by DAVID AXE
For at least 35 years the U.S. military has operated Soviet- and Russian-made MiG and Sukhoi jet fighters.
Speaking at an Air Force Association event in Virginia on Tuesday, Jack Manclark, former U.S. Air Force test director, described overseeing Constant Peg, a once classified program that ran from 1977 to 1988.
When Manclark took over in 1985, the Constant Peg initiative included 26 MiG-21s and MiG-23s acquired through undisclosed channels, Manclark said. Constant Peg’s 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron reportedly once also operated 1960s–vintage MiG-17s from its base in Utah’s Tonopah Test Range.
The Pentagon declassified Constant Peg in 2006.
The U.S. military continued operating MiGs and Sukhoi fighters after Constant Peg ended. In 1997 the Defense Department purchased 21 modern MiG-29s from Moldova and passed them to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where they were studied for insights into their performance.
(By this time, the U.S. air arms had already been exposed to former East German MiG-29s inherited by the unified German air force.)
The Moldovan MiGs were reportedly in bad condition. At least a few of these jets — or possibly other MiG-29s acquired from other sources — were maintained in flying condition and ended up at the Air Force’s secretive Groom Lake facility in Nevada, as seen in the 2003 amateur video above.
The 2003 video also appeared to show Su-27s, variants of which are the current frontline fighters in China, Russia and other nations. It’s not clear where the Su-27s came from.
In 2009 Nevada firm Tac Air bought two Su-27s from Ukraine for its dissimilar combat training business. After the purchase, Tac Air boasted about being “the first company offering fourth-generation fighter training support.”
No word on whether the U.S. has managed to get its hands on modern Chinese fighters such as the J-10.