In 1976, a Soviet pilot defected to Japan in his advanced MiG-25 fighter…

MiG-25P-croppedIn 1976, a Soviet pilot defected to Japan in his advanced MiG-25 fighter, which Russia demanded be returned. Japan complied, but only after allowing American engineers to examine the aircraft. Japan then shipped it back piece by piece, and billed Russia $40,000 in transport and labor costs.
The defection of the Soviet pilot, Viktor Belenko, proved to be a huge intelligence coup for the American military. Belenko’s aircraft was brand new, representing the bleeding edge of Soviet aerospace technology. The United States Air Force had previously thought the MiG-25 was an agile air combat fighter, extremely maneuverable and capable of defeating the USAF’s best fighters, which distressed American officials so much they created the F-15 Eagle program in response. Viktor’s testimony, combined with the examination of his aircraft, showed that the aircraft was actually a high-speed interceptor, clumsy and hard to fly at low altitude and very slow to turn.
Viktor also gave critical information about the next generation of Soviet interceptor, the MiG-31, who’s “look-down, shoot-down” radar had the capability to shoot down low-flying American bombers. This caused the cancellation of the U.S. B-1 bomber program (which relied upon high speed, low altitude flight to penetrate Soviet airspace), and triggered the shift in U.S. nuclear strategy from manned bombers to intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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