Tag Archives: F-14 Tomcat

Impressive previously unreleased footage shows how two F-14 Tomcats shot down two Gaddafi’s MiG-23s

Watch the full declassified footage of the second Gulf of Sidra Incident.

After two F-14As from VF-41 Black Aces shot down two Su-22 Fitters on Aug. 19, 1981, the Tomcat faced again LARAF (Libyan Arab Republic Air Force) fighters on Jan. 4, 1989, when two jets from VF-32 Swordsmen shot down a pair of MiG-23 Floggers.

In the following video you can see, for the very first time, the whole dogfight, including previously unreleased (at least not available on the Web) footage.

The air-to-air combat occurred during a freedom of navigation exercise conducted by Sixth Fleet off the Libyan coastline.

The two VF-32 F-14s, BuNo. 159610, call sign “Gypsy 207” flown by Swordsmen skipper Commander Joseph B. Connelly and by Commander Leo F. Enwright as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) and BuNo. 159437, call sign “Gypsy 202″ crewed by Lieutenant Hermon C. Cook III and Lieutenant Commander Steven P. Collins as RIO, were flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), when an E-2C detected the two MiGs taking off from Bumbah air base.

The Floggers, heading towards the U.S. Navy jets, were picked by the F-14s’ AN/AWG-9 radar at a distance of 72 miles.

As proved by the radio communications between the aircrews involved in the engagement, the VF-32 fighters performed avoidance maneuvers for five times to avoid confrontation, but the LARAF aircraft matched their turns every time.

Then at 6 minutes and 27 seconds in the footage, at a range of 12.9 miles you can hear Gypsy 207 calling for a “Fox One” shot, meaning that he has just fired a Sparrow which, probably because of a guidance problem, misssed the target. The F-14s and MiGs continued to move closer until, at 6 minutes and 37 seconds in the video, Gypsy 202 fired another Sparrow at a distance of about ten miles against the same Flogger, destroying it.

At 7 minutes and 21 seconds the clip shows that, with the remaining Flogger now in their eyeballs, Connelly and Enwright took advantage of their action to get back of the MiG-23 calling for a “Fox Two” shot  (referring to the launch of a Sidewinder) at 7 minutes and 36 seconds. Noteworthy at 7 minutes and 44 seconds the missile hit the second Flogger downing it.

The two Libyan pilots managed to eject at the last minute ending the engagement.

Here you find the full story of the aerial combat. Chunks of the footage were released by the DoD shortly after the incident.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

The story of the mission to rescue an F-14 Tomcat pilot behind the enemy lines in Iraq

The story of the first Combat SAR (Search And Rescue) mission behind enemy lines since Vietnam.

One of the most famous missions flew during the Operation Desert Storm was the Combat SAR sortie performed by A-10s Sandys and by MH-53Js from the 20th Special Operations Squadron on Jan. 21, 1991 to recover Lt. Devon Jones, an F-14B (AA 212, BuNo 161430, at the time designated F-14A Plus) pilot from the VF-103 Sluggers, callsign “Slate 46”, downed in Iraq with its RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) Lt. Lawrence Slade.

Jones and Slade  were shot down by an Iraqi SAM (Surface to Air Missile) in the first hours of the morning of the fourth day of war, while they were returning to the USS Saratoga (CV-60), after a successful EA-6B escort mission. On their way back to the aircraft carrier, Jones and Slade spotted a SAM coming through the clouds: even if Jones added power and started an evasive action, the missile exploded near the Tomcat’s tail. The aircraft entered into an unstoppable spin which forced the aircrew to eject. During the descent the two men saw each other for the last time before entering the clouds.

As he descended towards the ground, Jones tried to pull out his PRC-90 radio, but due to the fact that he flew without gloves, his hands were cold and he became afraid that he would drop his radio so he pushed it back into the vest pocket. Once landed, he started to walk towards what he thought to be west, trying to reach the Saudi border, but when he saw the sun rising, he realized his mistake. Nevertheless, at that point Jones thought it was good he was quite far from the crash site. He reached a little vegetation and thanks to his survival knife scooped out a foxhole in a small mound large enough to hide.

