Foxbats over Sinai
In March 71 four MiG-25’s were delivered to Egypt by Antonov AN-22 Cock transport aircraft, along with Soviet pilots and technicians. The first aircraft was re-assembled and flew from Cairo West airfield on 26 Mar 71 - on this test flight, which was monitored by Israeli and US intelligence services, the aircraft reached Mach 3.2 and 63,000ft. On the second test flight the aircraft reached 73,000ft, displaying a performance well in excess of the Israeli F-4 Phantom. It was initially thought that the Foxbat’s were the interceptor version, because at this time the existence of the Foxbat B was unknown.
On 10 Oct 71 two of the Foxbat’s made a high altitude run down the Mediterranean at Mach 2.5 only 17 miles of the coast of Israel - two IAF F-4’s attempted to intercept the Foxbat’s without success. On 6 Nov 71 a single Foxbat really embarrassed the IAF by flying directly over Sinai at Mach 2.5 and 75,000ft to take photographs of Israeli defensive positions in the Mitla Pass area. However, the IAF were waiting for the Foxbat and had 2 stripped down F-4E’s on standby armed with AIM-7E Sparrow missiles. The MiG 25 crusing at 76,00ft was attacked head-on by the two F-4’s in a ‘snap-up’ high-angle attack from 44,000ft. However, the attack failed because the proximity fuses on the AIM-7E missiles could not cope with the Mach 3 closing speed of the Foxbat and by the time they detonated the aircraft was out of their lethal radius. Nevertheless, it must have given the Foxbat pilot a rather unpleasant surprise when he saw the missiles hurtling up towards him!!
The second overflight occurred on 10 Mar 72 when 2 Foxbat’s again overflew Sinai at Mach 2.5 and 75,000ft, this time to photograph the Israeli airbase at Refidim near Bir Gafgafa. The final overflight of Sinai occurred on 16 May 72 when two Foxbat’s flew down the length of the western coast of Sinai from Port Said to Sharm el Sheikh photographing various Israeli defensive positions. However, the aircraft were always flown by Russian pilots and maintained by Russian technicians. Eventually, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat grew increasingly frustrated that the USSR would neither train Egyptian pilots to fly the Foxbat’s or actually sell the aircraft to Egypt. In Jul 72 Sadat gave the Soviet Union one week to either sell the Egyptians the aircraft or remove them and by 16 Jul 72 the Foxbat’s were back in Russia.
Towards the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War on 22 Oct 73, with Egypt on the point of agreeing a cease fire, 4 Foxbat’s returned to Egypt and 2 aircraft then conducted a reconnaissance sortie along the Suez Canal. The evidence these aircraft collected, which confirmed the threat that General Sharon’s army on the west bank of the Suez Canal posed to the Egyptain 3rd Army, convinced Sadat to agree to a ceasefire.
A number of Foxbat’s were later again operated by Soviet pilots and groundcrew, again from the Cairo-West airfield in 1974, but concentrated their activity against US Naval activity in the eastern Mediterranean. President Sadat once boasted that a Foxbat had even overflown Tel Aviv, but this has never been confirmed. Sadat again grew tired of the Soviet presence, together with his lack of authority over the use of the Foxbats. The Foxbat's were eventually flown back to Russia between 12-13 Sep 1975 aboard a number of Antonov 22 Cock transport aircraft.