SEPTEMBER 11, 1976
On this date, the Soviet Ambassador in Tokyo, Dmitri S. Polyansky stated that Japan was showing an “unfriendly attitude” because of its refusal to return the pilot and MiG-25 aircraft.
The Soviets claimed that the pilot made a ‘mistaken’ or emergency landing and that the Japanese Government ‘fabricated’ the story about Belenko’s desire to make a political defection.
The Soviet Ambassador also maintained that some television film and press photographs showed that force had been used to restrain the Soviet pilot and that some pictures showed him handcuffed and his head pushed down by police in a patrol car, indicating that he was not acting out of free well. Citing reports that a third country was intervening in the affair, the Soviet Ambassador asked Japanese officials not to allow this power to become involved.
A Soviet source stated that Japan’s handling of the affair had angered Soviet officials and there were indications that defection would hurt Tokyo-Moscow ties and spoil talks between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and his Japanese counterpart (at the time), Kiichi MIYAZAWA which were scheduled for 30 September.
The Soviets filed protests both in Japan and at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow. A Soviet source claimed that during the 15 minute meeting finally granted with Belenko, the pilot sat 30 yards away from a Soviet diplomat who maintained he could not positively identify the pilot at that distance.
SEPTEMBER 12, 1976
Soviet sources made public a letter purportedly written by Belenko’s wife pleading him to return and stating that Soviet authorities would forgive his ‘mistake.’ The Soviet diplomat who briefly met Belenko before his departure to the US said that Japanese authorities had prevented him from delivering the letter to Belenko. A photograph of the wife and son were enclosed with the letter.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1976
An Air Self Defense Force officer reported that Belenko had told him that on the day of his defection he had taken off as the last plane in a 3-aircraft sequential take-off. Instead of joining the other planes, he then continued to proceed at a low altitude with both radar and communications switched off, flying toward Chitose.
SEPTEMBER 14-15, 1976
The Japanese Government announced it was investigating methods of transferring the MiG-25 from Hakodate Airport to a Self Defense Force base. On the evening of Sept 14th, a JDA official said, “US cooperation might be sought in order to smoothly transfer the aircraft.’ This cleared the way for at least partial access to the MiG-25 by US technicians. It became evident that Japanese Government policy had just about been firmed up to borrow a huge US Air Force transport to carry the MiG-25.
Initially, studies were made of transporting the aircraft to Chitose in Hokkaido or Misawa in Aomori Prefecture. Note was made that by utilization of a US military aircraft, the Soviet side was sure to consider it a link in joint US-Japan inspection of the aircraft. It was also feared that opposition parties in Japan, who had been relatively silent so far about the incident, might also indicate strong resistance to “unprincipled US-Japan military cooperation.”
SEPTEMBER 16, 1976
The Japan Defense Agency announced plans to begin dismantling work on the MiG-25 on 17 Sep. at the earliest. By the end of the following week, hopes were to move the aircraft to an ASDF air base to begin full scale inspection. At this time, the most pending problems was removal of the vertical tail wings. So far, over 70 SDF officials have been assigned to supervise and inspect the aircraft.
On Sep. 16th, JDA officially asked the Transport Ministry for permission to move the aircraft. Latest reports listed three choices for transfer sties: 1) Chitose, 2) Misawa, and 3) Hyakuri in Ibaraki Prefecture.
JDA authorities still desired to use a US C-5A transport, but the Foreign Ministry was not in favor of enlisting US assistance because it believed a US airlift would be regarded as military collaboration at home as well as abroad, especially by the Soviet Union.
However, even if airlifted by the giant GALAXY, the main wing and two vertical tails of the aircraft would have to be removed.
In the meantime, the Soviets continued to condemn US interference in the affair. The first Soviet comment by the official Tass news agency stated that the pilot had been on a routine training flight when he lost his bearings and ran out of fuel. He therefore had made an emergency landing at Hakodate. The Soviets charged that Japan and the US had forced the pilot to defect. They claimed that Belenko was drugged during their interview.