After he had been down for about six hours,  at 12:05 local time, he tried his radio again. And someone responded to his call.

As Jones recalls in David Donald and Stan Morse book Gulf Air War Debrief: “ ‘Slate 46, how do you read?’ That was the first time that I knew that there had been an ongoing SAR effort. […] ‘Let me come a little closer so I can talk to you’ he said.”

Still, Jones didn’t know who was the guy that responded to his call when he came to the radio telling to Jones that he would release a flare.

Since he was thinking to talk with a helicopter, Jones was surprised when the pilot revealed him that he was flying an aircraft “ ‘Ok, now, I’ll come down to where you can see me,’ he said. Lo and behold, he was an A-10! He was Sandy 57, like those guys in Vietnam, trained in combat SAR. I brought him with standard aviator talk. He didn’t see me, but he flew right over me at 50-100 feet and dropped a way point in his INS (Inertial Navigation System). ‘I’ve got to get some gas,’ he called. ‘Minimize your transmissions and come back up in 30 minutes.’

The Sandy pilot directed the helicopters toward Lt. Jones. As the SAR force headed for the downed Naval Aviator, they heard MiGs being vectored toward them. An F-15 RESCAP (REScue Combat Air Patrol) chased the threat away. After they got their gas, the A-10s returned, caught up with the helicopters and brought them in. After that a farmer truck passed nearby Jones, finally the F-14 pilot heard the A-10s telling to the helicopters they were 30 miles from his position. They asked him to shine his signal mirror south and after Jones did it, one of the A-10s told him to look for a helicopter 15 miles out, but he saw only the A-10s flying in a circle and Jones gave them instructions to his position.

But since the Iraqis were listening to their communications, while the planes came in, half a mile down the south road, Jones saw an army truck. After a moment of panic he remembered that the A-10s as well as the helicopters were heavy armed and, in fact, within 3-4 seconds, the Sandys opened fire with their 30 mm cannons, destroying the enemy truck.  Then for the first time he saw a helicopter “I had never seen such a beautiful sight as that big, brown American H-53. […] I grabbed my kneeboard cards and gear as he landed about 20 yards away. One of the special forces guys jumped out and waved me on. I jumped in and off we went, 140 miles to go at 140 knots, at 20 feet! Pretty impressive machine. Just what you’d expect from these special forces people with lots of guns hanging off them.”

Lt. Jones was brought to a forward base in Saudi Arabia, where he was hospitalized for a brief medical exam, then the next day an S-3 from his carrier flew him back to his squadron. Following a three-day rest, he returned to the cockpit.

On the contrary, Lt. Slade, Slate 46 RIO, was less lucky: he endured interrogation, torture and starvation in the Iraqi hands for 43 days.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


Iranian F-14 Tomcat’s “new” indigenous air-to-air missile is actually an (improved?) AIM-54 Phoenix replica

Among the hardware on display during the annual military parade in Tehran, on Sunday Sept. 22, 2013, Iran not only displayed a new indigenous passive phased array radar system for detecting stealth targets and cruise missiles, but it also showed the country’s latest home-made missile productions, including the Fakour-90.

The Fakour-90 missile is one of the latest “state-of-the-art productions” of the Iranian Armed Forces which can be mounted on F-14 fighter jets.

It’s almost identical to the AIM-54 Phoenix and, more than a brand new missile, is just a domestically upgraded, partially reverse engineered version of the famous long range missile carried by the U.S. Navy Tomcat.

The AIM-54 was developed in the mid-sixties and the IRIAF has operated some of them. Even if we can’t talk of a “new missile”, we can’t but notice that the Iranians managed to keep them in service and, maybe, upgrade them a little bit. What’s even more surprising is that Tehran managed to keep the F-14s airworthy, considered the sanctions on Iran and the consequent lack of spare parts for the Tomcats.

The different component is hidden inside the missile’s nose cone and is (probably) a semi-active homing system of the Shalamcheh surface-to-air missile – once again a reverse engineered, improved version of the U.S. MIM-23 Hawk SAM.

Image credit: FNA, PressTV


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Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter jets get a modern “splinter” color scheme

The photo in this post depicts the first Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-14AM (“Modernized”) landing at Tehran Mehrabad International Airport in April 2012.

