Happy 51st Birthday, MiG-25 Foxbat - First Flight March 6th, 1964
Created in response to the ever advancing speed and technology of Strategic Air Command bombers (in particular, the XB-70), the MiG-25 sent shudders of fear through the western aviation community. With Mach 3+ speed and an (inaccurate) perception as a nimble dogfighter, the MiG-25 led to development of F-15 Eagle.
The defection of Soviet pilot Viktor Belenko to Japan with his MiG-25P in 1976 gave western experts a close-up view of the Foxbat, revealing it to be a short-ranged interceptor using reliable, but non-cutting edge technology (for example, much of the airframe was nickel steel, not titanium, as it had been assumed). Despite being something of a brute, the Foxbat served in front line units for decades, with limited numbers still in service today. It remains the second fastest aircraft ever to be in active service, after the SR-71 Blackbird.
September 6, 1976 - Soviet Air Force pilot Viktor Belenko flies his MiG-25 Foxbat to Japan, seeking asylum. The US and Japan examined and dissected the aircraft, before sending it back by ship to the USSR in crates. Belenko eventually was granted US citizenship.
Examinations of the Foxbat revealed a tough, but primitive interceptor, not the next-generation, advanced fighter-bomber that had been feared.
During the Iraq War in 2003, the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) hid several Russian-made MiG-25 Foxbat fighters and Su-25 Frogfoot attackers from the US-lead coalition, fearing their quick demise. In these photos, American search teams recover a MiG-25. (USAF photos by Master Sgt T. Collins- 1, 2, 3)