A Soviet pilot defected to Japan in his advanced MiG-25 fighter

In 1976, a Soviet pilot defected to Japan in his advanced MiG-25 fighter, which Russia demanded be returned. Japan complied, but only after allowing American engineers to examine the aircraft. Japan then shipped it back piece by piece, and billed Russia $40,000 in transport and labor costs.

The MiG-25’s arrival in Japan was a windfall for Western military planners. The Japanese government originally only allowed the U.S. to examine the plane and do ground tests of the radar and engines; later the Japanese invited the Americans to examine the plane extensively, and it was dismantled for this purpose in Japan. The plane was moved by US transport aircraft from Hakodate to Hyakuri Air Base on September 25, and by this time experts had determined that the plane was an interceptor, not a fighter-bomber, which was a welcome reassurance for Japanese defense.


The Japanese government laid out a plan on October 2 to return the aircraft in crates from the port of Hitachi and bill the Soviets $40,000 for crating services and airfield damage at Hakodate. The Soviets unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a return via Antonov An-22 aircraft and attempted to organize a rigorous inspection of the crates, but Japan refused both demands and the Soviets finally submitted to the Japanese terms on October 22. The aircraft was moved from Hyakuri to the port of Hitachi on 11 November on a convoy of trailers. It left in 30 crates aboard the Soviet cargo ship Taigonos on 15 November 1976 and arrived about three days later in Vladivostok A team of Soviet technicians had been allowed to view subassemblies at Hitachi Japan, and upon finding 20 missing parts, with one of the missing items being film of the flight to Hakodate the Soviets attempted to bill Japan for $10 million. Neither the Japanese or Soviet bill is thought to have ever been paid.


A senior diplomat described the Soviet position as “sulky about the whole affair” CIA analysis said “both countries seem anxious to put the problem behind them” and speculated that the Soviets were reluctant to cancel a series of upcoming diplomatic visits because “some useful business is likely to be transacted, and because the USSR, with its political standing in Tokyo so low, can ill afford setbacks in Soviet–Japanese economic cooperation.