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Mitchell Gant is a fictional character in a series of books written by Craig Thomas. His first (and best known thanks to a successful film adaptation) appearance occurs in the 1977 novel Firefox as a US Air Force major that steals a Russian MiG-31 Firefox fighter aircraft prototype.
Gant grew up in Clarksville, a small town in rural America and found himself drawn to flight when as a child after seeing a small airplane land at a local gas station in need of fuel. With few happy memories of Clarksville, Gant found his way into the United States Air Force, becoming a fighter pilot.
While flying combat during the Vietnam War, Gant's F-4 Phantom II was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Gant ejected and was immediately captured, apparently by guerrillas. The arrival of allied aircraft saves Gant, but also traumatizes him - napalm dropped by one of the aircraft incinerates a young girl travelling with the enemy soldiers. The experience left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, causing him to have frequent flashbacks. He suffers from a recurring nightmare about himself being a Vietnamese and burning in napalm dropped by US aircraft.
After the war, he leaves the military and works for some time in a menial job in a Los Angeles pizza restaurant, which he describes as the only time that he left the military as he was trying to run from his problems. Eventually he is recruited by the CIA for their Firefox operation, supposedly because of his knowledge of Russian, his combat experience in Vietnam and his knowledge of flying Russian aircraft; he is already fluent in Russian (his mother was Russian) therefore only requires 3 months of training, learning to fly a replica MiG-25 as well as a simulator of the Firefox.
In Firefox, an Anglo-American intelligence scheme inserts Gant into the Soviet Union in order for him to steal one of the two prototypes of a revolutionary fighter plane, the MiG-31, NATO code name "Firefox" (not to be confused with the real MiG-31, a development of the MiG-25). After crossing the Soviet Union from Moscow to the airbase where the Firefox is being developed, with the help of various MI6 agents and several false identities; dissident scientists involved in the project create a diversion allowing Gant to steal the plane. He then deals with several obstacles and, after dispatching the second prototype in a dogfight, has apparently succeeded in his theft.
In Firefox Down, the immediate sequel to Firefox, Gant realizes that he has not survived his dogfight with the second MiG-31 unscathed. Leaking fuel from a punctured fuel tank, and forced to burn more when confronted by two MiG-25's, Gant is forced to land the MiG-31 on a lake in Finland very close to the Soviet border. The Soviets capture Gant, but not before the plane sinks into the frozen Finnish lake. The Soviets use brainwashing to determine whether the MiG-31 crashed or landed. Gant escapes from the KGB and with the help of a Russian double agent named Anna Akhmerovna, the Soviet Union as well. Gant and Anna are reluctantly assisted by Dmitri Priabin, a KGB officer who is also Anna's lover. Anna is shot as Gant crosses the border. Gant meets up with a team of western intelligence experts that have recovered the MiG-31 from under the Finnish ice, but have not been able to move it to safety. Gant successfully flies the plane home, even though immersion under water has damaged the plane's radar-invisibility.
Gant's next role was in the novel Winter Hawk. Originally, Gant's mission was to smuggle scientist and spy Filip Kedrov out of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, as Kedrov had information on a Soviet spaceborne directed-energy weapon. However, Gant and Kedrov were both captured by the KGB. Dmitri Priabin, the ranking head of the KGB, still holds a vendetta against Gant due to the death of Anna Akhmerovna. When he learns, however, of a plot by the Soviet military to take control of the Soviet space weapon and use it against an American Space Shuttle, Priabin is again forced to ally himself with Gant in order to warn his civilian superiors in Moscow. With the Soviet Army imposing a security crackdown on Baikonur, even upon the KGB, Gant and Priabin escape Baikonur in a KGB helicopter. Shot down by Soviet helicopters, Gant is forced to escape again with evidence of the Soviet weapon - first on foot, then in a stolen An-2 cropduster, then again on foot when the An-2 is shot down near the Turkish border. Eluding a manhunt by Soviet Paratroopers, Gant is extracted by US Army helicopters.
Gant's final appearance comes in the novel A Different War, in which he is a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. In this novel, he investigates the crashes of two examples of a fictional airliner, and discovers that they were both sabotaged by a former CIA agent working for a rival aircraft manufacturer. In the epilogue, it is mentioned that Gant was awarded a Medal of Honor following the events of the novel. It is also revealed that he was an F-117 Nighthawk pilot and instructor during the Persian Gulf War.