In the midst of this controversy, there was a shake-up in the Prime Minister’s cabinet and Foreign Minister MIYAZAWA was replaced by Zentaro KOSAKA (64 years old). Not aligned with any faction, Kosaka had held the same position in the IKEDA Cabinet. He had also served as Labor Minister in the Yoshida Cabinet, and Director General of the Economic Planning Agency in the Tanaka Cabinet. A graduate of Tokyo Commercial College, he had been returned 12 times from the Second Electronic District in Nagano.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1976
In preparation for dismantling of the MiG-25, heavy duty jacks, compressors and other machines were transported via C-1 to Hakodate Airport on 16 Sep. The previous day, a team of ASDF experts repaired the blown out tires. The plan was not to move the aircraft from the green belt since it would interfere with commercial traffic. Rather thick steel plates are to be brought to the airport and the aircraft will be firmed up on these with the use of a crane.
Although dismantling work had been scheduled to begin on the 17th, it was reported that the fence surrounding the aircraft had to be expanded to facilitate operations and so the starting date was postponed to the 18th. A green camouflage net was placed over the makeshift hangar to hide it from sight.
The dismantling work will reportedly take about 3 days only. The main holdup in transfer of the aircraft at this time seemed to be selection of the destination site, which had to be coordinated with the Foreign Ministry. Hyakuri AB appeared to be the best contender for the following reasons:
- Hyakuri has modern facilities which would facilitate inspection of the aircraft, and there is little anti-military feelings surrounding the base on the part of neighboring communities.
- The main drawback to Chitose AB is that due to the confusion of commercial aircraft, it would be difficult to maintain secrecy.
- The main drawback to Misawa AB is that it would heighten the impression of a joint US-Japan inspection.
The main drawback to Hyakuri was that the aircraft would probably be returned to the Soviet Union by ship and the nearest ports of Hitachi/Kashima were some distance away, thus posing problems in terms of overland transportation.
Target date for transport of the aircraft from Kakodate to its new destination was 23 Sep. A time factor here was the meeting schedule between the Japanese Foreign Minister and his Soviet counterpart regarding the northern territory and other diplomatic issues, to take place on 30 Sep. It seemed certain that the question of the MiG-25 would come up at this time. It was the intention of JDA to insure at least a week for inspection of the aircraft. Also, it was necessary to wait until the present typhoon had past before removing the aircraft. The method used to dismantle the aircraft would follow Foreign Ministry policy. It was desired that the MiG-25 be returned undamaged. Thus dismantling in which reassembly would become impossible was not to be permitted. This was to make the dismantling work difficult.
As of this date, JDA was still awaiting permission for the Cabinet Legislation Bureau to utilize the C-5A Galaxy for transport of the aircraft. The main points for consideration were: 1) the maintenance of JDA subjectivity over the aircraft, and 2) clarification of responsibility if an accident should occur.
Additionally, it has been speculated that Japan will get a lot of intelligence exchange mileage from the MiG-25.
SEPTEMBER 18-20, 1976
Dismantling of the MiG-25 began on the morning of 19 Sep. A team of 11 US expert technicians (headed by Maj Ferguson) arrived in the afternoon aboard a SDF C-1 and quickly began removing the self-destruction equipment from the aircraft. They worked until past 10:00 pm that night. The US technicians brought testers for the electronic equipment and mattresses to prevent damage to the fuselage. Called the MIG SHOP, the US experts presented a rugged appearance in jeans and T-shirts. According to the Defense Agency, this was to avoid controversy from being seen in military uniform.
Work proceeded at a fervent pitch. The 2d Air Wing from Chitose was in charge, but altogether there was a total of about 60 men involved in the operation.
Iron plates for providing a firm ground base and drum cans for removal of fuel from the aircraft had arrived. It appeared that in addition to removing the self-destruction equipment, the main wings, vertical tail wings and engine cover, a portion of the nose might have to be removed in order to prevent damage when loading the aircraft. Proceeding in an orderly fashion, it was anticipated that the dismantling would be finished within a week and the aircraft transported to Hyakuri AB in Ibaraki Prefecture. C-5A Galaxy personnel were expected to arrive shortly for inspection of the Hakodate Airport situation and methods of loading the MiG-25.
Reported were that the Zengakuren Joint Struggle Committee in the Hokkaido area was planning an opposition demonstration in Hakodate beginning on the 20th in protests against the joint US-Japan dismantling inspection.
Also, the Ogawa town assembly in Ibaraki Prefecture presented a resolution against transporting the MiG-25 to Hyakuri AB to JDA Director General SAKATA. There were fears by the local citizens that it would sir up emotions and disturb the peace.
SEPTEMBER 21, 1976
Papers continued to carry photos of US technicians on site. It was reported that Japanese experts were surprised to find that wing tips were made of steel and not titanium or duralumin. This discovery was made first by noting what appeared to be a rest substance on the wings and later was confirmed by application of a magnet. Although steel would make the aircraft heavier that other alloys, it appeared the difference was covered by engine horsepower.
An additional 60 Japanese technicians arrived on the scene for a total of 120.
In reply to an official statement from the Soviet Government which protested that the pilot was forced to defect, that there had been third country interference, and which demanded return of the aircraft, the Japanese Government stated that there was no proof that the defection was not voluntary, that Japan was an independent country and made independent decisions and that the Japanese Government would take measures which it deemed necessary as regards the aircraft and that the Government was investigating the aircraft from the points of ‘territorial invasion, forced landing and the question of violation of Japan’s security.’ This was a slight change from the previous position that’ note would be taken of the Soviet’s demand and it would be transmitted to higher authorities’ and that the aircraft had to be investigated as evidence in the illegal entry by the Soviet pilot.
Newspapers again noted the impending talks between KOSAKA and GROMYKO at the UN and that the MiG incident would be the main topic of conversation. Mention was also made of statements by CIA chief George Bush that the incident was a major intelligence bonanza for the free world. No news appeared of the proposed demonstration by Zengakuren in Hakodate on the 20th.
SEPTEMBER 22-23, 1976
Japanese and American technicians completed dismantling the aircraft on Wednesday, the 22d, and planned to transport the aircraft to Hyakuri AB on the evening of the 24th, sometime after 7:00 pm when the airport would be closed to commercial aircraft.
The wing joint section covers, etc., encased in 6 wooden crates and 12 drums of fuel removed from the aircraft were placed aboard a C-1 at about 6:30 pm on the 22d and flown to Misawa AB.
The same day, a C-5 Galaxy team of 2 pilots and a load master checked out the runway and guide path. In order not to obstruct landings and takeoffs, it was decided that the Galaxy would not go up to the makeshift hanger, but rather be loaded from a guide path near the runway.
On the 21st, the after burner pipes, right and left horizontal tail wings were removed in the morning and the missile suspension pylons underneath the main wings and the right and left main wing were removed in the afternoon. Only the vertical tail wings remained for the 22d.
In the meantime, opposition was growing near Hyakuri AB. On the 22d, the Governor of Ibaraki Prefecture were Hyakuri is located stated that he had asked the Defense Agency not to transfer the MiG-25 to Hyakuri due to opposition from the people and probable trouble. He said, however, that he was not in a position to take specific steps against the transport because from the legal point of view, the move fell under the supervision of the central government. In the town of Ogawa near the air base, various political and labor organizations, including the Ibaraki Chapter of the Japan Socialist Party and the Japan Communist Party, issued statements opposing the transfer. On the 22d, a Joint Communist Party, issued statements opposing the transfer. On the 22d, a Joint Struggle Committee began handing out stickers and leaflets in the Hyakuri area.
The Soviet Government also stepped up its protests against the incident. A scheduled visit by Soviet Fisheries Minister was cancelled and that by the Soviet Foreign Trade Minister was postponed.
Some friction developed between JDA and the Foreign Ministry as to the condition in which the aircraft should be returned to the Soviet Union. JDA would like to return it in dismantled condition while the Foreign Ministry wants it in as completed form as possible. Out of consideration for Soviet feelings, the Foreign Ministry does not want any public test flights of the aircraft. It again re-iterated that the Government was trying to follow previous international examples in return of the aircraft, and that the Soviet Union was considered to be on friendly terms with Japan.
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