Pilot Defectors
in the Cold War

A Research Project  ©  Dick van der Aart

A few pages from the book.
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MiGs on the Run
- a book about pilot defectors

For many years now I have been researching the history of aerial defections in the Cold War years 1945 - 1989. The initial result of this effort is a well documented historical publication about pilot defectors with the title MiG's op de Vlucht (MiGs on the Run), that was published in december 2009. For the moment - alas - only in Dutch.


It was for various reasons not an easy undertaking. There are few official (open) sources and not every escape flight is documented in the media. Political propaganda, psychological warfare, face saving lies often formed the basis of many speculative newspaper stories. In many cases the intelligence community played a decisive role in the aftermath of a defection. It is the dream of every military commander to analyse the strength and weaknesses of an enemy aircraft by testing the type in flight. Examinations by intelligence experts on the ground come as a good second. In either case: the real results were kept from the public. The Cold War is already almost a generation away and many defections half a century old, but still much information remains classified and historians and researchers are given a hard time to find primary sources.

Nevertheless, there is enough open source information to be found that, with careful scrutiny and analysis and supported by at least a fair number of declassified Secret and Top Secret documents, makes it possible to compile a comprehensive study of pilot defectors in the Cold War years.

The many aspects of a defection

MiG's on the Run not only deals with the personal experiences of the pilots and crews involved, but also - and with more emphasis - with many other aspects of a defection:

  • the general en personal reasons for the dangerous escapes
  • the military situation between the countries involved
  • the hurdles for asylum and resettlement
  • the intelligence value of the aircraft
  • the interrogation of the defector
  • the psywar and bribes to induce pilots to defect
  • the political repercussions of a defection
  • the procedures for surprise landings on NATO bases
  • the secret evaluations of defected Soviet fighters
  • the gaps in air defenses,
  • the procedures for intercepting and escorting defectors,
  • the whereabouts of defected aircraft

Help needed for additional books in English

As I am planning an expanded and updated English version of the chapters in MiG's op de vlucht about the defections to Bornholm and Sweden in 2016. I am also working on an large English language book about air incidents in the Cold War. Therefore I am looking for factual information, official historical material and declassified reports (in any language), photographs and other illustrations. Any scrap of information is most welcome. Sources will be carefully documented and credited.

Dick van der Aart

Click on bookcover for description of chapters in English


© 2009-2017 DICK VAN DER AART  -  WWW.AIR-INTEL.NL  - 6 February 2017