The MIG 25 Foxbat
In November 1971, two Israeli F4 Phantom fighter jets raced toward an unidentified plane. The F4 Phantom is one of the world’s fastest jets, but it wasn’t fast enough to intercept that unidentified plane.
For the simple reason that they’re following a MiG-25, a plane that could easily outpace any fighter or air defense system thanks to its incredible speed and altitude.
Since then, for the next ten years, Soviet Union’s MiG-25 was going to be a complete mystery leaving western intelligence scrambling for explanations.
USA made The B-36 intercontinental bomber was a revolutionary weapon in the early years of the Cold War. A bomber with the range to hit almost any point on the globe with a nuclear weapon.
It was tough to intercept the first American intercontinental bomber since it flew farther than any previous bomber and soared higher and quicker.
It also sparked a decade-long trend of developing increasingly powerful and speedy strategic bombers.
To counter this threat, the Soviet Union developed more advanced fighter interceptors ever. However, by the late 1950s, Soviet spies had learned that the United States was working on a cutting-edge bomber that could travel at such high speeds and altitudes that it would render the Soviet Air Force completely obsolete.
The XB-70 was so advanced that it would have been impossible to build just a few years earlier. But the Americans planned to have the bomber ready in the next few years.
For the Soviet leaders, panic set in. As the biggest country in the world, it had more than 22 million square kilometers of airspace.
At any time, American bombers could take off from the north, bases in the east, or NATO-allied countries in the West. And just a few supersonic bombers would be enough to overwhelm the Russian air defenses.
The Soviet Union would only have a few years to design and construct a new interceptor to match the extraordinary capabilities of the forthcoming B-70.
It had to be as quick as Soviet genius could produce and improve in record time. To successfully protect the country’s vast airspace, they would need to manufacture hundreds of new jets.
The Soviet Union’s MiG-25 interceptor was fast and powerful. The MiG needed powerful engines to capture the XB-70, but engineers didn’t have time to develop them.
Instead, they would use a turbojet originally made to power cruise missiles and spy drones. They were the biggest engines that had ever been put on a fighter, but they didn’t last very long. It meant that the first MiGs had engines that only lasted 150 hours.
The MiG-25 would have to endure kinetic heating of up to 300 degrees Celsius at intercept speeds.
However, mass-producing lightweight, heat-resistant titanium was difficult. Engineers manufactured much of the jet from a strong nickel-steel alloy.
This material could be quickly welded together and easily fixed at even the most remote and poorly-equipped airbase.
However, this rendered the more than forty thousand-pound jets incapable of maneuverability. A trait deemed unnecessary for its job.
To spot enemy bombers, the MiG-25 was equipped with a colossal 600-kilowatt radar that could find high-flying aircraft up to 100 kilometers away and destroy their jamming devices.
And it would only require a single sort of weapon: four of the largest air-to-air missiles ever created, in addition to an interceptor.
There was also a version that was used only for surveillance. It would have strong surveillance cameras, a longer range, and an even higher service ceiling. Some variants may even have the capability of the high-altitude bombing.
However, the majority of MiG-25s would be exclusively designed as interceptors. Mass production commenced, and At one stage, 100 MiG-25s were produced each month.
The Mig-25 could reach speeds and altitudes never before achieved by a military aircraft in history, and it would profoundly affect the Cold War. Just not in the way the Soviets were expecting.
MIG-25 is Revealed, and panic sets in the West.
In 1967, the Soviet Union held an enormous air display. And they ensured that the Americans were watching. Even for western audiences, the event was aired in English.
The Soviets showed off several brand-new planes but saved the best for last. In the last 10 minutes, three MiG-25 prototypes flew past the crowd at high speed.
It was the first time anyone outside the Soviet Union saw the new aircraft. And for western intelligence agencies, it rang warning bells.
The shaky picture showed what appeared to be a fighter plane with massive wings, indicating high levels of mobility. Experts assumed the usage of highly lightweight titanium based on the colossal air intakes that suggested enormous engines.
But what shocked them the most was how much the plane looked like ideas for the next-generation American air superiority fighter. A plane that wouldn’t be ready for ten years.
How the Soviets made such rapid advancements was a mystery to military strategists in Washington. Because just a few months later, the Soviet Union started setting new world records for incredible speed and height.
The media quickly picked up on this, spreading fears that the mysterious new jet could outperform anything built in the West.
The USAF Chief of Staff even publicly said that the Soviets had a jet that the US couldn’t match for the first time.
