In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. speak with Mitch Burrow, a funny burly-guy who went from being a Marine to becoming a stand-up comedian.
When we join the military all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we have sort of an idea of what we want to do with our lives — but we change our minds dozens of times before landing a career that we hopefully love.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
So why did Mitch decide to jump on stage and be a comedian after getting out of the Marines?
“I love stand up comedy, so I was like you know what? If this is working at a party or a social group, let me try it on stage,” Mitch humorously recalls. “So I drove down to San Diego to the Comedy Store in La Jolla and had three shots of tequila, and I drank a couple of Budweisers then I got on stage. I’ve been told it went pretty good.”
The designers are doing the obvious things, such as adding more doors and washrooms to create separate sleeping and bathing areas for men and women and to give them more privacy. But they are also making more subtle modifications that may not have been in everyone’s periscope when the Navy admitted women into the Silent Service.
You know what this sub is missing? A girl at the helm! (U.S. Navy photo)
For example, they are lowering some overhead valves and making them easier to turn, and installing steps in front of the triple-high bunk beds and stacked laundry machines.
The first vessel built with some of the new features, the future USS New Jersey, is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.
The Navy lifted its ban on women on submarines in 2010, starting with officers. About 80 female officers and roughly 50 enlisted women are now serving on subs, and their numbers are expected to climb into the hundreds over the next few years.
For now, the Navy is retrofitting existing subs with extra doors and designated washrooms to accommodate women. But Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, is at work on a redesign of the Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack subs and is also developing a brand-new class of ballistic-missile submarines, relying on body measurements for both men and women.
“We have a clean sheet of paper, so from the ground up, we’ll optimize for both men and women,” said Brian Wilson, Electric Boat director of the new ballistic-missile sub program.
Electric Boat officials had no immediate estimate of how much the modifications will cost.
As anyone who watches war movies knows, submariners are always turning valves, whether to operate machinery, redistribute water between tanks or isolate part of a system that has been damaged.
On the Columbia-class boats, valves will generally be placed lower, Wilson said. Sometimes there will be an extension handle, and some will be easier to turn. Sailors will be able to connect their masks into the emergency air system at the side of passageways, instead of overhead.
Emergency air masks are being moved on fast-attack submarines, too, but the bulk of the changes on those subs are to ensure privacy.
Seats in the control room on the ballistic-missile submarines will adjust forward a little more so everyone can touch each display and reach every joystick. Steps will be added so shorter people can climb into the top bunk or see into the washers and dryers, since clothes that get stuck in the machines are a fire hazard.
The first Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub is scheduled to join the fleet in 2031.
At 5-foot-6, Lt. Marquette Leveque, one of the first women to serve on a submarine, said that she didn’t have any trouble reaching valves and other equipment but that the ergonomic changes will be helpful for shorter crewmates.
Leveque was assigned to a compartment with two other female officers on the USS Wyoming. They shared a washroom with male officers. A sign on the door could be flipped to show whether a man or woman was using it.
With so few women on board, the timesharing worked, she said. But with more on the way, the need for separate spaces is greater, she added.
“Privacy is important anywhere you are,” she said. “We live on this boat, as well as work there.”
The U.S. Army issued a blistering denial late Friday that the recent Ranger school course was “fixed” to allow women to pass and earn the coveted Ranger tab.
In a statement, Brig. Gen. Malcom B. Frost, the Army’s chief of public affairs, said that a People Magazine article charging that Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were given special treatment was “flat-out wrong” and “pure fiction.”
The article by Susan Katz Keating was headlined: “Was It Fixed? Army General Told Subordinates: ‘A Woman Will Graduate Ranger School,’ Sources Say.”
The magazine’s report went on to cite the repercussions of the unnamed general’s influence on subordinates at Fort Benning, Ga., involved in conducting the first Ranger school course open to women that began earlier this year.
‘”It had a ripple effect'” at Fort Benning, where Ranger School is based, says a source with knowledge of events at the sprawling Georgia Army post,” the magazine article said.
“Even though this was supposed to be just an assessment, everyone knew. The results were planned in advance,” the article quoted the source as saying.
In his statement for the Army, Frost ran through a list of allegations in the article that he said were untrue.
“The latest attack on the integrity of the United States Army by People magazine’s Susan Keating is more than inaccurate, it is pure fiction,” Frost said. “She claimed that women were allowed to repeat a Ranger training class until they passed, while men were held to a strict pass/fail standard. That is false.”
