• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Undefeated Eagle: Fact or Fiction? The story behind rumors of F-15 jet fighters shot down in air-to-air combat

Have any F-15 Eagle jet fighters been lost in air-to-air combat? Rumors are that some have.

Designed as a highly maneuverable all-weather tactical fighter, the F-15 Eagle made its first appearance in July 1972. The first Eagle (F-15B) was delivered in November 1974. In January 1976, the first Eagle for a combat squadron was delivered.

For more than 40 years, the iconic F-15 Eagle has defended the skies with a record of success unparalleled in aviation history.

A claim confirmed by the fact that the Eagle has an unrivaled air-to-air kill ratio of 104 to 0.

But have F-15 Eagles been lost in air-to-air combat? According to the book F-15 Eagle by Bertie Simmonds, rumors say that some did.

It seems that most of the claims cannot be substantiated and – given the public relations it would generate – if any of them were shot down, we would surely have proof. Why? Consider the shooting down of Lt. Col. Dale Zelko’s Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk on March 27, 1999. Yugoslavia’s 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade, commanded by Col. Zoltan Dani, managed to do what many thought was impossible: shoot down a stealth fighter bomber. When they pulled off the feat, the press generated by the resulting display of the wreckage was considerable. If there were remains of an F-15 Eagle to be found following an air-to-air engagement, surely we would have seen it?

The first such complaint against an F-15 comes unsurprisingly from the theater of conflict where the Eagle itself claimed its first kill: the Middle East. It was claimed in 1978 that an Iraqi MiG-23 shot down an Eagle. A Flogger from 39 Squadron was thought to have shot down an IAF F-15 in Iraqi airspace, but despite claims made repeatedly over the ensuing decade, no evidence or wreckage remains. was produced.

In 1981, another alleged Eagle withdrawal was committed in a series of similar ambushes. In February of that year, the story goes that a pair of Israeli F-15 Eagles ambushed a pair of Syrian-piloted MiG-25s and shot one down. A few months later, it is alleged that the Syrians repaid the favor. In June 1981, they and Soviet sources claimed that SAF MiG-25Ps staged their own ambush, shooting down an IAF Eagle beyond visual range with ripple semi-active radar-guided medium-range missiles.

Again, no evidence was produced at the time. Moreover, the Syrians apparently did not even fly MiG-25Ps at the time. But the plot thickens: the Foxbat that the Israelis shot down in February 1981 was a MiG-25R reconnaissance machine, flying over Lebanon as one, while the Syrians claimed that the MiG-25P was one when it shot down the Eagle in response. . The Syrian version was only a MiG-25PD (equipped with an infrared search and tracking system, as well as chaff / flare dispensers and a powerful Smerch A2 radar, and some electronic countermeasures equipment ) played the role of high-flying reconnaissance. MiG-25 heading towards Beirut. Suddenly, two four-ship IAF Eagles came to intercept. The story then goes that the lone MiG-25PD enclosed its Smerch A2 radar and ricochet fired two AA-6 Acrid/R-40 long-range missiles – possibly following Soviet protocol and launching the semi-active radar-guided version (R-40RD) after an infrared version (R-40TD).

Up to eight Cold War-era MiG-23 Flogger fighter jets will be restored to fly in the United States

Apparently the range was about 35 miles, which was well above that of the AIM-7F Sparrows that fitted the F-15s, but within the advertised range of the R-40 (31-50 miles). This raises the question of what order the Acrids were fired in. Normally, Soviet engagements would see the IR missile go first, so it wasn’t just following the SARH (semi-active radar homing) missile heat source. Again – according to Syrian sources – the IAF F-15 crashed into the sea, north of the coast of Tyre, Lebanon. The Israeli pilot apparently ejected from his injured Eagle. In the same fight, the IAF claimed to have shot down a MiG-25 Foxbat with an AIM-7.

A year later – in July 1982 – eight SAF MiG-21s faced a mixed formation of F-15s and IAI Kfirs over Beirut. The Syrians admitted losing four of their own, but they also claimed an F-15 Eagle. Again, despite alleged eyewitness accounts, no evidence has been given or wreckage found to confirm the murder.