The United States substantially increased its performance goals for its next-generation fighters in response to the perceived danger posed by the unknown new jet.
But for years, Americans were desperate for whatever piece of information they could obtain. When Israeli radar operators began tracking MiG-25s over the Saini peninsula in 1971, they would obtain a second glimpse.
At an altitude greater than twenty kilometers, the jets were timed traveling at more than 2.5 times the speed of sound. At one point, they tracked a MiG exceeding Mach 3 in acceleration.
In contrast, the aircraft flew so fast and at such altitudes that no fighter could ever hope to intercept them. For more than a decade, western intelligence was concerned about the mysterious MiG-25. This, however, was about to change in the most spectacular fashion imaginable.
The most covert Soviet Union jet mysteriously appeared over northern Japan on September 6, 1976. And then, it made a spectacular crash landing at a quiet commercial airport.
It was dangerously close to hitting an airplane and going off the end of the runway. This was the first time anyone in the Western Hemisphere had seen a MiG-25. And as curious onlookers gathered, no one seemed to know where it had come from or how it got here.
Viktor Belenko, age 29, flew the MiG. He was promptly arrested and told authorities that he had fled the Soviet Union in search of asylum in the United States.
Belenko prepared his escape for months, disillusioned with Soviet life and terrible airfield circumstances. He reported engine trouble during a training exercise over the Sea of Japan, allowing him to escape.
Then He flew at a low altitude to escape radars. After he had escaped Soviet airspace, he headed for the nearest Japanese air base.
However, he had to find the closest airport due to low fuel and navigational difficulties. The MiG-25 was Belenko’s valued asset, and he knew it.
He fed crucial information to western intelligence, and his MIG 25 was sent to the nearest air base for a detailed inspection. And they were shocked after the examination.
They discovered that the MiG-25 was not the swift fighter they had hoped for. The jet’s enormous wings were necessary to keep it flying, and the aircraft’s heavy stainless steel construction significantly reduced its maneuverability.
Although the engines are strong enough to break Mach 3, they cannot withstand the extreme heat required to maintain such speeds for any length of time. So, roughly Mach 2.8 was the limit of practicability.
Even though the MiG’s radar was quite potent, it lacked a look-down feature, making it incapable of tracking targets at low altitudes.
All of the concessions that Soviet engineers had to make were now painfully obvious. However, they would have been largely irrelevant in intercepting a high-altitude, supersonic bomber like the B-70.
Unfortunately, the B-70 was never mass-produced. Instead of using high-speed, high-altitude aircraft, the Americans shifted their strategy to low-altitude radar and defense-evading planes.
This has left Western intelligence agencies wondering why they manufactured so many MiG-25s.
Only a handful of reconnaissance aircraft was the only other kind of aircraft against which the interceptor could protect itself.
After spreading false rumors of a Soviet superplane, the media now openly mocks the MiG as a poorly constructed, ineffective weapon.
A subpar plane that definitively established the Soviet Union’s technological behind. Soviet authorities were enraged by Belenko’s defection and demanded he and the stolen MiG be returned to the Soviet Union.
Instead, Belenko became an American citizen while his MiG was dismantled and transported back to the Soviet Union.
The Americans had learned every nuance of the MiG-25 and had a firm grasp on the fundamentals of the Soviet air defense system.
After discovering how vulnerable the MiG-25 was, Soviet engineers worked night and day to modernize the plane.
Modifying the MiG-25 to include more potent and dependable engines, an improved look-down radar, and the capacity to carry a wider variety of missiles.
The Soviet Union produced around 1200 MIG-25s. However, since the jet’s design was no longer a state secret, the soviets exported it to other nations.
But even after over half a century, the MiG-25 remains the world’s fastest fighter plane. It holds 29 World Records. Once A MiG-25 reached an astounding altitude of 123,000 feet in 1977, setting a record that has stood the test of time.
Although it was originally designed to counteract high-altitude bombers, export versions of the aircraft were nevertheless somewhat effective.
The Soviet Union, however, had progressed past that point by the late 1970s. Since work on a next-generation advanced interceptor had already begun.
Advanced avionics, powerful engines, and a radar and weapons control system let a jet strike numerous targets from over 100 kilometers away. It can even communicate with other fighters in the air to coordinate its attacks.
By doing this, they effectively gave older Soviet fighters an instant power boost. In contrast to the MiG-25’s emphasis on raw power, the new MiG-31 would employ cutting-edge technology to become the world’s most effective interceptor.