Traditionally, only 25 percent make it through Ranger School without having to recycle, or repeat, one or more phases, according to leaders from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.
“She charged that women regularly practiced on Ranger School’s land navigation course while men saw it for the first time when they went to the school. Again, false.”
“She accused an Army general of calling female candidates together to tell them they could not quit the course. Yet again, false.”
In Twitter responses, Keating defended her article and said that “Both Big Army and Benning refused repeated requests to speak to Gen. Miller (Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning.)”
“More importantly, they refused my requests to speak to Ranger Instructors, cadre, and medics alone and without fear of retribution,” Keating said.
Last week, Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Ranger qualified veteran of Iraq, requested documentation from Army Secretary John McHugh on whether the two women who passed Ranger school “got special treatment and played by different rules.”
Sue Fulton, one of the first women to graduate from West Point, quickly filed a Freedom of Information request on behalf of a group of women West Point graduates asking to view Russell’s own Ranger school records.
The debate on the Ranger school standards came as the services were to report to the Pentagon by Sept. 30 on whether they would seek “exceptions” for certain billets to the 2013 directive issued by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to open up all Military Occupational Specialties to women who can qualify.
In an op-ed Saturday for the Washington Post under the headline: “Combat-Ready Is Not About Gender,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said that MOSs should be open to anyone who can meet the standards, regardless of gender.
He questioned the methodology of Marine Corps studies and tests showing that women were more prone to be injured, and that mixed units failed to perform as well as all-male units.
“Through the extensive work the Corps has done, it is clear that there are justifications for excluding someone who does not meet the standards for a position,” Mabus said. “There are none that justify excluding someone who meets all of the standards because that person is a woman,” he said.
Long story short, the 20th Century’s most widely-known British non-commissioned officer was real. Only his name wasn’t Pepper, it was Babington. And he was a Lieutenant General.
Paul McCartney chose the image of Gen. Sir James Melville Babington as the real-life visage of the fictional Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For most people, being on a Beatles album would be the highlight of their life. Not so for one of the British Empire’s decorated officers.
The Scottish-born Babington came up in the ranks of the British Imperial military through the Boer War of the 19th century, spending decades fighting insurgencies against the Dutch descended residents of the southern tip of Africa. He scored a number of decisive wins there, becoming a feared opponent of the rebels. He left just before the end of the war, which went just about as well as you think it might when a bunch of farmers take on the largest empire on earth.
After laying the smack down on the Boers in South Africa, he did a brief stint in England before being transferred to take command of the New Zealand Defence Force in 1902. After five years, he was sent back to London, where he stayed until World War I broke out.
From there, he took command of the British 23rd Division under the New Army. Described as “elderly but fearless” he spent a lot of effort and Crown funds on outfitting his men, unlike many other commanders. As a result, his men loved him and fought so hard at legendary WWI battles like the Somme and Ypres. He also led men along the fronts that aren’t as talked about in history books, like Italy and the Asiago Plateau.
When he retired, he was Lieutenant General Sir James Melville Babington KCB, KCMG, commander of British Forces in Italy. He died in 1936, and would never know that his face finally achieved worldwide fame, probably even in South Africa.
A former physics teacher from Mosul has been installed as a new temporary leader for the Islamic State after the terror group’s leader was reportedly injured in an airstrike in March, an Iraqi government adviser told Newsweek.
Newsweek describes Abu Alaa Afri as a “rising star” within Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), and the Iraqi government adviser, Hisham al Hashimi, said Afri had become even more important than the injured “caliph” of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“More important, and smarter, and with better relationships. He is a good public speaker and strong charisma,” Hashimi told Newsweek. “All the leaders of Daesh find that he has much jihadi wisdom, and good capability at leadership and administration.”
Afri will become ISIS’ new permanent leader if Baghdadi dies, Hashimi said. He is reportedly a follower of Abu Musaab al-Suri, a prominent jihadi scholar, and used to teach physics in the northwestern Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
Having a caliph with a background of religious education is important to ISIS, which has shaped its self-proclaimed caliphate around a strict interpretation of sharia law. The group recruits people to come live in its territory by marketing it as an Islamic utopia.
Der Spiegel reported recently that early leaders of ISIS, many of whom are former Iraqi intelligence officers from ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, decided to make Baghdadi caliph because he, as an “educated cleric,” would “give the group a religious face.”
