‘On popular request’: what’s the story about ‘Iraqi Mi-24 shot down an Iranian F-4’ – and then using an AT-4 or AT-6 anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) to do so?
On Oct. 27, 1982, the Iraqi magazine ‘Baghdad Observer’ – a publication controlled by the government in Baghdad and issued for Western reporters – published a report with the title “The Day of the Helicopter Gunship”.
This contained a brief description of an air combat that should have taken place few days earlier, and in which one ‘Mi-24’ attack helicopter should have shot down an ‘Iranian F-4 Phantom‘. Accordingly, the clash in question happened ‘north of Eyn-e Khosh area’, and the Phantom was ‘destroyed by a next generation, long-range, AT-6 Spiral ATGM’, ‘fired by a Mi-24 helicopter specially prepared and brought to Iraq by the Soviets in order to test the AT-6 missile in the air-to-air mode’.
This claim was accepted at face value and widely published in different Western publications of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. This claim is still making circles even in East European press until this day. Specific Russian authors went as far as to declare it for ‘verified by Western intelligence sources’.
Actually, this was never the case: indeed, no such claim was ever verified. The most that has happened was for the article from Baghdad Observer to be re-published by the Washington-based Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), on the page E2 of its Communiqué No. 885, FBIS-MEA-82-209, on Oct. 28, 1982. Even if originally established by the CIA, FBIS was no ‘US intelligence’: rather a commercial company compiling reports from all possible foreign media sources and broadcasts, and re-distributing those to whoever was interested in the West.
Few notes about terminology:
- ‘AT-4 Spigot’ is the ASCC/NATO-codename for the Soviet-made 9K111 Fagot ATGM
- AT-6 Spiral’ is the ASCC/NATO-codename for the Soviet-made 9K114 Shturm ATGM
- Mi-24 is the well-known Soviet attack helicopter (or helicopter gunship). In Soviet service, it was equipped with AT-6s. However, back in the 1970s and 1980s neither was exported outside Europe.
Instead, the mass of foreign customers – including Iraq – have received the export variant designated Mi-25: this was armed with the much older 9M17 Fleyta (ASCC/NATO-codename ‘AT-2 Swatter’) ATGMs, and 57mm S-5K unguided rockets (fired from UB-16-57 or UB-32-57 pods). Indeed, Iraq has never got any AT-6s, either.
Ironically, realising that at least some of this is fantasy, some East European sources then changed the story and claimed the Mi-24 should have scored this kill using unguided rockets, or machine-guns. Yet others went as far as to explain the ‘Iraqi Mi-24’ should have been modified to fire AT-4 ATGMs (after all, AT-4s were exported to Iraq). However, all the ‘authors’ in question then claimed that this air combat has happened on Oct. 27, 1982 – the very day on which the original claim was published by the Baghdad Observer. From my point of view, this is completely discrediting any such source.
One way or the other: no Iranian F-4 (no matter what variant) is known to have been written off – no matter what reason – either on Oct. 27, or in the week before that. And none was ever shot down by any Mi-24/25s.
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Photo credit: Alex Beltyukov and Shahram Sharifi via Wikipedia