Viktor Belenko dead at 76

| December 2, 2023

You young’uns should know about this guy.

Back in the ’70s, the baddest of the bad was the MiG-25 Soviet interceptor called the Foxbat. (Russian fighters all get a F-word codename by protocol.) The Foxbat was scary – at Mach 2.8 it could catch anything we flew with the exception of an SR-71.  Speculation was rampant, until a Soviet pilot name of Viktor Belenko stole one and defected by flying it to Japan.

Experts’ initial impression was that the plane was far less advanced than had been supposed, one Washington intelligence source describing it as “no more than a rocket with wings”. Within a few days they revised their opinion somewhat, noting that the radar and electronics were of a high standard.

This was hardly surprising as they discovered, to their shock, that the plane’s weapons guidance system was controlled by an IBM computer.

Yeah, that’s embarrassing…  Read the article to get the details of his escape. One thing to note – he made it to Japan with literally a few of gallons in that thirsty plane’s tanks… think that takes a very nervy, or a very foolhardy pilot. Based on the rest of the story – he had a pretty good sized set of brass ones on his side. The following is from a book called “MiG Pilot” about Belenko’s escape:

A little more on the “rocket with wings” – initially experts thought the plane was very crude. Tube type radio system which worked on weird frequencies, non-titanium riveted wings, old off-the-shelf fuel-guzzling engines – seemed to be a T-34 tank when we were developing M-1 tanks. But:

  • Tube -type electronics are far less vulnerable to EMP than transistorized stuff. Given this was for defense against nuclear bombers…
  • Odd freq range? It’s hard to MIJI someone who can’t receive your signals. He could hear his base and other -25s, but there’s no way to spoof or meacon a deaf pilot.
  • The wings were riveted – where airflow didn’t matter. The critical areas like the leading edges of wings were nicely welded and polished titanium, the top-end material for the job.
  • Gas-guzzler engines – which were a) as powerful as anything flying and b) off-the-shelf. No development time needed, tons of thrust, and cheap. Who cares about fuel use when you have a very short-distance mission to stop the US planes at the border?

So the experts had to change their tune quickly when they realized the Russians built the fastest purpose-built fighter in the world…more capable than most interceptors in the world – on the cheap?  Not exactly the multi-billion dollar Swiss-army-knife approach we like to use nowadays on everything. To be fair, like many Soviet designs, it had horrible build quality and thankfully never lived up to being the threat we originally thought it was – but it was a heck of a first step into more modern MiG/G-15ish fighters of the next 30 years.

Of course, the USSR howled and insisted we send the plane back AT ONCE. I understand it actually took a few weeks – to disassemble it into component pieces and stick it into cargo containers for delivery to (presumably) Vladivostok.


Category: Cold War

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A Proud Infidel®️™️

Not just that, the Japanese Government also sent a $40,000 bill to the Ivans for various things, that plane also overshot the runway it landed on.


But:. There’s always a but.

He did indeed have a rather large pair. The math equations he had to work through in his head as I’m sure he didn’t put pen to paper figuring out if he would land in the water or on dry land. No communication with the ground meaning, I’m assuming he just inserted himself into a landing pattern.


My understanding was the weakness of the Foxbat was lack of maneuverability. The wings were huge because the aircraft was very heavy. Also It was demonstrated to fly Mach 3.2 but only if you wanted to replace the engines.

During the Iran Iraq war, Iraq devastated the older, poorly maintained, US built fleet of F4s and F5s with the Foxbat. A few air-to-air kills that Iraq got during the Persian Gulf War were with 25s.

The best thing about the Mig-25, was it spurred the development of the f-15, The greatest fighter aircraft the world has ever seen. It may not have the affection of the A10, the Air Force sure loves it. It will have a product life cycle of over 60 years, which is practically unheard of for a fighter aircraft.

The second best thing that came out of it were at least two movies and two books. The first being Firefox, made into a film with Clint Eastwood. And the second being the Hunt for Red October, both of which were debut novels for their respective authors.

Last edited 2 months ago by 5JC

“Tube type radio system which worked on weird frequencies”

I got a chuckle out of that. You Signal types know what I mean.


Read the article to get the details of his escape.” Linky? Did I miss it, or is the linky hiding amidst and amongst the Tuesday Tidbits posted on Wednesday? Part of that 70/30 TVI mentioned in his website upgrades comment?

Do remember this episode from the ’70s. Also remember that our Kaserne would be a smoking hole in the ground within 7 minutes of the balloon going up. That was the estimate flying time for the ground attack Migs that were tasked to take us out in a FIRST strike scenario.


Thanks, David. Had to give you a poke. 😀 Long as you keep bringing them bodacious brunettes…and don’t do “unspeakable things” behind the curtain…you will be forgiven.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

RIP Viktor along with your set of brass you know what.

Green Thumb



A shipmate of mine, a military cryptolinguist, was chosen to go to Hakodate to provide translation services of all the gear on the plane and in the cockpit.

I always liked to think that he was chosen cause he was such a badass Russian linguist, but he told me once that he was the last guy in the shop so he got tagged.

I think he was just being modest. He was a badass linguist.


I’d be lying if I told you the military gave a damn about individual DLPT scores when it came to assignments – except when exceptions are made. As long as they meet the accepted standard (which is exceptionally low), it’s just the whim of circumstance.

If you had a stellar linguist, you just got lucky.


I remember reading the “Reader’s Digest” article about this. I seem to remember reading about his disillusionment with the whole Soviet system and that he had even been institutionalized at some point during his military career since that was the preferred method to deal with those who didn’t fully embrace the concept of the “New Soviet Man.” RIP Lt. Belenko…aka Mr. Schmidt.


“Read the article”
– What article?


‘weird frequencies’? Just ask Kenneth.


What’s your benzadrine? Green shirt?


My retired USN neighbor was involved in examining Belenko’s Foxbat, and I forwarded this article to him.

His comment FWIW:

Yes sir, a very interesting aircraft and pilot. Your write up does not mention the clean burning engines the Foxbat had. I remember our on-scene tech standing in the tail pipe in white coveralls without a smudge. It would be interesting to know what type of life Belenko had after his departure from the Soviet Union. He certainly deserved the good life after his daring-do. Glad he ended up on our side.


On Saturday, December 2, 2023 at 02:03:39 PM PST, <> wrote:

Don, I believe you were acquainted with LT Belenko, or at least his aircraft.



What a ballsy guy. Defects, navigates across an ocean without aids, lands at an unfamiliar airport without clearance, out of fuel, nearly hits a civilian liner, runs off the runway, and decides to step onto his wing and shoot his pistol in the air at gawkers. Ballsy. Friends with Chuck Yeager. Rest IN Peace Victor Belenko. I read your book. I hope the coffin is stout enough to carry your gonads.