The most secret aircraft of the Indian Air Force

The MiG-25 in the West is called “Foxbat.” Created in the USSR in the 1960s, the aircraft went down in aviation history as the fastest-speed serial interceptor. This combat aircraft was capable of reaching a speed of three Mach and flying at altitudes of up to 23,000 meters. “Defence View” tells about the missions of MiG-25, which were in service with the Indian Air Force.

indian airforce mig-25

Mig-25 for the Indian Air Force

In 1981, the USSR supplied six MiG-25RB scouts and two MiG-25RU training scouts to India. The aircraft were stationed in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and secured for the 102nd Squadron of the Indian Air Force. It did not carry the usual name of fighter or reconnaissance but was officially called “triple supersonic” – No.102 Trisonics Squadron, which emphasized its special status. The acquisition of the MiG-25 was crucial for them, as the English Electric Canberra reconnaissance aircraft, which were in service with the Indians, were vulnerable to interception at the time. The MiGs were delivered to Bareili Air Base in disassembled form by transport planes.

The MiG-25 became the best aircraft of the Indian Air Force and was trusted to pilot it by the best pilots. At a high altitude (about 25,000 meters) and at a speed of almost 3 Mach, the plane remained invisible to the enemy. Thanks to powerful cameras with 1200 mm MiG-25 lenses, flying over Punjab or Kashmir, he was able to check the situation in Pakistan or China-controlled Tibet.

The plane was kept in strict secrecy. Not even all Members of the Indian Air Force saw him in the work. In a quarter of a century of operation in India, only 42 Indian pilots have mastered MiG-25 flights in India – because for India the MiG-25 was like the SR-71 Blackbird for the United States.

The MiG-25 aerodynamic circuit is a monoplane with a highly positioned wing and a two-keel tail plumage with a stabilizer. A thin-profile wing works well on high-speed modes, a whole-turn differential deflected stabilizer compensates for the lack of efficiency of the alerons, and the two-keel scheme creates high travel stability and handling.

The power plant is two R15B-300 engines. The airflow was directed to the engines through two air intakes located on both sides of the fuselage. The cockpit is protected from above by a lantern consisting of a visor and a folding part. An organic glass visor 20 mm thick, capable of withstanding a high temperature. The speed limit is 3000 km/h, it was established precisely on the basis of the strength of the visor material. The KM-1M catapult arm allows you to leave the car at a speed of at least 130 km/h on the runways, at an altitude of up to 20,000 meters and at a speed of no more than 1200 km/h. The pilot’s cabin is airtight, provides life at all altitudes, and at unsealing – at an altitude of up to 11,000 meters.

Incident over Pakistan

In May 1997, the Indian Air Force’s MiG-25 carried out a secret reconnaissance mission and penetrated Pakistani airspace at subsonic speed. He successfully surveyed strategic sites near Islamabad and set off on a return course to India. However, when the two states reached the border, the plane accelerated to a speed of two Mach. This caused a sound shock, also called cotton. (The cotton occurs in an air current that wraps around an aircraft moving at supersonic speed. In the nose of the aircraft formed a shock wave – the pressure and density of the air environment increases dramatically.

On the ground, this clap was perceived as an explosion. The Pakistani military spotted the signature of the Indian aircraft and raised the F-16 to intercept it, but they could not catch up with the MiG-25.

In the evening of the same day, the Ministry of Defense of Pakistan issued a statement to allay the fear caused by the incident in Islamabad. It reported that the MiG-25 pilot gained speed intentionally to show the Pakistan Air Force that his aircraft was unparalleled.

Details of the mission are classified, and it remains a mystery why an Indian Air Force pilot decided to reveal his presence over a densely populated area of Pakistan. With his hooliganism, he was able to scare the inhabitants of Islamabad and made the military leadership of Pakistan think about the strength of the Indian Air Force.

The favorite of his time

“For 25 years, the MiG-25 served well in the Indian Air Force. The miG-25’s radio-technical reconnaissance capabilities have a width of up to 900 km, and the clarity of its cameras remains unsurpassed, said Indian Air Force Commander Shankar Mani. “But we are moving to a higher potential for a set-centric war.”

The MiG-25 in the Indian Air Force performed an important task – carried out strategic reconnaissance. Back in the 1980s, satellite reconnaissance was inaccessible to India and the MiG-25 remained the only option. Now indian military agencies have the opportunity to receive high-resolution satellite images through a group of local satellites. The use of drones has completely changed the scenario of war. Today, the same goal is achieved by other technical means.

indian airforce mig-25 in stratosphere
Indian airforce mig-25 in stratosphere

In 1995, the Indian Air Force’s MiG-25 climbed into the stratosphere to get crystal clear photos of a solar eclipse from a height where the sun’s rays are not dispersed by atmospheric molecules. One of the two pilots on this mission is also the oldest and most experienced Foxbat pilot who remains in service, is the Vice Marshal of Indian Aviation Sumit Mukherjee.

“It was an experiment that worked. We shot not only the eclipse ring, but also the stellar flash, when sunlight seeped through crevices and mountains on the moon. It was an amazing picture. And from such a height, and at such speed we were able to capture the eclipse within a minute and 57 seconds, which is impossible from the ground” – quotes him indian Express newspaper.

Sumit Mukherjee also gave a great interviewin which he told a lot about his experience of service on the MiG-25.

“Catch me if you can,” the vice marshal described as “The Flying Fox.”

The MiG-25 decommissioning ceremony took place on May 1, 2006. All aircraft of this type went to the “deserved pension”, leaving behind pleasant memories of pilots and “giving way” to more modern means of strategic intelligence.

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