FLIR Images Show F-15 Shoot-Down, Weapon Used May Have Been Repurposed AAM.
Images and video have surfaced of what is claimed to be a Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle being shot down by an unspecified surface to air (SAM) missile over Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa. The video is alleged to have been obtained using a ground-mounted forward-looking infra-red sensor usually mounted on helicopters for surveillance and targeting: most probably a Flir Systems ULTRA 8500.
The clip appears to show an F-15 Eagle, version unknown.
The video is shot from the right side of the aircraft, and as the aircraft rolls right, the height of the starboard (right) vertical stabilizer/rudder appears to be shorter than normal on an F-15, as though part of it is already missing: someone suggested that may have already sustained damaged to at least one of its vertical stabilizers even though this seems to be a bit far-fetched based on the available clip.
Immediately after this right rolling maneuver two bright objects, glowing from their heat signature in the infra-red video, are separated from the aircraft that lit the afterburners (based on the glowing . These seem to be flares, countermeasures ejected against heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.
The aircraft then rolls right again and the profile of the F-15’s canopy can be seen, appearing to be a single-seat version, but difficult to confirm from the poor quality infra-red video.
A large object enters the frame from below, presumably a surface-to-air missile, either impacts the F-15 (whose engine heat signature has increased, suggesting the use of afterburner) or possibly detonates a proximity warhead near it or against a flare. The video ends without showing what happened to the F-15 following the apparent missile hit. The aircraft seems to continue flying more or less unscathed.
Text in the YouTube video caption reads in Arabic, “The first sight of the moment hit and shot down a Saudi F-15 aircraft in the atmosphere of the Yemeni capital Sanaa” (the image used as preview in the video below does not show the RSAF F-15 but the Russian Air Force Su-24 hit by a Turkish AF F-16 in November 2015..).
Information that surfaced on Twitter shortly after the video released suggested the aircraft may have been shot down by a S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile, a version of the venerable SA-2 Guideline SAM missile. However several sources are increasingly suggesting the F-15 was targeted by a modified R-27T based on claims that Houthis have modified a number AAMs (air-to-air missiles) to be launched from pick-ups.
The R-27 (AA-10 Alamo-B), is an IR-homing, missile with a maximum range of 63 km and a theoretical maximum allowed vertical separation of 10 km meters altitude.
If the claim of the F-15 aircraft being shot down by Houthis is confirmed, this may be one of the few instances any version of the F-15 Eagle has been shot down. The U.S. suffered the loss of F-15E Strike Eagles to anti-aircraft fire during the Gulf War back in 1991.
The Royal Saudi Air Force is believed to have a fleet of 129 active single-seat F-15C Eagles and F-15S ground attack/multi-role aircraft along with the first 13 (of 84 ordered) new F-15SA attack aircraft,
In October 2017, the Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down a Saudi Typhoon involved in a mission supporting Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led air war on the Houthi rebels in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.
H/T @phxasc for providing many details about the alleged downing.
That image appears to me to be a single engine contrail…thus not a dual engine f15. That’s what the video appears to be.
While I do agree that that F-15 was hit, I don’t agree that it was shot down. A couple of points:
1) When the missile exploded there was an exceptional amount of debris; more than can be accounted for by just the detonation. The aircraft was hit; probably, the right stabilator was blown off.
2) The engine plum did not flicker or change intensity during or post detonation; the engines are fine.
3) The flight path of the fuselage did not change post detonation; the aircraft maintained directional control through the end of the video.
From these, I believe the aircraft was damaged, but still flyable.
As to piloting skills, if you’re tossing flares, you’re maneuvering… this pilot didn’t maneuver and didn’t continue dumping flares. Bad.
The pilot knew he was under threat and took no real evasive action. I was expecting the eagle to be at least making the missile work at it. There’s no indication the missile was spoofed at all by the flares. I assume the aircraft was throwing chaff as well? Looks like a right wing hit, you can see what seems to the the pressure wave of the explosion roll the aircraft to the left.
As to this being an SA-2/S-75 I’m not convinced. First off I see what looks like a solid rocket fuel exhaust. Note how after the plume is fully expanded the plume is still clumped together (smoke/particulate) and not dissipated and near background like the air/JP efflux of the eagle. The top stage of a S-75 burns RFNA-Kerosine, and it’s efflux should look similar. Additionally I think I can see unburned solid fuel chunks being thrown out the nozzle that then burn very slowly. Several chunks can be seem exiting the missile. Also consider this, the S-75 upper stage is huge, it’s s good fraction of the size of the F-15. Scale the ground crew to the upper stage in this image.
Also given the S-75’s large size, its warhead is also quite large, and has a wide blast radius. Look at the standoff ability of the S-75 to damage aircraft from a large distance by blast effect alone.
Note how the blast radius is larger than an F-4 and it’s obvious lethal radius is more than two aircraft lengths.
Also, I have questions about the sensor and what it was attached to. The apparent size and aspect POV of the F-15 does not change much, and the FLIR unit looks quite small. There’s not a lot of aperture there. If this is a ground based observation maybe it was mounted to a telescope on a tracked mount with telephoto capability. Or the F-15 was circling around the area where the FLIR was operating. If the F-15 was flying in roughly a strait line, it would seem that the FLIR unit was mounted on a stabilized platform on an aircraft of some sort at high speed because it seems to keep up with the F-15 even when it’s in afterburner. Let’s say the FIIR unit is on the ground and the F-15 is only traveling 200 kts, that’s 0.064 miles/sec, the entire engagement ran for 24 seconds, so the F-15 would have traveled at least 1.5 miles, I would expect a much more variable angular size of the entire scene, instead it remains pretty constant. I’m assuming the F-15 is traveling much faster, and thus the change in geometry vis-a-vis a ground based camera would be much more dynamic. That’s a really impressive tracked variable zoom optical system if it’s on the ground, or the opposition is getting away with operating aircraft in the combat zone. The Saudi’s may not be clearing out the airspace.
Looks like a miss to me. No change in flight path, no change in airframe / afterbuner plume image, and no debris from the target.