-25R saw heavy use in India and the Middle East. During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, a Syrian based MiG-25R (probably with a Soviet pilot) overflew Israel at Mach 3.2. Israeli F-4s tried to catch it, but it flew too high and too fast. Apparently, it wrecked its engines as a result, and only barely made it back to base. Mach 2.8 seems to be its safest operating speed.
Originally, it was to built to reach and catch the U-2, but then it’s mission later included the SR-71 and prospective XB-70.
>>>I got a chance to crawl around in a Mig-25 at Nellis AFB in 1984. At the time I was an avionics tech on the F-15. I was struck by how crude and primitive the Mig was compared to the F-15. The cockpit looked like something from the 40s. All the technology and engineering looked about 40 years behind the F-15 and F-16. I was told what made them a threat was the shear number of Migs the USSR could throw at us. We found out in subsequent skirmishes in the Mideast (just like in Vietnam) that the Migs were no match for our jets even with the advantage in numbers.<<<
But it still holds a record as a fastest mass-produced aircraft. Highest ceiling as well.
Mig-25 has scored the first kill in Gulf War (against F-18). It has killed Hornet with a long range missile beyond visual range undetected.
>>>IIRC there were a lot of guffaws concerning the radio because it was vacuum tube. Then they realized the radio was relatively immune to EMP.<<<
This radar was also a jam-proof. It has simply burned through countermeasures. During the first Gulf War Iraqis has easily fond allied jammers with Foxbats. If not for a numerous escorts they could ‘ve been toasted.
All a criticism of Mig-25 comes out misunderstanding of it’s role.
The reality is in late 1961 a Soviet aircraft industry was ordered to make some thousand high-performance interceptors suitable to counter a massive strategic nuclear bombing by USAF XB-70s.
Mig company hasn’t thought long. They took a couple of king-size turbojets and built everything around as cheaply as possible. It made them the lowest bidder and they got this order. Powerful vacuum tube radar was essential because immunity to an EMP was crucial in terms of nuclear exchange. Another innovation was a twin vertical stabilizer.
This thing is not a dogfighter. An idea was to take-off, reach Mach 3 and 15 miles altitude and intercept as many XB-70s as possible before they’ve reached objectives. And Mig-25 seems like agile right enough to do exactly this job. Screw complicity and overengineering.
The problem is they built thousand+ and XB-70 hasn’t ever entered service.
B-1 Bob. He was a character. I worked in the same building for a while, where his district office was, in Garden Grove (CA). Thanks for the memory ;)
Thanks for the Foxbat ping.
You see this doctrine at work in the small arms each country fielded, as well: We, with our relatively finicky M16's, and them, with their utterly rugged AK-47s.
I read “Mig Pilot” more than 35 years ago...I think I’ll pick up another copy used and read it again.
Correction...it was 33 years. :-)
Ditto that, great paperback. The story of how he hunted and fished as a teen because his cheap and shrill step mom wouldn't buy good food ( if they could get it ). So he went to the woods, and picked berries and fished in streams to get the protein he needed and he lifted weights.
His disdain for the bureaucracy and pleasing Majors coming to visit with massive tree planting, only to know they would die, as it took him out of cockpit probably helped cement his decision. That and the fact he thought to himself in the book they knew they were out gunned with nothing to compete against F15's and F16's...
Great post everyone....,
Yes, it was a good read. I loaned my copy to a neighbor who was an Air Force Pilot. It never came home, he now has Parkinson’s & I think his wife dementia. I will not ask either of them for it. That is what you expect when you loan books.
I have some others that wound up the same way. One of them I cannot replace. It regret that one.
Mostly idle talk, but some have said it actually might have been a BOMB.
Yes, sounds very weird.
At least one of the variants had tubes for ALL the avionics. Immune to EMP weaponry
I've read several tales by defectors. They always claimed their wives were shrews, or were staunch Communists. I always wondered just how much of that was a story intended to protect the left-behind wife.
Unfortunately this pic was taken right before the accident that helped kill the program.