2018/23/10 – The Soviet Union built over 1,000 Foxbats, some 80 to 90 percent of which served in the Soviet air forces in various roles. Had these planes not existed, the USSR would have had to look elsewhere for fighter, fighter-bomber, recon and interceptor roles.
But the Foxbat had an impact beyond the Soviet Union, beyond its combat contributions, and even beyond its awesome capabilities. Concern about the potentially transformational nature of the Foxbat spurred fighter development in the United States. Intelligence about the Foxbat suggested that it easily outclassed existing Western fighters, but acknowledged few of its shortcomings. Consequently, the US re-evaluated its F-X program (designed to replace the F-4 and the Century Series fighters) and revised plans for what would become the F-15 Eagle. The Eagle would eventually become the world’s most formidable air superiority fighter, in large part because it was designed to fight a Soviet plane that only really existed in the minds of Western intelligence. Had the Foxbat never seen the light of day, the F-15 would likely have been built to a more modest, less effective, and probably less enduring design.
Finally, the Foxbat led to the development of the MiG-31 Foxhound, by all account a considerably more effective interceptor. With better radars and better materials, the Foxhound continues to fly in the Russian Aerospace Forces. Had the Foxbat never flown, the Foxhound likely would have been replaced by some variant of the Su-27, an extremely capable fighter but somewhat less effective interceptor.
Today, only the Algerian Air Force operates the MiG-25 in any numbers. Foxbats have been pressed into service in Libya and Syria in the past few years, but represent more of a curiosity than a genuine capability. This stands in contrast with the MiG-21 and MiG-23, both of which remain in extensive service around the world.
However, the true inheritor of the Foxbat are the MiG-31 Foxhound, which continues, in Russian service, to perform its original patrol and interception missions, and the F-15 Eagle, which has played as dominant of a role since its development as any fighter in the history of flight. The F-15 was built around a mistake, but it turned out to be a very fortunate mistake indeed.
Robert Farley – TNI