When the SR-71 Blackbird was revealed to the public by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the Soviets were caught by surprise. The fact was, the SR-71 couldn’t be caught by any air defense, rendered nearly invulnerable due to its blazing speed and high altitude. The Soviets, though, had a plane that could give it a close chase.
That plane was the MiG-25 Foxbat and it was originally designed to catch another deadly airframe, the B-70 Valkyrie bomber. The Valkyrie never entered service, but the Soviets still pushed the MiG-25, especially after the SR-71 was revealed.
After all, it was the only plane that had a prayer of catching a Blackbird — and even then, it was a very, very faint prayer.
While the SR-71 was built in very small numbers, the Soviets built a lot of MiG-25s — almost 1,200 were produced. Some were exported to countries like Syria, Iraq, and Libya, but many remained in Soviet service. The plane had a top speed of 2,156 miles per hour (compared to the Blackbird’s 2,200 miles per hour) and its primary weapon was the AA-6 Acrid.
The AA-6 Acrid was huge, packing a 150-pound, high-explosive warhead. It had a maximum range of about 30 miles and could go at Mach 4.5. The Foxbat was originally intended to be a bomber-killer, but there was a huge air of mystery around this plane. That mystery was compounded by the outstanding performance of the reconnaissance variant prior to the Yom Kippur War. Soviet pilots flying from Egypt were able to evade Israeli F-4s. That alone prompted much concern in the United States.
The MiG-25’s emergence prompted the Air Force to start development of what became the F-15 Eagle. The two planes would face off the Middle East over Lebanon and Iraq, and the MiG-25 would emerge in second place.
Some sources claim an Iraqi MiG-25 was responsible for shooting down the F/A-18 Hornet piloted by Scott Speicher on the opening day of Desert Storm, but others claim that a SA-2 Guideline was to blame.
Learn more about this Russian answer to the Blackbird in the video below! Tell us, do you think the Foxbat could catch and kill the Lockheed legend?