MITOP

What Happens When Superpower Air Defenses Really Fail

Eleven years ago yesterday the trial against Matthias Rust began in Moscow. A few months earlier, on May 28, 1987, the 19-year-old German had landed his single-engine Cessna about 100 meters from Red Square. There are still unanswered questions about how this amateur pilot was able to penetrate what Bill Keller of the New York Times called “the world’s most vaunted air defenses” (NYT, June 7, 1987).

There is no question, though, about the aftermath:

“With surprising speed and openness, Defense Minister Sergei L. Sokolov, 75, was retired. The commander of the air defense system, Marshal Aleksandr I. Koldunov, was sacked with a harsh rebuke from the ruling Politburo. Other senior military figures were expected to be removed more quietly.”

Tom LeCompte wrote in Air & Space Magazine, July 1, 2005: