Foxbat’s Dance: The Story of Soviet MiG-25BM’s Bold Raid on Iran’s Best-Defended Base

Foxbat's Dance: The Story of Soviet MiG-25BM's Bold Raid on Iran's Best-Defended Base

In the waning days of the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet Air Force dispatched advanced MiG-25 variants to Iraqi territory for a critical assessment against Iran’s fortified American-supplied defenses.

While the Foxbat’s conventional tactics relied on speed and altitude, the new MiG-25BM prioritized electronic warfare to weaken enemy positions.

If the Soviet Foxbats could best Iran’s F-14s, they stood a good chance against NATO’s Western European defenses, heavily reliant on lighter aircraft with smaller radars and shorter-ranged missiles like F-15Cs and F-4Es.

Though the MiG-25 was a third-gen combat jet, lagging behind the later F-15s and F-14s, the MiG-25BM variant incorporated fourth-gen technologies—advanced sensors, armaments, avionics, and electronic warfare systems.

Transformed for air defense suppression and beyond-visual-range air-to-ground strikes, it integrated cutting-edge systems like the Jaguar anti-radar, Syren-1D-OZh, and Lyutik active jamming systems, along with avionics for the employment of Kh-58 anti-radiation missiles designed for long-range air defense neutralization.

Reports suggest that Soviet MiG-25BMs targeted Iran’s heavily fortified Mehrabad Air Base, guarded by 15 operational F-14s armed with AIM-54 missiles, F-4E Phantom fighters, and an air defense network bolstered by American-supplied surveillance radars and MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles. Previous Iraqi attempts met with failure, making Mehrabad an exceedingly challenging target.

Only four MiG-25RBs were dispatched for this operation, supported by 130 technicians and ample spare parts, engines, and anti-radiation missiles. Despite the MiG-25’s remarkable speed, precautionary measures included engine replacements to accommodate extreme speeds required for evading well-defended targets.

The strikes were launched from H-3 Air Base in Iraq’s Anbar Province, which had suffered a significant Iranian assault in the war’s early stages. Despite facing overwhelming odds against enemy fighters and ground-based air defenses, Soviet confidence in the MiG-25BM’s capabilities remained steadfast.

In November 1987, two MiG-25BMs breached Iranian airspace at 21,000 meters and Mach 2.27. Swiftly detected, they faced waves of F-4Es and F-14s. While the F-14’s AWG-9 radars were formidable, the altitude favored the Foxbats. An unknown electronic warfare countermeasure disabled the F-14s, allowing the Soviet jets to close in on Mehrabad, neutralizing its primary and secondary radars.

This victory affirmed the MiG-25BM’s effectiveness against high-end Western defenses. With over 40 of these specialized jets ready for potential NATO assaults, their deployment remained a strategic asset.

Soviet MiG-25BMs continued operations in Iraq, successfully targeting Mehrabad’s missile network. The absence of a viable American high-altitude, long-range surface-to-air missile system rendered Hawk batteries ineffective. F-14s again attempted interception, but electronic warfare systems foiled their attempts.

A subsequent mission met better-prepared Iranian resistance. F-14s patrolled the border, detecting MiG-25s and launching attacks before they reached vulnerable speeds. Electronic warfare countermeasures almost blinded the F-14s. While one Iranian fighter launched an AIM-54, it failed to achieve a hit, likely due to countermeasures.

MiG-25BMs conducted limited strikes in 1988 before the war’s end. The exact point at which Iran discovered Soviet involvement remains uncertain, but it may have influenced Tehran’s decision to end the conflict. These missions significantly contributed to the war effort, neutralizing vital Iranian assets.

While Iraq did not operate the MiG-25BM, the cessation of major air defense suppression operations post-1988 left questions about their indigenous strike capabilities. Following the USSR’s dissolution, the MiG-25BM was retired, with units passed to Belarus.

Iran still lacks a fighter superior to the F-14 for long-range air-to-air engagements. F-14s have been modernized with Fakour 90 missiles, signaling a focus on countering U.S. or Israeli air fleets.

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