Afri reportedly became Baghdadi’s right-hand man after Baghdadi took a step back from decision-making for security reasons, Newsweek reports. He has served as a link between ISIS’ top leaders and its lower ranks and helps with coordination between the upper ranks and the emirs in different regional provinces.
Osama bin Laden reportedly tapped Afri to run Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor, after the death of senior officials in 2010, according to Newsweek. Afri became a senior member of the group and was known to be “very strict,” Hashimi said.
Newsweek reports that Afri is thought to desire reconciliation with Al Qaeda and its affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as Nusra Front, a chief rival of ISIS in Syria.
ISIS used to be aligned with Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda leadership denounced ISIS after the group defied its directives and continued releasing brutal propaganda. The two terror groups have been competing for territory in Syria since then, and Western airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria have hurt that group while allowing Nusra to rise, the Associated Press reported last month.
The Pentagon reported earlier this month that ISIS had since August lost thousands of miles of territory it once controlled, though nearly all of that lost territory is in Iraq, not Syria.
Afri also reportedly wants ISIS leadership to be made up half of Arabs and half of foreign fighters, which is a departure from its current structure.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that nearly all of ISIS’ leaders were former Iraqi officers, not foreign fighters. The foreign fighters have proved valuable for ISIS’ media strategy — the group used the now-infamous “Jihadi John,” a British extremist, in some of its beheading videos to gain more attention from the West — but seem to have so far been kept out of the upper echelons of leadership.
ISIS’ leaders operate largely in the shadows. Since rising to power as the leader of ISIS, Baghdadi has rarely appeared on video, and few photos of him have been released.
The Pentagon has denied reports of Baghdadi’s injury. US defense officials told The Daily Beast that the airstrike that reportedly wounded him was not aimed at a high-value target and that they “have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi.”
Martin Chulov at The Guardian reported that the strike targeted multiple cars in the town of Baaj in northwestern Iraq and that officials didn’t know that Baghdadi was in one of the cars.
If America goes to war with Russia, it will not be like Iraq or Afghanistan. This one will likely be very hard-fought, and the odds may be against our guys sometimes.
Are there some old systems that were designed to fight the Soviet Union that might be worth considering to help the troops? You betcha, and here is a look at some of them.
1. F-111 Aardvark
When this plane was retired two decades ago, nobody really gave it much thought. A Daily Caller article noted that the F-111 brings speed and a very heavy bomb load to the table. The United States once had four wings of this plane.
If it were combined with either the CBU-105 or modern stand-off weapons, it could take out a lot of Russian hardware.
2. MIM-72 Chapparal
With a near-peer enemy, it might make sense to improve ground-based air defenses. The Su-25 Frogfoot, while not as good as the A-10, is still potent. It’s also tough enough that the FIM-92 Stinger might not be able to guarantee a kill.
This is where the MIM-72 Chaparral comes in. Initially, this missile was a straight-up copy of air-launched Sidewinders. Going back to its roots, using the AIM-9X, could help keep the Russian planes dodging fire instead of dropping bombs.
3. OH-58 Kiowa
This helicopter is slated for retirement after a final deployment to South Korea, according to a July Army Times report. While much of its scout functions have been taken over by unmanned aerial vehicles, the OH-58 can still carry up to four AGM-114 Hellfires, rockets, FIM-92 Stingers, and a .50-caliber machine gun.
When facing a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, extra missiles – and eyes – just might be a very good thing to have.
4. AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile
Withdrawn in 2012 according to an Air Force release, the Advanced Cruise Missile was stealthy.
While the initial version was strictly nuclear, conventional versions could trash S-400 missile batteries. 460 missiles were built, according to an Air Force fact sheet. Bringing it back, though, means re-starting production.
The Obama Administration elected to have the entire inventory scrapped.
Bonnie Carroll, the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House on November 24. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Carroll founded TAPS after her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, died in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992, TAPS provides comprehensive support to those impacted by the death of a military family member. The organization’s programs like Good Grief camps and National Military Survivor seminars have brought effective comfort and care to families of the fallen since 1994, most acutely in the years since 9-11.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Carroll told WATM immediately following the ceremony. “It’s a recognition of American respect and reverence for all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and the families they loved and left behind.”
