How the Navy’s F-14 fighter air-to-air victory was a headache for the Pentagon


Navy F-14 takes off aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy

US Navy F-14 takes off from USS John F. Kennedy in the Red Sea on January 25, 1991.AP photo

  • In January 1989, two US Navy F-14s collided with the Libyan MiG-23 over the Mediterranean Sea.

  • The F-14 was one of the clashes between the US and Libyan forces in the 1980s, shooting down both MiGs.

  • The victory of air-to-air missiles was a headache for the Pentagon, and the Pentagon had to defend its decision to fire at the Libyan.

On January 4, 1989, the US Navy aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy was sailing the Mediterranean with multiple aircraft from the carrier’s air for training exercises and patrol missions.

At 11:55 am, one of these planes, the E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft, detected two Libyan Air Force MiG-23s taking off from an air base in northeastern Libya and heading for an aircraft carrier. did.

Two nearby F-14 Tomcats were ordered to intercept the MiG. Subsequent aerial battles were a victory for Tomcat, but soon became a headache for the Pentagon.

Mediterranean tensions

Libyan corvette burning in the Gulf of Sidra

Libya’s Corvette is burning in the Gulf of Sidra on March 24, 1986, after being attacked by a US Navy A-6E intruder attack aircraft.U.S. Navy

By the late 1980s, relations between the United States and Libya had deteriorated. This was partly due to territorial disputes in the Mediterranean.

In 1973, Libyan dictator Mu’ammar Al-Kadafi claimed that almost all of the Gulf of Sidra was territorial waters, and his “Death line“We will receive a military response.

The United States categorically rejected the declaration and, contrary to Kadafi’s allegations, used warships and aircraft to practice freedom of navigation. As a result, there were many interceptions and standoffs in the airspace and waters around Libya, some of which became violent.

1981, U.S. Navy carrier-based aircraft shoot down Two Libyan Su-22 fighter-bombers in the Gulf of Sidra. March 1986, Collision with the U.S. Navy Dozens of Libyan troops were killed and several Libyan ships were sunk or damaged.That April, the United States bombing Dozens of Libyan targets, including Kadafi’s residence, in retaliation for Libyan sponsorship Terrorist attack In Berlin.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi continued to support terrorist groups with training, equipment and funding. The situation became even more tense when the United States accused Libya of attempting to build a chemical weapons plant in 1988.

‘Good kill! Good kill! “

Navy F-14 Tomcat takes off from aircraft carrier USS Forrestal

The US Navy’s F-14 will take off from the USS Forrestal as it sails near Malta in December 1989.Dirkhalstead / Getty Images

USS John F. Kennedy was sailing to Haifa for a scheduled port call in the midst of these tensions, but the carrier was not in the Gulf of Sidra. It was actually about 120 miles north, close to Crete.

Anyway, two Libyan MiG-23s were dispatched from Albunba Airfield near Tobruk and flew towards their general location.

Two Navy F-14s, Callsign Gypsy 207 and Gypsy 202, tasked with intercepting them, arrived within radar tracking range within minutes. Immediately four aircraft approached each other about 70 miles from Tobruk.

The F-14 flew at high speed, made a series of turns and lowered its altitude. The Libyans matched these turns and even accelerated to make sure they were head-on to Tomcat.

MiG-23 fighter at Libyan base

On November 1, 2011, a Soviet-era MiG-23 fighter launched a jet at a base in Wadan, a town in southern Libya.Philippe Desmaz via Getty Images / AFP

When the MiG approached, Americans were worried that they might be carrying a Soviet AA-7 Apex missile with a range of 12 miles. Kennedy’s aerial warfare commander warned the pilot that the MiG might be preparing for an attack and gave permission to fire if the aircraft felt hostile.

Since Tomcat was located under the MiG, it was able to take advantage of the messiness of the ocean to confuse the radar. this is, Training for the secretly acquired MiG-23 Back in the United States — and made five more turns in line with their Libyan enemies.

Now less than 20 miles from Libyan jets, Americans have armed their weapons. Naval flight officer on Gypsy 207, Cmdr at 13 miles. Leo Enwright fired the AIM-7 Sparrow on one of the MiGs without telling pilot Cmdr. Joseph Connelly, in advance — but the missile could not be tracked. Enlight launched a second missile at 10 miles, which also failed.

After that, two F-14s made a defense split. Gypsy 207 turned left and Gypsy 202 turned right. MiG turned around and headed straight for Gypsy 202. Major, Naval Flight Officer of Gypsy 202. Stephen Collins fired an AIM-7 attacking one of the MiGs within a range of approximately 5 miles.

Connelly observed the murder and said on the radio, “Good hit, good hit!”

The Gypsy 207 was then located behind the other MiGs and fired the AIM-9 Sidewinder, which defeated Libyan fighters after struggling to acquire rock and colorful languages.

“Good kill! Good kill!” Connelly sent. Lieutenant Herman Cook III, a pilot of Gypsy 202, replied, “OK, good kill.”

Before returning to the airline, both F-14s reported seeing Libyan pilots launch and deploy parachutes.

Headache at home

Pentagon spokesman Dan Howard

Dan Howard, Chief Spokesman for the Pentagon, describes maneuvering the F-14 and MIG-23 the day after the Dogfight on January 5, 1989.Betman / Getty Images

Despite the victory, the shooting down was a bit of a headache for the Pentagon and the Reagan administration.

After the incident, Libya Claim The Americans shot down two unarmed reconnaissance planes. Gaddafi argued that it was “official US terrorism” and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn US actions.

Other Arab officials, including Yasser Arafat, said the case would adversely affect Arab-American relations and reverse the Middle East peace process.

The Pentagon has repeatedly defended the actions of the F-14 crew, saying the MiG has shown “clear hostility” and that it was justified for US jets to fire. “If anything, they fired too late,” said Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci.

US Navy also released Footage From one of the F-14s, it shows that at least one MiG is armed with two AA-7 Apex missiles and two AA-8Aphid missiles. A Pentagon spokesman said the video was blurry, according to media reports at the time, but said the video proved that Libya’s allegations that the United States had shot down a reconnaissance plane were false.

U.S. Navy F-14 with MiG-23 silhouette after shooting down

The MiG-23 silhouette of the US Navy F-14A seen in a video created after the Battle on January 4, 1989.U.S. Navy

The Pentagon has confirmed that MiG will never turn on the onboard radar needed to guide Apex missiles at US jets.

Rep. Les Aspin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives, Said later According to a Pentagon secret briefing and discussions with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other government officials, MiG’s turn was too short to be considered hostile.

Aspin and Navy aviators interviewed at the time Also raised a question About the Pentagon’s characterization of the F-14’s actions as an “avoidance” strategy. Pilots said they appeared to be a standard interception operation.

However, Aspin said the F-14’s actions were justified given the speed at which the MiG approached and the record that the Libyans first fired in previous engagements.

The mission of the Libyan pilot was unknown after the incident and was unknown, Aspin said in March 1989. Libyan pilots were seen jumping into the sea and parachuting down, but it is not known if they have recovered.

Read the original article Business insider