Today in History: MiG Pilot Landed at Florida Airbase – Havana Exploited Plane’s Recovery 2

October 5, 1969:  A Cuban defector flew his MiG-17 jet fighter to Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami. Air Force One was at Homestead at the time, waiting to fly President Nixon back to Washington.  The base was subsequently put on perpetual watch and additional radars added to prevent another surprise landing.  Subsequently, members of a Cuban delegation allowed onto Homestead to recover the MiG-17 secretly took highly detailed photographs of the airbase, reported General Rafael del Pino, the highest ranking Cuban officer to ever defect. The base had long been one of Havana’s military and intelligence targets.

Del Pino also claimed he participated in several exercises targeted against Homestead, the most recently in 1986, the year before he defected. Two squadrons of MiG-23s based at San Antonio de los Banos were assigned this mission. Headquartered 20 miles southwest of Havana, these squadrons conducted simulated strike exercises every three months. Their practice targets were airfields on the Island of Pines, selected because the flight time was 23 minutes, the same duration of a flight from their base to Homestead.