Who Wins When America's F-14 Tomcat Fights Russia's MiG-25?

War Is Boring

Key point: As far as is known, this was the last ever clash between F-14 Tomcats and MiG-25 Foxbats. ​

The Iraqi air force received its first Foxbats – 12 MiG-25P interceptors, 12 MiG-25R reconnaissance aircraft and six MiG-25PU conversion trainers – in 1980. However, the Soviets delivered variants that fell below the technical standards demanded by the Iraqis, so Baghdad refused to accept the aircraft.

Moscow eventually agreed to upgrade the MiGs as requested and train their crews. The Iraqi Foxbats flew their first sorties into Iranian airspace in May 1982. There followed a series of reconnaissance flights ever deeper over Iran, which in turn prompted the Iranian air force to scramble its F-14 Tomcats in attempts to intercept.

Two of the most fearsome fighters of the Cold War went head to head.

But catching an Iraqi Foxbat proved extremely problematic. Iranian officers who had defected to Iraq in 1980 revealed the blueprints of the Iranian early warning radar network to Baghdad. The Iraqi MiG-25 pilots thus knew exactly where and how to enter the Iranian airspace unobserved before accelerating and climbing for the actual mission.

As a result, Iranian air defenses were usually late in detecting the Foxbats, leaving Iran’s F-14 crews only three to five minutes to attempt an intercept. For all practical purposes, if no Tomcat was almost directly in front of the incoming Iraqi MiG-25, a successful engagement was entirely out of the question.

Nevertheless, the Iranians gradually re-learned the lessons taught to them by their U.S. advisors back in the 1970s. Their first encounters with Iraqi MiG-25s were largely fruitless – with one exception. Col. Shahram Rostami claimed he shot down one Foxbat over the northern Persian Gulf on Sept. 16, 1982 and another on Dec. 2, 1982.

A few days later, Maj. Ali-Asghar Jahanbakhsh failed to shoot down with a missile an Iraqi MiG-25 approaching Tehran, but might have scored a few hits with his M61 Vulcan cannon. In his rush to evade, the Iraqi pilot then made a mistake and turned left – toward the border of the former Soviet Union.

According to Iranian reports, the claim from September 1982 resulted in the first confirmed Foxbat kill, while the MiG-25 intercepted by Jahanbakhsh crashed inside Turkey after running out of fuel. Currently-available Iraqi sources deny these losses.

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