The story of a legendary F-14 pilot and the gun kill on an F-15 that could sell Tomcats to Japan

Known and unknown stories of a legendary F-8 Crusader and F-14 Tomcat pilot

If you Google “F-14 gun kill” or “F-14 Hoser”, you can find a 8” x 10” frame of a 16 mm gun film shot which shows an  F-15 Eagle locked through an  F-14 Tomcat Head Up Display, at 250 feet, with piper on the Eagle’s pilot, gun selected, master arm on (beware the image below does not show the gun kill mentioned in the story….).

Even if the photo itself is already very interesting, the story behind it, is by far more fascinating. In fact, the naval aviator at the controls of the Tomcat can be considered a sort-of legend.

As explained by Alvin Townley in his book Fly Navy, most probably other pilots have scored more kills, held higher ranks or more prestigious commands, but few living aviators embody the untamed nature of aviation like the one-of-a-kind legend known to decades of F-8 Crusader and F-14 Tomcat pilots: Joe “Hoser” Satrapa.

A skilled rifleman, Joe joined the Navy with the aim to fly a jet fighter.  His passion for guns guided him after the flight school graduation, in 1966, when he was called to opt for the F-4 Phantom or the F-8 Crusader. The Phantom had no guns and Satrapa thought: “No guns? What kind of aircraft is this with no guns?” and he immediately chose the “Last Of The Gunfighters” as the Crusader was dubbed by aircrews.

But the “Satrapa legend” began the day he was given the callsign “Hoser” (even if he is also known as “Da-Hose” or “D-hose”), during a mission at the gunnery range in which he was flying the tail position in a flight of four Crusaders. He cut off the preceding aircraft as they approached the target and started shooting from two thousand feet up, one and a half miles out, hosing off all his bullets in one pass.

His flight leader J.P. O’ Neill told him to return to the airfield at El Centro and the same night O’ Neill had the final say on the incident when he nailed Satrapa: “Lieutenant junior grade Satrapa, for hosing off all his bullets in one pass, will hence forth be known as Hoser. That’ ll be five bucks.”

Hoser was also widely known during the Vietnam War as a fearless F-8 pilot who regularly carried a good forty pounds of lethal ordnance, in case he was suddenly forced to eject from his aircraft and face an entire platoon of North Vietnamese Army regulars.



As explained by George Hall in his book Top Gun – The Navy’ s Fighter Weapons School, Hoser’s interest for guns continued when he transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat.

During the AIMVAL/ACEVAL (the Air Combat Evaluation/Air Intercept Missile Evaluation) fighter trials that put the F-14s and the F-15s against the F-5Es to test new weapons and tactics which took place from 1974 to 1978 at Nellis Air Force Base, Hoser (assigned to the VX-4 evaluators) was put in a 1 vs 1 against an F-5.

As the two combatants sat side-by-side on the Nellis runway, awaiting tower clearance for takeoff, Hoser looked over at his opponent, reached his hand up over the control panel, and mimicked the cocking of machine guns in a World War I Spad. A thumbs up came from the other cockpit, meaning that guns it would be, the proverbial knife fight in a phone booth, forget the missiles.

Both jets took off.

As soon as they reached the assigned area, the fighters set up twenty miles apart for a head-on intercept under ground control. Seven miles from the merge, with closure well over 1,000 knots, Hoser called “Fox One”, a Sparrow missile away, scoring a direct hit.

As they flashed past each other, the furious F-5 driver radioed, “What the hell was that all about?” “Sorry.” said Hoser, “lost my head. Let’s set up again. Guns only, I promise.”

Again the two fighters streaked towards the pass, again at seven miles Hoser called “Fox One.” The F-5 driver was apoplectic.

Hoser was first back to the club bar, nursing an end of the day cold one as the flushed Aggressor stomped in. “Hoser, what the hell happened to credibility?” the F-5 pilot asked. Hoser replied “Credibility is DOWN, kill ratio is UP!”

This story became very popular around Topgun, alongside the lesson learned: from 1 vs 1 to forty-plane furball, expect anything. But never expect your enemy to be a sweet guy.

