The F-15 pilot took evasive action but was unable to completely avoid the attack. He was not injured, but his jet fighter suffered a significant amount of damage.
Taken on Mar. 19, 1990 the unusual photo in this post was brought to my attention by Barry Galloway, a reader of The Aviation Geek Club, and features a U.S. Air Force (USAF) Elmendorf Air Force Base (AFB) F-15 Eagle accidentally hit by an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile fired from another USAF F-15. As it can be seen by looking at the photo, the missile caused extensive damage to the tail section of the aircraft and moderate damage to the left wing and engine exhaust.
The F-15 pilot, Lt. Col. Jimmy L. Harris, said he was sure the accident was going to be counted as a Class A. He was almost right.
The cost of repairing the aircraft was fixed at $992,058, or $7,942 short of being a Class A.
However, Maj. Gen. Francis C. Gideon Jr., then commander of the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., said he could not determine if the service calculated the cost of the F-15 tail in the repair cost.
The pilot who ‘unintentionally’ fired the missile realized what was happening moments after he released the heat-seeking Sidewinder at Harris and urgently radioed him, then Sgt. David Haulbrook then said.
Harris, in the second F-15, took evasive action but was unable to completely avoid the attack. He was not injured, but his jet fighter suffered a significant amount of damage.
‘It took real good flying to get it back,’ Haulbrook said.
The accident took place on the first day of the Arctic Cover air war game exercises 150 miles west of Anchorage over the Stony military operations area. The exercise was cancelled after the mishap.
‘It’s not normal procedure to call off an exercise, but we did it in the interest of safety,’ Haulbrook said.
“Ed,” a former USAF weapon loader recalled on the authoritative website F-16.net “I was stationed at Elmendorf AFB in 1991, I walked into the hanger and saw this damaged F-15. I was told it was shot at by an AIM-9 missile and that the aircrew flew the jet back.
‘I was a weapons loader in the Air Force and I talked to a lot of people first-hand about what happened. I made TSgt and became the weapons expeditor six months after be assigned to the 54th FS. I later made MSgt and was the Assist NCOIC. I retired in 1997.
‘The weapons crew chief (Jeff Lang) that loaded the missile told me that there was a training AIM-9 and a live AIM-9 on the jet. The live AIM-9 was being flown to King Salmon (alert post). He said he wrote in the aircraft forms that there was a live missile and a training missile on the jet, he also told the pilot himself. The crew chief for the jet also to the pilot and the people at EOR also told the pilot.
‘After the investigation, the weapons crew was blamed for everything. The F-15 weapons T.O. also failed to say that you can’t load a training missile and a live missile on the same aircraft. I spent 15 years on the F-4C/E/G and the T.O. stated this in the general safety requirements that you couldn’t do this.
‘The aircrews for both F-15’s were cleared of any wrong doing and the pilot that fired the missile was promoted later on to Capt. Life as a weapons load was hell, you had to write everything in the aircraft forms. What you had loaded, what station, live or inert.
‘Jeff Lang was a good crew chief and one of my go to guys. We went on a TDY to Luke AFB and Jeff got sick and a few weeks later died of a brain aneurysm. His wife was pregnant and had a baby boy after Jeff had passed away. RIP my friend.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force