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


23 Comments

  1. That gun pic could have come under many circumstances. The F-14 could not seriously tango with the F-15 in WVR BCM.

    • It most certainly could in the right hands (Hoser did this more than once)… I think more than anything this article emphasises the stick (Pilot) rather than the hardware. A common hindrance in aircraft discourse is the F-## vs F-## banter; one must always consider the human element to a fight and remember the different roles (advantages and disadvantages that the particular airframe/engine combinations have). I think any one who came across ‘Hoser’ in his hey day, any day of the week would have found themselves in for a bad day… because as many in the USN, USMC and USAF would know and acknowledge, he is one gifted Stick, dare I say, one of the best… (To my knowledge his techniques are still used in ACM training… Pitch moment couple, Vorboshka etc etc)
      Harrrrrrr! (As Hoser would say!)

    • Yup im not buying it either .there is a reason there never has been a f15 lost in combat and that is because its too damb good a aircraft .The f14 was a good fighter but would not be able to take a eagle in a one on one dogfight .The eagle is much more maneuverable and faster .

      • At slow speeds the F14 actually could outmaneuver most believe it or not, higher speeds the Eagle yes. It was not much more faster either, sides you are not fighting or sustaining Mach 2.34 for very long which is what the Cats top speed was and the Eagle a little faster. Mig 25 was faster than both, what did that do? Top speed is rarely maintained for long. You could have a little Mach 1.5 fighter beat the bigger Jets up close, depends on the pilot like most said.

        • Of course the pilot is the key but it does’nt hurt to have the top of the line sled to drive either .

          • The F14 was top of the line when it had the engine upgrades, it got the teeth it needed all along with those GE F110 Engines. If you got a good pilot in there as well it could probably defeat anything with the long range capability and the turn to thrust ratio the new engines provided. It was no slouch when the upgrades in radar and engines came. You can have an F22, if you suck as a pilot though you aren’t beating a very good pilot in a formidable plane. The F15’s airframe is older now too speaking on that plane, same problems the F14 had later.

      • BTW the F16 is much more Maneuverable in a dogfight than both of these fighters, does that make it alot better? In a dogfight that would whip and F15 up close, fact. They each have their strengths and thats what makes them unique.

        • Nope f15 pilots being equal wins .there have been plenty of f16s lost but never a f15.That alone speaks volumes.

  2. Dude what’s wrong with you? You spend most of the time posting comment criticizing everything and everyone…the article does not state that the Tomcat is superior or better than the F-15, it only report an event happened many many years ago…come on be a good guy please, we don’t want your blood pressure to rise too much..

    • This guy is just bitter and hates the F14, it is clear as day every time he writes about it he is downing it. He has problems for some reason.

  3. You don’t need to have flown an aircraft to know something about it’s dogfighting ability. I don’t need to have flown the F-16 to know it can out turn an F-111. Close quarters maneuverability is governed by some very cut and dried metrics like pitch/roll/turn rate, wing loading, thrust to weight etc.. The fact is that the Eagle is superior to the Tomcat in every single metric pertaining to WVR dogfighting so, all other things being equal, an F-15 would win. That’s why one assumes that for the tomcat to win would either require a pilot skill mismatch or some unusual circumstance we don’t know about.

    • No, it wasn’t. The F-14 had very good slow speed performance because of it’s great lift. As far as speed, w/p ratio and other such metrics go, the two were very similar to point where it made no real difference. Two pilots of similar skill would stand an equal chance in a knife-fight.

      • I don’t know where you’re getting that claim. A simple look at wikipedia or any source that lists aircraft specifications will tell you that almost all F-15 specs are considerably better.

          • What are you, a high school history teacher? Wikipedia is a great source nowadays and one of the only places you can find concise, accurate statistics on a wide variety of aircraft (If it’s been declassified of course.)

    • The fact is the EF-111A, an unarmed aircraft, killed an armed Iraqi Mirage F1 despite all your metrics.

      • It seems you missed the part where I mentioned that “pilot skill mismatch” or “unusual circumstance” could overcome airframe advantages.

      • That EF-111 was nothing more than a maneuvering kill, the Iraqi pilot was lost his his bearings in pursuit of the (unarmed) Raven and slammed into the desert floor, so “killed” is a very loose term in that specific case

    • Actually, if the F-14A had burned off enough fuel so its T/W ratio matched that of the F-15, it could certainly give the Eagle a run for its money–until you had to ease off to protect the the TF30s or they quit. When you got to the F-14B&D with the superb F110s, things got even better; they were pretty evenly matched, though not exactly at the same points in their respective envelopes. The R-14 did have one significant disadvantage that could trip it up close-in one on one. It had a significant “tell”. if you were familiar with how it flew and fought, a well trained Eagle driver watch what the automatic vg wings were doing and get an advance warning on what the Tomcat crew was about to do next.

      Ont the other hand, in a multi-on-multi furball, the two crew (not two pilot) concept of the F-14 gave it a significant advantage.

    • So Pooter, how many hours do you have in the Eagle?
      Ever fight a “D” model Tomcat below 20k 1v1 using aft 3-9 Atoll/guns kill criterion?
      How did you do?

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