December 15, 2021
When it comes to famous defectors, Stalin’s daughter and Edward Snowden top the list but neither’s departure matches that of Soviet Union pilot Viktor Belenko. On September 6th, 1976, Belenko not only renounced his former country but did so while stealing the highly classified Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25, the most mysterious aircraft ever built by the Soviet Union.
Prior to Belenko’s sensational defection, American forces were scurrying to learn more about this potential paradigm-shifting plane. This is the story of a Soviet fighter pilot’s 400-mile flight to freedom. On the plane codenamed Foxbat, he landed haphazardly on a rustic Japanese runway low on fuel.
A Nasty Surprise
As the Cold War wore on, Russia and the United States invested billions of dollars creating weapons that could outmatch the other. In the early ‘70s, America caught wind of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 via spy satellites continually probing Soviet airfields. They noticed the development of jet fighters with extremely large wings.
Their attention went on high alert when Israel picked up a new aircraft accelerating at previously unknown speeds of Mach 3.2 and climbing to 63,000 feet. American forces had never seen anything like it.