F-14 Tomcat

Legendary F-14 pilot Joe “Hoser” Satrapa tells the story of the gun kill on an F-15 that almost sold Tomcats to Japan

Joe “Hoser” Satrapa

No dissertation on present-day section tactics, or on naval aviation in general, could be considered complete without a brace of Joe “Hoser” Satrapa stories.

Hoser was a Naval Aviation legend: as a kid he was good with a rifle, then when flying the F-8 Crusader his instructor saw how he just ‘hosed’ or sprayed bullets at the towed target and proclaimed, “We’ve got a hoser, here.” As usual, in the fighter community, the nickname stuck.

By the time Hoser was in the F-14 Tomcat community he was the stuff of legend.


Joe “Hoser” Satrapa

As told by David ‘Hey Joe’ Parsons and Mads Bangsø in their book Half Century, Baby!, transitioning to the F-14 Tomcat while at VX-4, he had demonstrated his air-to-air skills so convincingly to VX-4 ACM master in residence resulting in assignment to the AIMVAL-ACEVAL Joint Test & Evaluation Team at Nellis AFB as the Officer-in-Charge (OinC) of the Tomcat contingent. By 1976, Hoser had his own detachment operating brand-new Tomcats in special Heater-Ferris marking and equipped with VTAS Helmet Mounted Cueing.

As part of the Blue Force comprising F-15 Eagles and F-14 Tomcats, they faced a Red Force of F-5E Tiger Il aggressors flown by experienced USAF and USN pilots. The engagements were epic with intense competition for the best kill ratio.

Japan considering buying F-14 Tomcats instead of F-15 Eagles

There were strict orders for the Tomcats and Eagles in the Blue Force not to engage each other – a situation which had yet to occur due to the relative newness of both aircraft in operational units. Hoser, however, found a willing F-15 training unit not part of the Blue Force and challenged them to an aerial duel. The result was captured on dramatic gun camera footage [featured in the picture below] with Hoser gunning his opponent dramatically with the pipper centred on the helmet of the pilot in the cockpit of the F-15 Eagle.

Original image from Hoser Tomcat gun camera. Because of this F-15 gun kill Japan considered buying the F-14 (Image via David Parsons).

The Air Force was furious when the word got out due to a pending sale of the F-15 to the Japanese and no less than a general arrived to confiscate the film and berated Hoser for threatened the important sale. However, a print had already been made and the photograph became legendary.

F-14 Vs F-15

In Hoser’s own words, here is his recollection:

‘Now, this is no ****! Towards the end of the ACE/AIMEVAL, things had heated up between the Eagle and Turkey pilots. At the Nellis O’Club many innuendoes and challenges had been thrown out as a result of the high profile dog fights between the Tomcat/Eagle Blue Force and the F-5Es. The Blue Force F-15 drivers were threatened with a court martial, flying rubber dog **** outta Hong Kong and having their birthday taken away if they even thought about locking horns with ACEVAL Tomcats.

‘When the test sorties were finally over, a couple of F-15 instructors in the 415th training squadron took the bait. ‘Turk’ Pentecost and I were a section. ‘Turk’ was not nearly as cocky, arrogant and boisterous as D-hose, but just as aggressive, smart, devious and just as good a stick. We briefed a very wide hook, an altitude split of 10,000ft and a radar sort at 25nm by Bill ‘Hill Billy’ Hill and ‘Fearless’ Frank Schumacher. All pre-merge heat and radar missiles didn’t count. It was GUNS only at the merge. The wide hook enabled Turk and D-hose to split the fight into (2)1v1’s, with one Turkey high, one low and lots of lateral separation.

F-14 Tomcats gun kill both F-15 Eagles

Because of the gun kill scored by Joe “Hoser” Satrapa on an F-15, Japan considered buying the F-14 Tomcat instead of the Eagle

‘As Hill Billy and D-Hose closed for a 250ft, guns kill on their Eagle, the comm went like this:

‘D-hose: “Where are you Turk?”

‘Fearless: “Right above you Hoser”

‘D-hose: “We got two cons! Who’s out front?”

‘Turk (mildly offended): “Who do ya think?”

‘Both Eagles were gunned, “knock it off” was called, and he Tomcats RTB’d with a 500 knot, 6.5g, half second break at Nellis… cuz that was our salute and tribute to our fine VX-4 maintenance personnel.

The gun kill on an F-15 Eagle that almost sold F-14 Tomcats to Japan

‘Knowing the gun camera film would be destroyed by the Nellis photo lab, it was covertly sent to a secret contact at Grumman for processing.”Bout a month later, December 6, the door slams open and General Knight, with two of his staff, doggie wobble heads, entered demanding to know “who and where are Hoser and Turk?” Falcon (JW Taylor), OinC, stepped up asking if he could be of assistance. The general responds with, “Your fighter jocks have no idea how their playful antics affect important political decisions!” Well, as General Knight proceeded to explain, Japan had contracted for 21 F-15s, but an article in Aviation Week had talked about the F-14 being superior to the Eagle. With gun camera film to prove it; Japan was considering buying F-14s instead.

‘The General told JW he wanted ALL copies of the gun camera film, the TVSU/VCR tapes, and audio recordings on his desk by 0900 the next day. He was obviously pissed when he arrived, but as a result of the humility and contrition displayed by Turk and D-hose, he was satisfied that his mission was accomplished. Of course, D-hose and Turk didn’t want to embarrass the F-15 community, and they never mentioned the incident again… UNTIL NOW! A few months later at a VX-4 party at JW’s, D-hose sez, “Hey Falcon, I know ya got a copy of that 16mm gun film, how ’bout it?” JW bugs for a few and returns with film I have in my hand right now.

This print is available from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Half Century, Baby! F-14 Tomcat History Flight

Hoser not only scored the gun kill that almost sold the F-14 to Japan but he also achieved the highest kill ratio during AIMVAL-ACEVAL

‘PS: The 8″x 10″ single frame of the 16mm gun film on my bulkhead in my ‘ war room’ shows a F-15 thru a F-14 HUD, radar lock, at 250ft Vc zero, pipper on the pilot’s helmet, gun selected, No X over the ‘G’–master arm on-half detent on trigger depressed (which activates gun camera and opens the gun gas purge doors), with… zero rounds remaining… good thing!’

AIMVAL-ACEVAL ran from 1976-77 and Hoser achieved the highest kill ratio of the Blue Force F-14s and F-15s, thereby cementing his legendary prowess in air-to-air regardless of aircraft flown.

Honouring Hoser after his passing away

Hoser succumbed to illness at the age of 78 in March 2019. His career-long friend, protégé, hunting companion and comrade Snort Snodgrass was by his side. Hoser asked that there be no formal memorial service so Snort agreed to spread his ashes via an A-4 Skyhawk by placing them in the speed brakes. That did not stop his former comrades from gathering at NAS Oceana to conduct a Wake in his honour; notably, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman was in attendance as were his closest of friends.

Half Century, Baby! is published by Mortons Books and is available to order here and here.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Department of Defense

This Model is Available from AirModels! CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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