Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 (Foxbat) Supersonic Interceptor / Reconnaissance Bomber Aircraft
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat was specifically designed to intercept the ultimately-cancelled North American XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 bomber.
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Like the Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" and the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 "Fishbed", the MiG-25 (NATO reporting name of "Foxbat") became symbolic of the Soviet air threat posed to the West (and her respective interests worldwide) throughout the latter half of the Cold War. The high-speed, high-altitude interceptor was a record-setter from the beginning and would serve in some quantity with air forces within the Soviet sphere of influence for decades. Their most notable actions occurred in the Iran-Iraq War with some modest successes and lesser so in the follow-up 1991 Gulf War, where many were destroyed on the ground by coalition forces. Regardless, the MiG-25 was a powerful aircraft in every sense of the word and was a deadly design if used in conjunction with proper facilities and expertly trained personnel. Designed to meet the proposed North American B-70 "Valkyrie" jet-powered bomber series that never was, the MiG-25 nevertheless went down in aviation history as a successful Soviet-era venture - one whose fruits can still be valued today, albeit in limited service numbers. The MiG-25 did well to counter the Lockheed SR-71 spy plane as well as force the pricey development (and ultimate production) of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle air superiority series. Some 1,190 MiG-25s of all types were eventually produced covering interception, reconnaissance, ELINT, training and bombing duties.
The MiG-25 would never be confused with a "dedicated" fighter by any regard for her high-operating speed, poor out-of-the-cockpit visibility and rapid use of fuel preclude her from any long-standing aerial engagement. Instead, she became a very specialized thoroughbred designed with the single-minded lethal purpose of interception - led to her targets by way of powerful ground-based radar systems - while fielding a healthy collection of hard-hitting missiles. The MiG-25 utilized some of the largest missiles (19.5 feet in length) ever fitted to an aircraft in the AA-6 "Acrid" series, able to engage targets some 50 miles away. Foxbats were therefore stationed along both sides of the Soviet Empire, protecting its airspace from anything the West could seemingly muster. The arms race was in full swing and every move required a critical counter-move to match.
In the late 1950s, the United States Air Force undertook development of a long-range, supersonic strategic bomber capable of Mach 3+ speeds and achieving altitudes upwards of 70,000 feet under the developmental designation of XB-70 "Valkyrie". The aviation firm of North American - designer and developer of the World War 2-era war-winning P-51 Mustang fighter - was tabbed with its creation. The idea behind such an airframe was in presenting Soviet air defenses with an untouchable target - outclassing the latest interceptors or surface-to-air missile systems then in inventory and those charged with protecting the vast airspace of the Soviet realm. The United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command envisioned a fleet of B-70 bombers in its stable, holding a distinct advantage in capabilities of reconnaissance and delivery of munitions should the Cold War ever go "hot". In response to the XB-70, the Soviets enacted a counter-program to shore up its aged and limited air defense network - a proposed Mach 3-capable manned interceptor to serve directly with the PVO - the Soviet Air Defense Force. Work on the aircraft began in the middle of 1959.