Sixteen others were recognized by President Obama during the event including entertainers James Taylor, Gloria Estefan, and Barbara Streisand, baseball legend Willie Mays, lawmakers Shirley Chisholm and Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, composer Stephen Sondheim, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
“It was wonderful to meet [the other awardees],” Carroll said. “Gloria Estefan lost her dad in the Army, so she’s kind of a TAPS kid. And Steven Spielberg was telling me about a project he’s working on to bring awareness to those dealing post traumatic stress and veteran suicide. So this was a tremendous opportunity to meet those who’ve made a difference in the county and also take our work forward.”
Carroll is also a retired major in the Air Force Reserve. She serves on the Defense Health Board and co-chaired the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces.
“From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans,” President Obama said during the ceremony.
For more about the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go here.
The Air Force general in command of New Jersey’s National Guard has been ordered to shape up or ship out, NJ.com reports.
On Tuesday, the office of Gov. Chris Christie (who serves as commander-in-chief of the state guard) released a statement saying that Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff has 90 days to meet military height and weight requirements. This comes a day after the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock dropped his story on a guard unit that had become “increasingly dysfunctional,” while also revealing a secret reprimand from the Pentagon chiding Cunniff for skirting weight regulations and physical fitness tests for at least three years.
“The Governor has expressed directly to the General that his failure to meet that standard or to provide notification of his formal reprimand is both unacceptable and disappointing,” Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts told the Post in an emailed statement.
It’s not entirely clear how much weight Cunniff has to lose, though it is clear he should probably stay away from McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu.
While some have noted the irony of Christie ordering someone else to lose weight, the Air Force general is the only character in this story who is required to maintain a military weight standard. According to The New York Post:
Cunniff took a fitness test in November 2013, his first in more than three years. He flunked when his waist size was measured at 43.5 inches — 4.5 inches larger than what was allowed.
As New Jersey’s Adjutant General, Cunniff is in charge of the 9000-strong Army and Air National Guard in the state. That may be a lot of responsibility for a brigadier general. But you know what they say: One star, two chins. (Boom, drop the mic.)
“The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a separate statement. “We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.”
According the the BBC which has a reporter embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga troops, the invasion kicked off in the early morning hours Oct. 17 with sporadic skirmishes along the roads to the east of the city. Iraqi forces pushed north from the so-called “Q-West” air base recently captured from ISIS and where U.S. forces have been helping the Iraqis establish a logistics base for operations to take Mosul.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, OIR commander, said the operation to regain control of Mosul will likely continue for weeks and possibly longer. But it comes after more than two years of Islamic State oppression in Mosul, “during which they committed horrible atrocities [and] brutalized the people” after declaring the city to be one of their twin capitals, the general said in the statement.
The coalition can’t predict how long it will take for the ISF to retake the city, Townsend said, “but we know they will succeed — just as they did in Beiji, in Ramadi, in Fallujah and, more recently in Qayyarah and Sharqat.”
The OIR coalition will provide “air support, artillery, intelligence, advisors and forward air controllers,” Townsend said in the statement, adding that the supporting forces “will continue to use precision to accurately attack the enemy and to minimize any impact on innocent civilians.”
During the past two years of ISIL control in Mosul, OIR efforts have expanded to include a coalition of more than 60 countries, which have combined to conduct tens of thousands of precision strikes to support Iraqi operations, and trained and equipped more than 54,000 Iraqi forces, the general said.
“But to be clear, the thousands of ground combat forces who will liberate Mosul are all Iraqis,” Townsend said in the statement.
Carter, in his statement, called it a “decisive moment” in the campaign. Townsend said it’s not just a fight for the future of Iraq, but also “to ensure the security of all of our nations.”
After claiming last year that the F-35 would assume the close air support role once the A-10 was retired, U.S. Air Force officials this week showed signs that they are rethinking that strategy.
“My requirements guys are in the process of building a draft-requirements document for a follow-on CAS airplane,” Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said at an Air Force Association breakfast attended by Phillip Swarts of Air Force Times. “It’s interesting work that at some point we’ll be able to talk [about] with you a little bit more.
“I have seen a draft of it, it’s out for coordination. It’ll go to the chief sometime this spring, and then we’ll fold that into the larger study we’re doing on the future of the combat air forces.”
