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In May 1997, tensions soared in South Asia as an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-25 streaked across Pakistani airspace. The telltale boom of breaking the sound barrier shattered the calm, sending shockwaves through Islamabad and scrambling Pakistani defenses. But their efforts were in vain. The MiG-25, nicknamed “Foxbat” by NATO, was simply too fast and too high.

This wasn’t a random act. The MiG-25, a product of the Cold War era, was a technological marvel. Capable of reaching speeds of Mach 2.5 and soaring over 70,000 feet, it flew comfortably beyond the reach of any Pakistani interceptor at the time. This operational advantage made it the perfect platform for covert reconnaissance missions.

The MiG-25’s mission wasn’t just about breaking a sound barrier; it was about gathering intel. Equipped with a powerful camera system, it could capture crystal-clear images from an altitude that, incredibly, was still just above 30,000 feet from the towering Himalayas. This vantage point provided a detailed picture of the Pakistani military infrastructure, allowing the IAF to see with remarkable clarity – down to personnel on the ground.

Retired Air Marshal Sumit Mukherjee, a pilot who once flew these mighty MiG-25s, explains the aircraft’s strategy: “Our only weapon was height and speed; we used it to avoid any potential threat.” He further highlights the MiG-25’s ability to exploit blind spots in enemy radar coverage. “MiG-25 flew above the radar lobe. Unless the enemy was aware that we were incoming and turned their radars upward, we could always penetrate the enemy territory undetected,” says Mukherjee.

The 1997 incident stands as a testament to the MiG-25’s dominance in the skies during its operational era. While the aircraft has since been retired from active IAF service, it remains a reminder of a time when Cold War technology pushed the boundaries of aerial reconnaissance.