Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

High-speed reconnaissance jet and interceptor, known for Mach 3+ speeds, introduced in 1970.

In brief

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25, codenamed “Foxbat” by NATO, is a supersonic reconnaissance and interceptor aircraft, notable for its top speed exceeding Mach 3 (about 2,300 mph or 3,700 km/h) and a service ceiling above 78,740 feet (24,000 meters). Introduced in 1970, it was one of the fastest military aircraft to enter operational use. Powered by twin Tumansky R-15B-300 engines, the MiG-25 was designed with a large proportion of stainless steel to withstand the extreme temperatures of high-speed flight. Its capabilities made it an invaluable asset for high-altitude reconnaissance missions, though its speed came at the expense of maneuverability and operational range.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

History of the Development of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

In the context of the Cold War’s escalating arms race, the Soviet Union sought to counter the emerging threat of high-altitude, high-speed US reconnaissance aircraft and bombers. The development of the MiG-25 Foxbat, initiated in the early 1960s by the Mikoyan-Gurevich design bureau, was a direct response to this challenge. The objective was clear: to create an aircraft capable of reaching unprecedented speeds and altitudes to intercept or outrun any potential threat.

The program was launched under the guidance of the Soviet Union’s military and technological leadership, aiming to push the boundaries of aviation technology. After a rigorous development phase, marked by challenges in designing an airframe and propulsion system capable of sustaining the stresses of Mach 3 flight, the MiG-25 first took to the skies on 6 March 1964.

The aircraft’s NATO codename, “Foxbat,” reflects the blend of agility and lethality that characterized its design. It was an emblem of Soviet aerospace engineering prowess and a strategic asset intended to secure the USSR’s airspace against all adversaries.

Design of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

The MiG-25’s design was revolutionary, featuring a blend of stainless steel and titanium to withstand the intense heat generated at Mach 3 speeds. Measuring 64 feet 8 inches in length, with a wingspan of 45 feet 11 inches, and a height of 20 feet 8 inches, its airframe was built to minimize weight while maximizing strength and thermal resistance.

Its twin Tumansky R-15B-300 turbojet engines were pivotal in achieving a top speed of over Mach 3.2, making it one of the fastest aircraft of its time. However, such speed resulted in high fuel consumption, limiting its operational range to approximately 1,730 miles without refueling.

Despite its unparalleled speed and altitude capabilities, the MiG-25’s weight and engine characteristics limited its maneuverability in dogfight scenarios. Its radar and avionics, advanced for their time, were primarily optimized for high-speed interception rather than close combat.

Performance of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

The MiG-25 set several world records for speed and altitude, underscoring its exceptional performance capabilities. With a maximum speed of Mach 3.2 (approximately 2,190 mph or 3,524 km/h) and a service ceiling of over 78,740 feet (24,000 meters), it outpaced nearly all contemporary Western aircraft in sheer velocity and operational altitude.

Its performance in terms of speed and altitude placed it in a unique position within the military aviation landscape, enabling it to execute reconnaissance missions and intercepts that were beyond the reach of most adversaries. However, its operational range and maneuverability were compromised by the design choices that favored extreme speed.

Variants of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

The MiG-25’s versatility led to the development of several variants, including the MiG-25P (interceptor), MiG-25R (reconnaissance), and MiG-25RB (reconnaissance-bomber), among others. Each variant was tailored to specific roles, with differences in avionics, armament, and equipment to enhance their mission capability. The reconnaissance versions, for example, were equipped with sophisticated cameras and sensors for deep penetration surveillance, while the interceptor variants featured powerful radars and air-to-air missiles.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

Military Use and Combat of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

The MiG-25’s operational history is marked by its pivotal role in Cold War reconnaissance missions, where it was deployed to gather intelligence over hostile territories, often evading detection due to its high-speed and altitude capabilities. Its combat use was more limited, with notable engagements including interceptions of high-altitude reconnaissance balloons and aircraft.

The aircraft saw action in the Middle East, where it was used by several countries for both reconnaissance and interception roles. Its presence in these conflicts demonstrated its strategic value, although its effectiveness was sometimes limited by the specific circumstances of the engagements.

The MiG-25 has been exported to several countries and has seen various updates and modifications over its service life. Despite being superseded by more advanced aircraft like the MiG-31, the Foxbat remains in limited service, a testament to its enduring legacy in the field of military aviation.


The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat stands as a remarkable example of Cold War-era military technology, designed to meet the strategic demands of high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance and interception. Its development and operational use underscore the lengths nations will go to protect their sovereignty and gather intelligence, pushing the boundaries of aviation technology. As one of the fastest military aircraft ever built, the MiG-25’s legacy continues to influence modern aerospace design and military strategy.

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