posted on Aug, 4 2005 @ 10:48 PM
The development of the MiG-25 began in the 1950s, paralleling U.S. efforts to develop Mach 3 bomber and interceptor aircraft, including the
(ultimately abortive) XF-103, XB-70 Valkyrie, and XF-108. As it was in the U.S., with the first Mach 2 aircraft beginning to enter service, Mach 3
seemed the next logical step. A variety of roles were considered, including cruise missile carriers, and even a small five- to seven-passenger
supersonic transport, but the main impetus was a new high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and heavy interceptor. If any of the Mach 3 bombers entered
American service, they were likely to prove nearly invulnerable to Soviet air defenses.
The MiG-25 ironically owed its origins to American aircraft development programs. In the late 1950s, the US fielded the General Dynamics B-58 Hustler
Mach 2 bomber, and began development of the North American B-70 Valkyrie bomber, which was designed to penetrate Soviet airspace at high altitude and
Mach 3 speeds. The USSR had nothing that could deal with such threats. Since homeland defense was a top Soviet priority, that meant that little
expense was spared to develop an interceptor with long range, high performance performance, and advanced air-to-air missiles (AAMs) to deal with the
B-58 and B-70.
When the US Air Force began developing the B-70 bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the Soviet Union while traveling at Mach 3 at
altitudes over 70,000 ft, the Soviets responded by planning a new high-speed, high-altitude interceptor. Though the B-70 project was eventually
abandoned, the MiG-25 program continued, eventually producing the fastest fighter in the world. The MiG-25 is designed only for high-altitude flight
and has correspondingly terrible low-level performance and dogfighting characteristics. Although reconnaissance and defense suppression variants of
the MiG-25 were developed, the aircraft's range of applications has always been limited. As a result, Mikoyan Gurevich later designed an improved
MiG-25, the MiG-31, with significantly better low-level performance for use in more common attack fighter roles. Most Russian MiG-25s have since been
retired in favor of the MiG-31, though the earlier aircraft still serves with a number of other air forces. An interesting note is that the first
air-to-air kill of the Gulf War is believed to be a US F/A-18C Hornet shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25 on 17 January 1991.