Aviation experts, aficionados, lawmakers, ground troops, and even Air Force pilots pushed back hard against the notion that the F-35 would be as effective as the A-10 has been and continues to be in the close air support role. Critics complained that Air Force leaders were sacrificing warfighting capability in their desire to field the Joint Strike Fighter — an airplane that is a tech marvel on paper but that has experienced many setbacks during the test phase that have made it wildly over budget and massively behind schedule. Now Air Force officials appear to be bowing to the pressure.
“The question is, exactly where is the sweet spot … between what’s available now and what would the optimum CAS replacement be,” he said. “We’re working along that continuum to see exactly where the requirement is that you can afford in the numbers we need to be able to do the mission.”
Holmes mentioned that perhaps the future trainer — known as T-X — could be morphed into a CAS platform but warned that it would be premature to add that requirement at this time.
“We’re really careful with the T-X requirement because if we add requirements to T-X now, then it could become unaffordable and we can’t replace the trainer role that we need it to replace,” Holmes said. “There is an option down the road that you might take the airframe that’s designed for T-X and use it for some other use, we have some money in our budget that will let us do the studies to do that.”
But the most definitive admission of the folly of trying to force the F-35 into the CAS role came from Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein last month. “I would never look at you and tell you, ‘Hey, the replacement, one-for-one, for the A-10 is the F-35,'” Goldfein said.
The extended promo for the new FOX series “Gotham” was recently released, and star Benjamin McKenzie hints at something to pay attention to: “That was war.”
I have long been a fan of Batman, and ever since my caped PJs as a kid, the Dark Knight still permeates my imaginatively geeky brain. But watching the trailer this week brought something to my attention that I’ve never caught before: Jim Gordon is a war veteran.
Was this just FOX’s attempt to market to the large and loyal military community? I did a little digging and it turns out that Commissioner Gordon was, in fact, U.S. Army Special Forces.
Frank Miller’s 1987 storyline Batman: Year One follows Gordon’s transfer back to Gotham after 15 years in Chicago. He’s a man of integrity – which to my knowledge is in keeping with most Gordon depictions over time – and therefore doesn’t deputize Batman’s vigilante character.
But the Dark Knight is the only ally Gordon has against mob-controlled governance and a corrupt police department. So he keeps their partnership discrete. I imagine Gordon’s Special Forces history sheds light on his tolerance and understanding of the need for the Dark Knight, in the shadows, doing what simply needs to be done. Because in all the corruption and politics, who else is going to do it?
The reality is that Gordon is a character of moral regard and much more self-sufficient than modernized retellings have credited him with. He’s capable of hand-to-hand combat, facing off against corrupt fellow officers in his department. He’s as capable of violence as he is just. And together, he and Batman clean house in Gotham PD, quickly rising from Lieutenant to the infamous Commissioner we know and love.
So here’s to FOX for catching a key character attribute: veterans as civil assets. Gordon isn’t an over-praised war hero or a helpless charity case. He’s a cop. And he’s one of the good ones. If the trailer is any indication of Benjamin McKenzie’s incarnation, we have much to look forward to.
Season 1 of “The Origin Story” premiered Monday, September 22nd at 8pm.
The Pentagon’s research and development shop is moving one step closer toward building a hypersonic space plane that could shuttle satellites or people into space in record time.
In an announcement on Wednesday, DARPA said that Boeing, which was selected for phase one of the project, would keep working on its advanced design for the Experimental Space plane (XS-1) program with additional funding for phases two and three.
While Phase One of XS-1 was more of a drawing board/concept phase, phases two and three are all about actually building a space plane and conducting flight tests, demonstrations, and hopefully, delivery of a satellite into orbit.
Here’s how DARPA describes what it hopes XS-1 may one day pull off:
The XS-1 program envisions a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket and fly to hypersonic speeds. The vehicle would be launched with no external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants. Upon reaching a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then bank and return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours.
Since it’s DARPA, the project is focused on national security, and there’s no doubt the Pentagon could save plenty of money and time by launching satellites via a low-cost space plane. But the agency also notes in its announcement that another goal is to “encourage the broader commercial launch sector,” and it will release testing data out to companies who are interested during phases two and three.
So it looks like the military won’t be the only ones having fun flying planes into space, Mr. Skywalker.
DARPA has been behind a number of huge technological advances that have made their way to the private sector, like the Internet, a ton of the components of modern-day computing, and GPS, just to name a few.
“We’re delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), which oversees XS-1. “Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities.”
Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.
Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.
The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.
But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.
Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.
Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.