The Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG-25 (NATO: Foxbat) is a soviet supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance bomber from 1972.

As soon as the Soviets became aware of the American XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber program, they decided to develop an interceptor capable of countering this threat. The design of the new aircraft can be traced back to 1961. Although the Valkyrie was later abandoned, the new Soviet fighter program continued.

Initially designated as the Ye-155, the aircraft was given the name MiG-25, with NATO analysts giving it the code name Foxbat (dogfish). The aircraft was to retain much of its original character forever, which was to earn it a very flattering reputation in the West. The MiG-25 was built around a speed requirement, becoming the first military aircraft capable of reaching Mach 3 (the planned speed of the Valkyrie) to enter service. The developers of the OKB MiG sacrificed everything for speed, in order to meet the criteria required by the Soviet authorities.

MiG-25 fighter jet

The MiG-25 was a pure interceptor, its poor maneuverability forbidding it to fight in the air. It had fixed, slender, steeply raked wings with fixed leading edges. The two air inlets of the aircraft were of variable geometry, a common procedure for Eastern Bloc productions. Like all Soviet aircraft, the quality of its construction was deficient, the factories of the military-industrial complex not being renowned for their quality control.

On the other hand, the Foxbat was quite light, incorporated a large number of nickel and titanium parts, could carry four air-to-air missiles and finally, had a powerful radar. It quickly aroused the excitement, if not the terror of Western officials, which motivated them to launch the construction of a “Foxbat Killer”, the F-15.

The Soviets soon realized that the MiG-25 could be even more useful than they had originally intended. Multiple versions of the Foxbat were considered, but in the end, interception and reconnaissance were its most important functions. From the beginning of the program, this was envisaged, the Ye-155 giving rise to four prototypes, two turned towards interception (Ye-155P-1 and Ye-155P-2) and two towards reconnaissance (Ye-155R-1 and Ye-155R-2).

Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG-25RB seen in profileCapable of flying at Mach 3 thanks to a very powerful engine and equipped with a fuselage resistant to high temperatures, the MiG-25 was naturally a formidable interceptor, capable of climbing from 0 to 35 kilometers in less than 5 minutes. Between 1965 and 1978, no less than 25 records (speed, altitude, rate of climb) were set by more or less modified examples of the MiG-25. Of course, at such altitudes, the combat potential of the aircraft was greatly reduced. But it was still a terrible threat to Strategic Air Command bombers and reconnaissance aircraft.

Main variants :

  • MiG-25P (Foxbat-A): Born in 1959, entered service three years later; it is the basic version of the MiG-25; fuel tanks fill nearly 70% of its internal volume; armament consists of four R-40 air-to-air missiles (AA-6 Acrid; two radar-guided and two infrared-guided) of long range; the avionics highlights are an RP-25 radar, derived from the RP-S used by the Tupolev Tu-128, a Sirena S-3M radar warning sensor, an IFF and a Polyot 1L inertial navigation system.
  • MiG-25R (Foxbat-B): reconnaissance variant, entering service in 1969; several sub-versions were derived, including the MiG-25RBSh (carrying a side-view SLAR radar) and the MiG-25RBF (Foxbat-D) for electronic reconnaissance.
  • MiG-25PU (Foxbat-C): two-seater interceptor trainer (a RU variant also exists, for reconnaissance missions); a second seat replaces the radar normally carried on board.
  • MiG-25PD (Foxbat-E): significantly improved version, developed from 1976 onwards, partly to compensate for the intelligence obtained by the US Air Force on the MiG-25P in 1976 (following the defection of Victor Belenko to Japan) and put into service in 1979 ; 370 examples of the MiG-25P were retrofitted to this standard, including new engines (R15BD-300), a new RP-25M Saphir 25 radar (with the look down-shoot capability that the original RP-25 did not have), improved avionics and a diversified armament (R-40, R-40T and R-60, the latter also known as the AA-8 Aphid) Later on, some aircraft received an IRST sensor.

Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG-25PU LibyanA total of about 1200 aircraft rolled off the Soviet production lines between 1969 and 1983, mostly serving in the Soviet Union itself. However, a Warsaw Pact member state, Bulgaria, received a few examples, which was normally impossible in practice, as the Soviet Union reserved high performance interceptors for itself. After 1991, the Soviet examples were transferred to the new ex-Soviet republics.

A few export customers were also supplied, although as a rule their Foxbats were flown by Soviet crews. Iraqi aircraft won the only two confirmed Foxbat victories, in 1991 (a US Navy F-18, whose loss was unofficially acknowledged by the CIA, and whose wreckage was recently found in Iraq) and 2003 (an MQ-1 Predator UAV).

MiG-25 fighter jet

At present, the MiG-25 is still used by Syria (about 30), Algeria (which received 16 in 1979, and perhaps 4 more later), Libya (received at least 30 MiG-25PDs, 5 MiG-25RBs for reconnaissance and 5 two-seater MiG-25RUs) and Azerbaijan. The six Indian aircraft were withdrawn in 2006. A single example is kept in Armenia, at Gumran, but it does not seem to be in flying condition anymore. In any case, the Foxbats still officially in service are very worn and their potential activity is questionable. In Russia (and perhaps soon in Syria), the MiG-25 has been largely replaced by another MiG, which shares much of its structure: the legendary MiG-31 Foxhound.

The MiG-25 had a notable and often overlooked military career. They were used on numerous occasions as reconnaissance aircraft, a role in which they were unbeatable until the arrival of the American Lockheed SR-71. Several Soviet aircraft carried out reconnaissance missions over Israeli territory with impunity between 1971 and 1973, without the F-4 Phantoms deployed to counter them ever being able to intercept them. India also used its Foxbats to fly over Pakistani territory, again without provoking an effective response. On the other hand, it seems that the Iraqi Foxbats were dominated by Iranian F-14 Tomcats during the war between these two countries between 1980 and 1988. Eleven Iraqi aircraft were shot down, but this is not fully confirmed. Most of the surviving aircraft were destroyed on the ground in 1991 by international coalition forces.

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