Soviet Defector Who Piloted Mig-25 to Japan, Dies in U.S.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Viktor Belenko, center, leaves a police station in Tokyo in 1976.

New York — Viktor Belenko, a former Soviet military pilot who landed his fighter jet without permission in Hokkaido during the Cold War, died September 24 at a senior living facility in Illinois, according to numerous U.S. media outlets. He was 76.

Then a lieutenant, Belenko defected in a Mig-25 jet — the most advanced Soviet aircraft of the time. His plane evaded Japanese radar during a Soviet training mission and landed at Hakodate Airport, where he expressed his desire for U.S. asylum and freedom.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces detected the aircraft but could not stop it from landing, revealing deficiencies in the nation’s air defense system. In response to the incident, the government introduced advanced aircraft, such as the F-15 fighter jet, which had much better search capabilities.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Soviet Mig-25 fighter jet that landed at Hakodate Airport in Hokkaido in 1976.