Iran still operates some Tomcats that are being modernized to extend their operative life. Domestic upgrades include avionics, weapons (R-73E, AIM-54A+ “Fakkur”, AIM-54A, AIM-7E and AIM-9J are among the air to air missiles adapted to the aircraft’s fire control system) and color scheme: indeed the plane was give a  three-tone Asian Minor II camouflage pattern resembling the one adopted by Russian 4th and 5th generation fighter planes and U.S. Aggressors.

Image credit: Babak Taghvaee


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How two U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats shot down two Gaddafi’s Su-22 Fitters, 32 years ago today

One year ago today, Tony Scott, the famous director of “Top Gun”, chose to commit suicide.

But Aug. 19 was an important date for the Tomcat community, because that day in 1981 US Navy F-14s were employed for the first time in an air to air combat.

For better understanding the facts that led to the downing of two Gaddafi Su-22 Fitter we have to recall the political situation that increased the tension between USA and Libya.

When in 1974 Colonel Gaddafi declared territory of the Libyan Arab Republic the waters below 32° 30’, violating the international laws, the U.S. only response was an ignored official protest.

Even when six years later an American reconnaissance aircraft was attacked in the zone, President Carter ordered the Sixth Fleet to stay away from the area.

When Reagan succeeded to Carter, things changed. In fact he ordered the Navy to conduct the “Freedom of Navigation” (FON) exercises which culminated  in the Open Ocean Missile Exercise (OOMC).

Conducted in August 1981 by USS Forrestal (CV-59) and by USS Nimitz (CVN-68), this training had the aim to show Tripoli that America was serious about its right to project its naval power in international waters.

The rules of engagement (ROE) stated that to protect his assets the on-scene commander could take any necessary action without waiting for a clearance from a higher authority. For fighter pilots this meant “do not fire until fired upon.”

Against the US Navy, Libya could deploy modern and powerful fighters and fighter bombers such as the Soviet-built Su-22 Fitter, MiG-23 Flogger, the Mach 3 interceptor MiG-25 Foxbat and the French-made Mirage F.1 and 5D.

Black Aces 2

In fact, when the exercise began on Aug. 18, 1981, a flight of MiG-25s immediately approached the carrier groups but were intercepted by VF-74 F-4J Phantoms belonging to the USS Forrestal and by VF-41 and VF-84 F-14s launched from USS Nimitz.

The Libyans  were trying to detect the aircraft carriers, and to find them they sent no less than 35 pairs of combat aircraft of each type in their fighter inventory. No shots were fired, but there was a lot of aggressive maneuvering between US Navy and Libyan Air Force fighters.

However a higher state of readiness was placed by the Libyan Air Force in the second day of the exercise.

In fact in the morning of Aug. 19, two VF-41 Black Aces Tomcats, callsigns “Fast Eagle 102” (BuNo. 160403) and “Fast Eagle 107” (BuNo. 160390) stationed in Combat Air Patrol (CAP) off the Libyan coast.

Fast Eagle 102

Towards the end of their patrol, at 07.15 Commander Henry “Hank” Kleemann and its RIO Lieutenant Dave Venlet in “Fast Eagle 102” wit Lieutenant Larry “Music” Muczynski and its RIO Lieutenant James Anderson in “Fast Eagle 107” detected a pair of Su-22 Fitter approaching the two US fighters with their AN/AWG-9 radars.

Two years after these facts, Lt. “Music” Muczynski released the account of the dogfight for Bert kinzey Detail & Scale F-14A & B Tomcat book, so we can read its explanation for better understand how the engagement was won by the Tomcatters:

We arrived down there and went into an orbit pattern on CAP station. The day before, this station had only one intercept, so we were not real happy about being sent down there. In fact we were trying to think of ways to get off of that station and go someplace else. What we had determined was that once we got down to what we call our combat fuel load, we would call for relief on station, go back and hit the tanker, and then go to another station”.  

