The Story Of The Soviet Pilot Who Defected To Japan With A Secretive MiG-25 Foxbat

Defector pilot Viktor Belenko, who hijacked the MiG-25, died in the USA at the age of 76

Viktor Belenko, Soviet Defector Who Hijacked MiG-25 To Japan In 1976, Dies  In U.S.

Defector pilot Viktor Belenko, who hijacked a Soviet MiG-25 interceptor fighter to Japan and sought political asylum in the United States, has died at the age of 76 in the United States.

The pilot, who transferred the advanced development of the USSR to Western specialists, died on September 24. A couple of weeks later there was a notification about his death appeared in the obituaries section of The Washington Post.

Having spent his life in legendary service to his chosen country, Victor died on September 24, 2023 after a brief illness

The Washington Post

In November, a full article about the death of Viktor Belenko published New York Times publication.

Lieutenant Belenko, who later settled in the United States, died September 24 at a nursing home near Rosebud, a small town in southern Illinois. He was 76 years old. His son Paul Schmidt said his death, which was not widely reported at the time, came after a short illness

At the time of his death, Belenko’s sons Tom and Paul were with him. The pilot got married in the USA, but later divorced. He is survived by two children and four grandchildren. They decided not to hold a memorial service.

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How did Belenko hijack a Soviet plane?

On September 6, 1976, Belenko took off from Sokolovka airfield in the Primorsky Territory to perform a flight exercise. An hour later he crossed the Soviet-Japanese border. After this, Japanese radio reported that the MiG-25P aircraft with tail number 31 landed on the island of Hokkaido.

On September 9, the pilot was flown to the United States. On September 28, TASS distributed a press release with the text of the official reaction of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which stated that the landing in Japan was forced, the pilot was taken to the United States against his will, and the actions of the Japanese authorities in relation to the plane and its pilot can be qualified as unfriendly and contradictory norms of international law.

On the same day, the agency clarified that Belenko’s landing in Hokkaido occurred under unclear circumstances. Western press claims about the escape were called false.

A large-scale investigation took place in the USSR; its results did not confirm the information that the pilot was recruited by the United States or had selfish motives. Later, Belenko himself called his actions political. Based on his manuscript in the literary adaptation of the American writer John Barron, the book “MiG Pilot” was published.

In 1980, Congress gave Soviet pilot received American citizenship. Belenko took the surname Schmidt and moved around for a long time, living in small towns in the Midwest.

After the end of the Cold War, the pilot began to appear in public and again call himself Viktor Belenko. He have worked part-time consultant to the authorities on Soviet aviation issues and consultant to aircraft manufacturing companies in the military industry, lectured at American military educational institutions, and acted as an expert in the media and on television.

Colleague Belenko remembered the day the Soviet fighter was hijacked

Viktor Belenko’s colleague Viktor Podmoloda published his memoirs, the book was called “Flight of No Return.” Excerpts from the text quoted “TVNZ”.

According to the pilot, the MiG-25 was fully refueled that day. Six to seven minutes after takeoff, alarming information was received from the head of the near zone that the plane’s mark had disappeared from the radar screen; the plane did not respond to requests.

Podmoloda wrote that no one wanted to believe the worst. The next day, the situation was clarified by the senior pilot-inspector, Colonel A. Chernyshev. He said that Belenko flew to Japan and asked for political asylum in the United States.

The pilot was flying in the direction of the American Chitose air base, and on approaching it he was met by two fighters on duty, scrambled to intercept him. Fearing being shot down, he sent the MiG-25 south, moved at low altitude and landed at the nearest civilian airfield in the city of Hakodate, rolling off the runway.

When official representatives of the Japanese government arrived to him, he asked them for help in meeting with the Americans and, when they arrived, he declared his desire to receive political asylum from them

Victor Podmolodacolleague of Viktor Belenko

Viktor Podmoloda recalls that his fellow soldier did not stand out in anything special; he was outwardly of average height, of ordinary build, and in conversations he was taciturn, but emotional. No one even in his immediate circle knew about his motives for hijacking a Soviet fighter.

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Belenko’s wife said that he never contacted his family back home

On September 28, 1976, the pilot’s wife Lyudmila Belenko and his stepmother came to a press conference in Moscow. The family asked him to return to his homeland, but received no response.

In 2006, Lyudmila Belenko gave interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda. She said that in 30 years the pilot had never reported himself.

The wife added that every year she contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but received the answer that there was no news about Victor. One day she was told that Belenko had applied to the consulate in San Francisco with a request to return him to the USSR; he allegedly wanted to tell the truth about what happened, but this did not happen.

Lyudmila said that her husband had no reason to hijack the plane, the family lived in prosperity, raised their son, and the pilot had prospects in the service.

The transfer of the aircraft to Western specialists was important for the development of aviation

The plane was disassembled and studied in detail by Japanese and American specialists. In 1976 he was returned to the USSR.

The National Interest magazine wrote that defector pilots helped significantly in uncovering Soviet military secrets. The publication named Viktor Belenko’s flight from the USSR to Japan on a MiG-25P interceptor as the most remarkable case.

Columnist Robert Farley noted that the Soviet Union spent heavily on producing more than a thousand MiG-25 interceptor fighters when it could have instead focused on producing less expensive multi-role aircraft. The Americans became aware of the aircraft’s shortcomings after studying the aircraft hijacked by Belenko.

Popular Mechanics reported that the fighter amazed its contemporaries with its altitude and speed records, and also became an example of “effective development.” After the Soviet pilot flew the MiG-25 to Japan, experts were surprised that his airframe was made of steel, not titanium, like the American strategic supersonic reconnaissance aircraft SR-71 Blackbird, as they had previously assumed.

We are the Mighty magazine noted that receiving the aircraft allowed the United States to evaluate its capabilities, in particular, the limited capabilities of radar detection of targets in the lower hemisphere.

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