Still, Hoser’s best experience during the AIMVAL/ACEVAL most probably came after the end of the trials. Even if Tomcat and Eagle drivers could not engage each other, Hoser and his RIO Bill “Hill Billy” Hill with  Dan “Turk” Pentecost and Frank “Fearless” Schumacher onboard the second F-14, went 2 vs 2 against a couple of F-15 instructors from 415th Training Squadron (415th Flight Test Flight).

Both Eagles were gunned down and a gun camera film which showed the F-15 locked in the F-14 HUD almost caused Japan to revert its decision to buy the Eagle.

F-14A_Tomcat_in_head-up_display_c1988

Image credit: U.S. Navy


7 Comments

  1. “Credibility is DOWN, kill ratio is UP!”

    So the guy was a tool who was willing to lie to his cohorts in order to get an “advantage” in training, or to skew the results of an evaluation so that he could get more pretend kills. Sounds like he was quite a guy.

    In a real life fight, did he fly up to the enemy and make that cocking motion before backing off 20 miles and shooting a missile at them, too?

  2. having been stationed with top gun, and participated in red flag a number of time i can tell you that the F-14A and F-15C going against each other in a 1V1 the kill ratio for both jets are almost dead even if i remember the numbers correctly the F-15 had a slight advantage over the F-14 with a 50.2% to 49.8% so performance wise, the 2 airframes are virtually identical, however when the F-15C went head to head against the F-14A Plus, ((later to be designated F-14B) those number changed dramatically with Tomcat besting the Eagle with a 67% to 33%, the F-15E not doing much better than the ca with a 64.6% to 33.4%, now when the 2 different models of the F-15, one being the C model and one being the E model, going against the F-14D, it got even worse for the F-14’s with a 71.2% to a 28.8%, my point is that even though in the early days of both of these amazing fighters, they were virtually identical in ACM performance, and after the first MAJOR upgrade of the tomcat to what it was supposed to be from the very beginning, when it was able to get rid of that POS TF-30 engine and get replace by a real fighter engine in the F-110, the balance swung tremendously in favor of the tomcat, now imagine if you will, IF the Air Force would not have (STOLEN) the F-100 engines from the tomcat program for a plane they did not even have on the drawing board yet, (F-15) and purchased the F-14 program as its replacement fighter, it would have been as good as the F-14B’s right from the beginning, instead of having to endure it’s first 18 years not living up to what it was supposed to do, just imagine how good the F-14 COULD BE TODAY IF the Air Force would just stay away from the research/development/procurement of any tactically sized aircraft and just use what the navy fields, our military would be in far better shape than it is in now.

  3. The f-22 raptor is heavier than the F-14B and F-14A. The F-14D is only somewhat heavier because of the IRST pod, which of course now Lockheed Martin owns the patents to, not GE, who really designed the thing.

    The Tomcat has more wing area (1,008 sq ft) due to wide nacelle. It has lower wing loading than the f-22 raptor therefore, and is far more maneuverable and aerodynamic in a dogfight. It’s frame is stronger for what it’s built for (navy ops) and can therefore out-g the F-22 raptor. The “6.5g” bullshit limit is just that, bullshit politics playing against the F-14D when that limit should have only ever been for the F-14A models that began showing signs of extreme age.

    Tomcat can sustain G-load of 7.5gs with wings swept to 68 degrees at mach 2+ as it slows to mach 1, again keeping the 7.5g load. That’s with 85 psf wing loading. What do you think is going to happen when the tomcat goes 40-50 degrees? The wing loading lowers, allowing for higher sustained Gs. Only problem is the computers didn’t allow you to actually go mach 2+ with the wings at any other degrees than fully back @ 68. This is for longevity obviously and is kinda pointless to turn tight at those speeds anyways. The f-15C Eagle does not have any help from variable gemoetry there thus suffers more fatigue and stress at those speeds.

  4. Ahh, The George Hall book – I read that cover-to-cover repeatedly during the 1980’s.

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