In 1982, Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood produced, directed and starred in the film adaptation of Craig Thomas’ novel. Firefox, which told the story of an effort to fly the Soviet advanced MiG-31 fighter jet, not to be confused with the real MiG-31 Foxhound. The fictitious aircraft as described was capable of reaching speeds of Mach 6 and was invisible to radar. The film crashed and burned; it received mostly negative reviews for its tedious plot and disappointing special effects which included an aircraft that resembled the American SR-71 Blackbird.
The novel featured an aircraft that looked more like the real-world MiG-25, an aircraft that was a very real concern in the West when it first entered service in 1970. In fact, throughout the decade, few details were known. about the drastically advanced aircraft, and while it may not have had some of the more advanced features of the fictional MiG-31, the very real MiG-25 was equally remarkable for a number of reasons .
Meet the MiG-25
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25, known to NATO as the Foxbat, was the last aircraft designed by Mikhail Gurevich before his retirement, and it was developed as a supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft. Today, it remains among the fastest military aircraft to enter service and is the fastest manned mass-produced aircraft in operational use.
Its capabilities were best understood in 1976, when Soviet pilot Flight Lieutenant Viktor Belenko flew his MiG-25 to an airport on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. At the time, it looked like no plane to land on the remote airstrip – and Belenko’s defection allowed the West to study the plane.
What surprised Western observers was the size of the plane. It was huge; its size was only a few feet shorter than a Lancaster bomber from WWII. The reason it reached this size was to accommodate the engines. It was also not as advanced as some had assumed and it was certainly the novel’s sci-fi-worthy MiG-31.
The Soviet interceptor was actually developed to counter the US Air Force‘s SR-71 Blackbird and other high-speed aircraft, including the then-experimental XF-108 Rapier and XB-70 Valkyrie bombers. The Foxbat may have seemed to come forward from a distance, but those looks were deceptive.
Unlike the Blackbird, which was constructed of titanium to withstand the heat generated by high speed friction, the Foxbat was largely constructed from a nickel-steel alloy and was hand welded. The Foxbat could fly at extreme speeds, but in doing so it risked damage to the airframe and engines. Due to its size, it was easy to follow on radar (unlike the fictional MiG-31), and when the United States dismantled the plane sent to Japan, it was discovered that the technology inside was outdated. , including vacuum tubes rather than transistors, but it did. make sure it was still resistant to an electromagnetic pulse such as a nuclear explosion.
The Belenko’s defection was also a lot less exciting than anything in Thomas’ novel or the Eastwood movie, but a Hong Kong action movie, Foxbat, was produced only one year after the incident. Co-written by Terence Young, who had directed the first three James Bond films, the plot involved efforts to recover secret photos of the MiG-25 and bring them back to the United States.
The reality was that the Japanese returned the plane after sixty-seven days, during which time it was taken apart and every part photographed. In the end, the Japanese billed the Soviet Union some $ 40,000 to cover shipping costs and necessary repairs to the Hakodate airstrip. But the West has understood the plane better, and may not be so afraid of it.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan writer who has contributed to over four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He writes regularly on military small arms and is the author of several books on military hairstyles, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, available on Amazon.com.