Before I get into the aircraft I want to discuss today, there is an important matter of Soviet Military organization that I see misconstrued often. During the Soviet times, the VVS (Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily or Military Air Force) was not responsible for matters of air defense.
This was the auspice of the PVO, sometimes also abbreviated as V-PVO (or sometimes PVO strany). PVO is a Russian abbreviation that literal translates to anti-air defense; strany is Russian for country (sometimes nation). So PVO strany was responsible for the anti-air defense of the nation. They were considered the third-most important branch of the Soviet Armed Forces (behind the RVSN and Ground Forces). While the PVO was merged into the VVS in 1998, their legacy lives on; Air Defense Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of every April.
This, if it was not obvious yet, is a story about an aircraft that served with the PVO. Some would say, the most unusual of them as well.