Fast forward nine years to Desert Storm and this was the first chance for USAF F-15 Eagle fighters to take on Iraqi Air Force MiG-29s and MiG-25s. But first (once again) the Israelis were involved in another “alleged” encounter. The Iraqi Air Force claimed that on the eve of the Desert Storm – January 4, 1991 – a number of IAF aircraft intercepted a formation of Army F-15 Baz fighters Israeli Air Force and shot down one near their H-3 airbase in western Iraq. A retired high-ranking former Iraqi officer claimed the kill was valid and that the plane crashed with such force that only a few recognizable parts were found at the crash site. These were sent to Baghdad for investigation and apparently taken by US forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

World altitude record Fedotov MiG-25RB

The next alleged claim was on January 30, 1991, when two Iraqi Air Force MiG-25PDs were sent aloft to intercept what appeared to be a pair of USAF F-15Cs, which were on a combat air patrol between the Iraqi capital and the Iranian. border, in an effort to prevent Iraqi Air Force machines from flying into Iran. It is believed that – initially – the Iraqi GCI (ground controlled interception) sent the MiGs after a false radar return, against which one of the MiG-25s launched an R-40, but did not appear to hit a target .

The same pair of MiG-25s were then directed at another “pair” of USAF F-15Cs and an R-40RD fired 10 to 15 miles away. Around the same time, one of the F-15Cs ripple fired two AIM-7M Sparrows, which missed their target as the MiGs made a rapid left turn and headed north. Meanwhile, the Iraqis say they saw an F-15C go down and felt the R-40 caused enough damage to make the plane a confirmed “killer”.

The remaining Eagle is reported by the Iraqis to have fired no less than three more Sparrows, which failed, leaving the sole surviving F-15C to retreat south, to avoid the two Foxbats. The Iraqis then claimed that the MiG-25s had left the area and were heading at high speed towards the base, where they were nearly caught off guard by another pair of F-15Cs. The Iraqis say three AIM-7Ms were fired at the two MiGs, one of which hit the runway aft of one of the Foxbats as it completed its landing roll.

Subsequently, Iraqis tracking the targets, claim that one of the two F-15s from the previous engagement was seen to slow down and disappear from radar somewhere in Saudi Arabia, leading to a probable kill, which was upgraded to a full kill when (allegedly) the wreckage of the plane was seen by a smuggler in northern Saudi Arabia. According to US sources, no “albino” F-15C fighters were shot down during or near Desert Storm. The USAF lost two F-15E Strike Eagles: one on the night of January 17, 1991 and another two days later, but these were reportedly destroyed by Iraqi surface-to-air defense units. So what’s the closest we’ve seen to a destroyed F-15? In fact, the MiG-25/R-40 combination destroyed a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C in the early hours of January 17, piloted by Michael Scott ‘Spike’ Speicher – although US forces initially claimed that It was a surface-to-air missile that destroyed his Hornet and not an R-40D fired by Captain Zuhair Dawoud of the Iraqi Air Force’s 84th Squadron. Speicher was killed in the engagement, although it took many years before his remains were repatriated to the United States.

36th TFW F-15C Print
This print is available in multiple sizes at AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-15C Eagle 36th TFW, 22nd TFS, BT/79-051 / 1981

In what later became known as the firing on Turkey in the Beqaa Valley, around 100 Israeli jets clashed with the same number of Syrian planes in one of the biggest fighter battles ever. reaction never carried out.

During this battle, on June 9, 1982, a Syrian MiG-21 struck an F-15D Baz with an AA-8 Aphid (R-60) short-range infrared air combat missile. The Eagle was hit hard, but managed to limp back to base and was repaired.

Strangely, there was an F-15 defection. During Desert Shield – the build-up to Desert Storm – a Royal Saudi Air Force pilot defected to Sudan (then a country linked to Iraq) with his F-15C. In early November 1990, the pilot – reportedly unhappy at the prospect of fighting other Arabs – took off on a training mission only to set sail for Sudan.

Immediately after, it was rumored that the US military in the Middle East was warning of a rogue F-15C that could be used in the region, but instead it was reported that the pilot had been granted asylum. politics and that the plane had been returned to Saudi Arabia. Arabia in a matter of hours or even days. It has also been said that the Saudis have made a considerable “donation” of several million dollars to the Sudanese government to help in the rapid return of the Eagle.

F-15 Eagle is published by Mortons Books and can be ordered here.

Photo credit: US Air Force, CIA and Dmitriy Pichugin via Wikipedia

Model F-15
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.