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.


Image credit: U.S. Navy


  1. Hear you dude ‘ if the tomcat was so great why was it retired and the F15 not scheduled for decommissioning till 2025.That right there says it all.

    • Politics is why it was retired and not upgraded, so that makes it not worthy because it was retired earlier? It was great in it’s time, period.

        • Why would they fly a P51 now? I don’t get this point? Everything gets retired honestly and the P51 is honestly probably the greatest plane the US has ever made IMO, that thing is legendary so I don’t get the point here? It got retired, so what? Does that make it any less of what it was in it’s prime? This post makes no sense to bring a P51 into it.

          • No my point with that was that the f14 tomcat ‘good fighter that it was was no longer top of the line so it was retired cuz the f15 is light years ahead of it .I was only using the p51 as a example of a top perfprmer that was eventually outclassed and replaced as was the f14.

            • The Tomcat was also more expensive to fly, more complex and need more servicing than the Eagle. Also, the F-14 was built for interception and fleet defense. It flew for the Navy not the USAF. These are two branches of the military with far different requirements and budgets. The Navy has many factors to consider (including naval ship ops) that the USAF does not and so they need to be more selective. For one thing they don’t have the budget to fly as many planes. The USAF doesn’t need the F-14 when they have the F-15 and F-16. So the only thing left was to retire the bird.

    • The Tomcat was brutally expensive to maintain, and suffered from only a few hundred being built, and of those few hundred, different ones had some substantially different avionic fits, flight control revisions, and engines. So the unique variants were up and serviceability was down. Since spares needed to be sourced for build flights that could literally be in the 30 or so aircraft the economics, and availability were really ugly.

  2. No it wasn’t. False. The Tomcat was a very capable machine, especially after the new radar and engine upgrades, FACT.

  3. Ummm, a little help here, guys… The photo is of an F-14 in the sights of another aircraft… Am I missing something here, or I do I REALLY see almost a hundred posts down below with people arguing the merits of the F-15 vs. the F-14, and vice versa,?and almost no one noticed the obvious, hysterical actually, contradiction here?… Ok then, I contend that the F-15 is a better plane, and I offer the author’s own picture as “proof.” :-)
    Gosh, I really hope I’m missing something here, or I’m gunna need a therapist… I’m surrounded b…
    F-15 AND F-14 were/are great aircraft – But the F-22 will dominate in the future, we can be thankful we have them to soldier on after the -14 and -15, despite the belief out there that the -22 is “just” a fighter… In reality, it’s less so than the F-14 and -15 are “just” fighters.

  4. That’s ok, when you get blown out of the sky from 99 miles away by the phoenix that the F-14 launched just remember you have 70 miles to go before you can launch your AMRAM.

    • That’s if the Phoenix hits you. A mighty big “IF” too when you are a fighter seeing and detecting it coming and not a large soviet bomber or less agile MIG 25. The Phoenix were great in range but limited in guidance abilities.

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