Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 42

aviation history

The MiG-25 Foxbat
A Fox that Flew the Coop

By Jack Feir, ISTAT Member Emeritus

A Russian is Coming
September 6, 1976, started out as a quiet
day on Hokaido, the northernmost of the
three major islands of Japan. At least it
was quiet before Japanese radar picked up
an aircraft 200 miles out and coming fast
from Russia to the west.
On that day, several Russian MiG-25
fighter aircraft had taken off on routine
exercises from their base near the village
of Chuguyevka, about 120 miles northeast
of the port city Vladivostok. Suddenly the
pilot of one of the aircraft, Lieutenant
Viktor Belenko, declared an emergency and
dove toward the ground. His companions
attempted to follow but lost sight of him,
and he was quickly too low for Russian
radar to track him as he headed east
toward Japan. He flew at about 150 feet
above the Sea of Japan, then climbed to
20,000 feet as he tried to catch sight of
the Japanese coast.
Within 10 minutes of the radar alert, two
Japanese F-4s were scrambled to intercept
the incoming aircraft. In fact, the Russian
pilot was actually hoping to be intercepted
and guided to the military base at Chitose,
but he was again flying low in and out of
clouds looking for land and the interceptors
couldn't spot him. Running desperately low
on fuel, the Russian pilot caught sight of
the civilian airport near Hakodate, waited
briefly as a departing airliner finished its
takeoff, then touched down and ran off the
end of the runway, coming to a stop in the
grass. A few more minutes in the air and
he would have run out of fuel.

Origins of the MiG-25
In the late 1950s, Lockheed U-2 highaltitude spy planes were routinely flying
over the Soviet Union at altitudes of 70,000
feet or more - well above the reach of MiG
fighters sent up to attack them. Moreover,
the U.S. was planning to develop a large,
high-altitude, Mach 3 bomber in the form of

the North American B-70 Valkyrie, as well as
the Lockheed A-12 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft that would fly at 80,000 feet
and Mach 3.1. These two new aircraft would
depend on their superior speed and altitude
capability to avoid being shot down.
To counter these threats, the U.S.S.R.
would need a better fighter aircraft. A new
program was launched in 1958 as E-155,
which evolved into the MiG-25, intended
to reach Mach 3 and 80,000 feet. Soon
the U.S. learned that this new fighter was
being developed, and it became clear that
the B-70 bomber might never become a
credible threat to the U.S.S.R. after all.
The maiden flight for the E-155 took place
on 1 May 1964, and in that same month,
right on cue, further development on the
American B-70 was cancelled. Although
two prototype B-70s continued to fly for
research purposes, the MiG-25 program had
already won its first victory by killing the
B-70 program without firing a shot. On
the other hand, at this time the McDonnell
F-15 Eagle fighter was in development, and
the perceived threat of the MiG-25 led to
greater emphasis on speed and altitude
capability for the design of the F-15.
The MiG-25 was no paper tiger. In 1965
one of the prototypes identified as "Ye-155
type" was recognized by the Federation
Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) as setting a new world speed record of 2,319 km/hr
(1,440 mph) over a 1,000 km circuit. In 1967
the record was upped to 1,852 mph, and
another flight hit a record-setting altitude
of 98,350 feet. In later years, MiG-25s and
their derivatives would claim 29 records for
speed, altitude and time to climb, including
one zoom-climb to 123,500 feet.

The Veil is Lifted, Just Slightly
Soon enough U.S. satellite photos revealed
this new twin-engine fighter aircraft with
unusually large wings and a length nearly
as great as a B-17 bomber. And in July 1967,

42 The official publication of the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading

A grainy, long-lens first look at a Russian
MiG-25 just after it arrived in Japan. Its sheer
size is indicated by the figures standing below
and on top of it. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

to commemorate the 50th anniversary year
of Russia's 1917 October Revolution, a huge
airshow was held at the Domodedovo airfield
near Moscow. Among the aircraft revealed
to the world for the first time were three
of the new fighters and a reconnaissance
version making a fly-by in formation while
the show announcer identified them as "MiG
interceptors capable of Mach 3."
Despite the publicity, Russia didn't want
anyone to get a close look at their new
interceptors. At that time all of them were
based in the U.S.S.R., except for a small
group that had briefly been stationed in
Egypt - but even there they were parked
in an area manned by Russians and the
Egyptians couldn't get near them.
The Western allies named the new MiGs
"Foxbats." But what were they made of, how
much fuel could they carry, how high could
they climb, and could they really reach
Mach 3? As for speed, in the early 1970s
one was tracked by Israeli radar, flying
over Sinai at Mach 3.2. Was that possible?

Belenko's Plane; a Treasure Trove
Now, the Foxbat sitting on the ground at
Hakodate in 1976 would have many of the
answers. And Lt. Belenko, seeking asylum in
the U.S., would have many answers, as well.
The aircraft was towed back up onto the
tarmac and a temporary shelter was erected
around it. The wings and tail surfaces were
removed, and it was loaded into a USAF
Lockheed C-5 transport aircraft and flown
to a Japanese military base near Tokyo for
detailed investigation.
At last there was a chance to get a close
look at a Foxbat. Of course, the Russians
wanted their airplane returned immediately, but the Japanese said it was part of
a crime scene (it arrived illegally without
permission), so they would have to make a


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Jetrader - Summer 2017

A Message from the President
Q&A: Douglas W. Runte, CFA, Managing Director, Securitized Products & High Yield Research, Deutsche Bank
Printing the Future
Upward Bound
Q&A: Abdol Moabery, President and CEO, GA Telesis, LLC
Escalation and Hope — Reflections from ISTAT Americas 2017
Forward Facing: ISTAT Asia
Aircraft Economic Life
Aviation History
Aircraft Appraisals
ISTAT Foundation
Advertiser Index
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Intro
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - cover1
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - cover2
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 3
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 4
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - A Message from the President
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 6
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 7
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Calendar/News
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 9
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Q&A: Douglas W. Runte, CFA, Managing Director, Securitized Products & High Yield Research, Deutsche Bank
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 11
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 12
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 13
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Printing the Future
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 15
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 16
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 17
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Upward Bound
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 19
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 20
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 21
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Q&A: Abdol Moabery, President and CEO, GA Telesis, LLC
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 23
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 24
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 25
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Escalation and Hope — Reflections from ISTAT Americas 2017
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 27
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 28
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 29
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 30
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 31
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Forward Facing: ISTAT Asia
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 33
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 34
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 35
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 36
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 37
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 38
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 39
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Aircraft Economic Life
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 41
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Aviation History
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 43
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Aircraft Appraisals
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 45
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - ISTAT Foundation
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 47
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - 48
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - Advertiser Index
Jetrader - Summer 2017 -
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - cover3
Jetrader - Summer 2017 - cover4