After forty-five minutes on station “Music” said that “We turned south one more time, and Dave Venlet, Commander Kleemann’s radar officer, picked up a target coming out of the airfield we were watching in Libya. Shortly thereafter, my radar officer, Jim Anderson, picked up the same target. It immediately became obvious that they were coming towards us, because they were heading right at us and climbed to 20,000 feet which was our altitude. They accelerated up to 540 knots. Commander Kleemann was flying lead, and I was flying wingman on his three o’ clock position, about a mile or two out so it was easy to see him. […] As we closed on the Libyans […] it became obvious that they had  good GCI (Ground Control Intercept), in that every time we would take a cut, they would take a cut to neutralize what we had done.”

At this point it became clear that it was impossible for the two Tomcats to gain an initial advantage on the two Fitters and the F-14s went into zone five afterburner (which was the maximum afterburner thrust setting for TF-30 engine) accelerating up to 500 knots.

As recalled by Muczynski “When Commander Kleemann was 1,000 feet in front of them and about 500 feet above them, he rolled his left wing to pass directly above the section so he could get visual ID on them. At that time, the left side of the lead Libyan aircraft lit up with a big flame as the missile motor ignited. I was on that side, so it was very obvious to me with a tremendous orange flash and smoke trail coming off the plane and going under Commander Kleemann’s plane. It then did sort of a banana up toward my plane, but it was also immediately obvious that neither one of us  was going to get hit by the missile, so it didn’t bother either of us.”


Since the Tomcats had been fired at, both Su-22s were immediately declared hostile by the American crews and the two F-14s could now engage the bandits.

“Music” explained that “Commander Kleemann initially had also gone after the leader, but when he saw me closing on him, he reversed his turn back toward the wingman. […] Commander Kleemann got behind the wingman very quickly, but being early in the morning the sun was low on the horizon. The wingman […] happened to fly across the sun as he was making his hard starboard turn. So Commander Kleemann just waited on his shot for the guy to clear the sun. […] As the wingman cleared the sun, Commander Kleemann was about forty degrees off the guy’s tail, at about three-quarters of a mile. He fired an AIM-9L off of station 1A (left glove pylon, shoulder station). The missile pulled lead, then did a ninety degree reversal and hit the aircraft in the tail. […] The aircraft started to roll, the drag chute deployed and the guy immediately ejected. He got a good chute and started down.”

After the wingman it was now the turn of the lead Fitter to face the other Tomcat, this time driven by “Music” himself who recalled “The leader, whom I had gone after, had completed his climbing turn, and was heading straight away north-northwest. He started a slight right hand reversal, but I had obtained a good firing position behind him. I armed up my AIM-9L, and also fired from station 1A. The Sidewinder went right up the guy’s tailpipe and blew off everything from the wing roots rearward in a tremendous fireball. Since I was only one-half mile at the guy’s dead six , the thing that scared me the most was that I would shoot myself down because of the FOD going down the engines. I did a 6 g pull-up, straight into the vertical, and when I cleared the debris pattern, I rolled inverted. I looked down and could see everything from the wings forward spinning on its way down and the plane on fire. After about two turns , I saw the pilot eject from the aircraft, but we did not see him get a good parachute.”

Muczynski ended his account talking about the training and how much it is important in the modern air combat “One thing I would like to say is that I feel that anybody in my squadron could do the same thing that I did. It was simply me being in the right place at the right time with the right results. I am sure that Dave, the Skipper (Commander Kleeman), and Jim Anderson all feel the same way. We are all trained the same, we all do the same flying, we all fly the same aircraft. […] None are any better than the others, and I think the maintenance in VF-41 is Fantastic.”

The two crews returned safely to the Nimitz, while the Libyans began a search and rescue mission to recover their pilots.

One hour later two Foxbats headed at Mach 1.5  towards the carriers, but as the F-14s were launched to intercept them and lit the MiG-25s with their AN/AWG-9 radars, the Libyan fighters turned away and they did not come back.

Anyway, the dogfight between the Tomcats and Fitters marked the first use in combat of the F-14 and it was the first air-to-air combat between swing wings fighters.

And one more thing is remarkable. The time you have spent reading this article is much more than how long the dogfight lasted: no more than 45 seconds from when Libyans shot the missile to the downing of the second Fitter.

David Cenciotti has contributed to this post


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