This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (2024)

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Kelsey Vlamis

  • Rocking Chair Ranch in Montana was listed for sale at $21.7 million.
  • The ranch once housedViktor Belenko, a former Soviet Union fighter pilot who defected to the West.
  • Belenko defected with a MiG-25 and revealed Soviet military secrets before living in Montana.

This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (2)

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This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (3)

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This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (4)

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A working Montana ranch that recently hit the market for $21.7 million has a unique history, once serving as a hiding place for a Soviet Union pilot who defected to the West.

Rocking Chair Ranch, located in Philipsburg, Montana, in the western part of the state, spans more than 7,230 acres and includes a cattle operation, meadows, forest, rangelands, agricultural fields, and a semi-private trout fishery.

This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (5)

The property, which has a historic five-bedroom home and other buildings, has been in the same family for over 70 years. The Vietor family even unknowingly housed Viktor Belenko, a former Soviet Union fighter pilot.

In 1976, Belenko defected and flew to Hokkaido, Japan, in a MiG-25, a new, powerful Soviet aircraft that was feared by the West. Belenko had been serving in the Soviet Union's Air Defense Forces but "felt he was being treated like an expendable cog in a creaking war machine," The New York Times wrote after his death last year.

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This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (6)

"I have been longing for freedom in the United States," Belenko said, according to Japanese police. "Life in the Soviet Union has not changed from that existing in the days of Czarist Russia, where there had been no freedom."

After months of planning, Belenko finally defected during a training exercise over the Sea of Japan and was quickly handed over to the US, along with the coveted MiG-25. US officials studied and deconstructed the aircraft before sending the components back to the Soviet Union.

This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (7)

The MiG-25 turned out not to be as powerful as the West feared, though Belenko also shared important information about the morale among Soviet soldiers that resembles some of the reporting about Russia's armed forces today: poor living conditions, scarce food, and harsh punishments.

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Belenko was praised in the US and received asylum. He spent a couple years in Washington, DC, and eventually ended up at Rocking Chair Ranch, though with an undercover identity assigned by the CIA, Mansion Global reported. The CIA agent who escorted him from Japan to the US knew the Vietor family.

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This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (8)

"As a gift, the CIA asked him where he wanted to live, and he said somewhere in the western part of the country on a ranch," Willy Vietor, patriarch of the Victor family, told Mansion Global. "The CIA agent who knew my parents came up with us."

Belenko went by Viktor Schmidt when he got to Montana, and was pretending to be a former trade representative from Russia.

This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (9)

Vietor told Mansion Global Belenko was put to work on the ranch and first lived in a guest bedroom of the main house.

"After he had been with us about a year, we connected the dots and realized he was one of the most valuable defectors the US had ever had," Vietor said.

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This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (10)

He also told the outlet that Belenko would occasionally take trips to the East Coast and when asked why he was going, the former pilot would reply, "spooky stuff."

Vietor told Mansion Global Belenko left the ranch in 1983 but that he stayed in touch with their family.

This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (11)

Belenko received US citizenship in 1980 by an act of Congress and lived in several small towns throughout the midwest and worked as an aerospace consultant, according to the Times. He died in September 2023 at a senior living facility in Illinois at age 76.

Rocking Chair Ranch, located an hour and 15 minutes from Missoula, is next door to The Ranch at Rock Creek, a luxury dude ranch that's considered one of the most expensive hotels in the US.

This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (12)

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This $21.7 million ranch for sale in Montana once served as a hideout for a Soviet pilot who defected in a MiG-25. Take a look. (2024)
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