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Viktor Ivanovich Belenko (Виктор Иванович Беленко), born February 15, 1947(1947-02-15) (age 75), is an American aerospace engineer and defector of Soviet origin.

Early life and defection

He was born in Nalchik, Russian SFSR in a Ukrainian family. Lieutenant Belenko was a pilot with the 513th Fighter Regiment, 11th Air Army, Soviet Air Defence Forces based in Chuguyevka, Primorsky Krai. His name became known worldwide on September 6, 1976, when he successfully defected to the West, flying his MiG-25 "Foxbat" jet fighter to Hakodate, Japan. This was the first time that Western experts were able to get a close look at the aircraft, and it revealed many secrets and surprises. His defection caused a lot of damage to the Soviet Union Air Force.[1] Belenko was granted asylum by U.S. President Gerald Ford, and a trust fund was set up for him, granting him a very comfortable living in later years. The U.S. Government interrogated and debriefed him for five months after his defection, and employed him as a consultant for several years thereafter.

Belenko had brought with him the pilot's manual for the MiG-25 "Foxbat", expecting to assist American pilots in evaluating and testing the aircraft. The Japanese government originally only allowed the U.S. to examine the plane and do ground tests of the radar and engines; however, later the Japanese invited the Americans to examine the plane extensively, and it was dismantled for this purpose in Japan, and later returned to the USSR in thirty crates.[2]

Belenko was not the only pilot to have defected from the USSR in this way, nor was he the first such to defect from a Soviet-bloc country. In March and May 1953, two Polish Air Force pilots flew MiG-15s to Denmark. Later in 1953, North Korean pilot No Kum Sok flew his MiG-15 to an American air base in South Korea; this MiG is on permanent display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio. Captain Alexander Zuyev flew his MiG-29 to Trabzon, Turkey on May 20, 1989.

Post-defection life in the United States

In 1980, the U.S. Congress enacted S. 2961, authorizing citizenship for Belenko. It was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 14, 1980, as Private Law 96-62.[3]

As a result of Belenko's defection, fuel was limited for fighters on Sakhalin bases, which required Maj. Gennady Osipovich, the pilot of the Su-15 interceptor that downed Korean Air Lines Flight 007, to return to base almost immediately after the attack.[citation needed]

While residing in the United States, Belenko married a music teacher from North Dakota and had two children. However, he later divorced. He also has a son from his first marriage. Belenko has never divorced his Russian wife.[4] After the breakup of the Soviet Union, he visited Moscow in 1995 by the way of business.[5]

See also


Further reading

External links

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