Russian Video Of Captured U.S. F-5 Tiger Jet Dogfighting Against MiG-21 in Tests Raises Question: Do They Still Operate American Jets?

Russia Operated Captured U.S. Aircraft for “OPFOR” Evaluation.

As we have reported previously, it is no secret the U.S. has made and still make use of captured or otherwise acquired Russian aircraft for test, evaluation and training purposes including the development of U.S. radars, countermeasures and early warning systems (earlier this year we published some really rare images of a Russian Su-27 Flanker dogfighting with a U.S. F-16 inside Area 51…)

Has Russia done the same with U.S. aircraft? Absolutely.

The RT video below contains some quite famous footage of a Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter formerly stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base in Vietnam being operated in Soviet markings against a MiG-21 (NATO codename “Fishbed”). The aircraft was seized along with “several US military aircraft”, taken to the USSR and used in a test and evaluation project to determine the capabilities of the F-5 series compared to Warsaw Pact aircraft.

Bien Hoa Air Base was overrun by Communist forces on Apr. 25, 1975 as the Vietnam War (referred to as the “American War” in Vietnam) neared its end.

A number of F-5A and F-5E aircraft attributed to the 522nd Fighter Squadron were left behind intact at the air base. Because the F-5E version of the aircraft had only flown for the first time three years earlier in 1973 and was being marketed to other Western user nations it was of significant interest to the Warsaw Pact.

Was the F-5 a threat to the Russian mainstay MiG-21? This video shows testing to answer that question in Russia.

At least one of the F-5s, in Soviet markings, was tested in opposing forces simulation with the MiG-21 as shown in this video.

Soviet pilots from Chkalov’s Russian Flight Test Center near the Volga River, a facility similar to the secret test ranges at Tonopah and Edwards AFB, were reportedly impressed by the performance of the F-5 against the MiG-21. Interestingly, Soviet engineers assumed the MiG-21 was more advanced but the F-5 won every time in the simulated air combat carried out in USSR. According to some reports the Russian pilots who flew the F-5 against the MiG-21 were named Vladimir Kandaurov, Alexander Bezhevets and Nikolay Stogov. The findings of these fly-offs and simulated combat were said to contribute to the development of the MiG-23 for the Russians, an aircraft that was imported to several Arab nations friendly with the USSR.

Noteworthy, the F-5 was so similar to the MiG-21, it was used as

Another curious development from behind the Iron Curtain was this photo of a what seems to be a McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom aircraft (or mock-up) under a tarp at the famous Zhukovskiy airfield near Moscow. The photo is allegedly from Aug. 11, 1971. It includes a French-built Mirage aircraft, also under cover, parked next to it. The massive Myasishchev M-4 Molot strategic bomber in front of the F-4 and the Mirage add some scale to the image.

An F-4 Phantom II and a French Mirage III sit under cover behind a Russian Myasishchev M-4 heavy bomber in Russia. (International Air Power Review Photo)

There have also been some interesting hoax aircraft flown in the Photoshop air force with Russian markings. The most famous is an F-14 Tomcat said to be taken from the Iranian Air Force following the fall of the Shah of Iran during the Iranian Revolution in 1978. While the photo looks convincing and the story is certainly plausible, most analysts agree it is faked.

A Photoshopped image of a Grumman F-14 with fake Russian Markings. Internet contributors contended the aircraft went to Russia from Iran for testing but the story proved to be untrue and the photo manipulated. (The Aviation Forum)

Perhaps the most interesting question is, does Russia own current frontline U.S. tactical aircraft as a part of its opposing forces unit? Are there Russian-marked F-16s or F-15s flying somewhere in Russia? The answer is, likely no.

The U.S. has been careful about the distribution of tactical aircraft to nations that may realign with Russia from the U.S. if their strategic alliances shift. And while relations with Russia and the U.S. have been much more open since the end of the Cold War there are still many reasons why the U.S. and Russia are vigorous about maintaining security about their respective combat aircraft.

Have you ever heard reports or rumors about American aircraft in the hands of the Russians? Let us know.


About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.


  1. given how porous our security infrastructure is at the development stage of new weapon systems nowadays, i doubt they would need to do any real air trials. pretty sure at least half of what one would want to know about our capabilities is well documented in beijing and moscow.

    • “given how porous our security infrastructure is…”

      Reality Winner
      Chicken Dinner!

      (I hope she gets shivved in prison)

  2. There are rumours that the Chinese have had access to an F-16 (supposedly from Pakistan). Egypt was one of the few countries which could transfer weapons from the United States to Russia or the other way around. I’ve heard that Egypt transferred Soviet Mig-23s to China and the USA at one point for example. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russians had more copies or parts of other aircraft which came down in Vietnam like the F-111.

    • China/Pakistan have made the JF-17 together so using technology from the F-16 wouldn’t be out of the question.

  3. I don’t think they are operating F-15s… but… why not F-16s? As it has been previously stated, this aircraft serves on the inventory of some countries that may find Russia as a probable ally.. Venezuela? Egypt? Pakistan?

  4. “Noteworthy, the F-5 was so similar to the MiG-21, it was used as”…………what? A portable coffee maker? A dumptruck? A hat for bigger planes?
    Now I want to know.

    • I presumed that paragraph was going to mention the use of the F-5 as a MiG21 simulator in their aggressor role.

  5. An F-5 Tiger tested at Aktyubinsk (Kazakhstan) had its serial number 7300807 and arrived in a few boxes together with an unknown serial number A-37 Dragonfly on 20th July 1976. Russian engineers had no documentation at all to complete dismantled aiframes.
    “Soviet aircraft engineers were annoyed by the abundance of exclamation marks and terrible
    inscriptions-warnings, beginning with the words “WARNING” and “DANGER” with seemingly most obvious content – it seems that the creators of the “aliens” paid close attention to “protection from a fool.” Before each departure, to remove a dozen of stubs and removable check from an aircraft was required, protecting the “newcomer” from accidental landing gear up when on the parking stand or unintended operation of the weapon. With such unprecedented security measures, you need to be a total idiot, in order to do something wrong when preparing for a takeoff.”
    After 18 dog fight flight tests with MiG-21 as an adversary, the MiG pilots got a strong advise, never get involved in slow speed and horizontal manouvres and rather start the attack from a distance, using more powerful Saphir radar as an advantage.
    After MiG-21, a more modern MiG-23 with its R-23 air-to-air missiles got tested with much better results as MiG-23 was able to engage in combat at a distance of 40 km. Both F-5 and A-37 had a few features copied then (fuselage armor, wing technology, polyurethane filled fuel tanks, servo controls), to design a new “T-8 product” what´s a Su-25 attack aircraft.

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