Designed in 1968 to take the place of the controversial F-111B, then under development for the Navy’s carrier fighter inventory, the F-14A used the P&W TF30 engines and AWG-9 system and carried the six Phoenix missiles that had been intended for the F-111B. A completely new fighter system was designed around these with emphasis on close-in fighting “claws” along with standoff missile fighting. From its first flight on Dec. 21, 1970, the F-14A has come through five years of development, evaluation, squadron training and initial carrier deployments to become the carrier air wings’ most potent fighter.
Overall, the F-14 Tomcat was without equal among Cold War’s Free World fighters. Six long-range AIM-54A Phoenix missiles could be guided against six separate threat aircraft at long range by the F-14’s AWG-9 weapons control system. For medium-range combat, Sparrow missiles were carried; Sidewinders and a 20mm were available for dogfighting.
In the latter role, the Tomcat’s variable-sweep wings gave the F-14 a combat maneuvering capability that could not have been achieved with a “standard” fixed planform wing, as proved by Joe “Hoser” Satrapa, a legendary Naval Aviator, the first time he flew the Tomcat in a mock dogfight against two USAF F-15 Eagles.
According to George Hall’s Top Gun – The Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, no dissertation on present-day section tactics, or on naval aviation in general, could be considered complete without a brace of Hoser stories. In the micro world of perhaps 400 Tomcat pilots, a few legendary gonzo maniacs bubbled to the surface. Joe “Hoser” Satrapa was already famous in Vietnam as a young and utterly fearless F-8 pilot who regularly carried a good forty pounds of lethal ordnance- leaning toward small automatic weapons and hand grenades- in case he was suddenly compelled to leave his aircraft and carry the battle directly to the little bad guys in the jungle.
Guns were Hoser’s game in the air; he flew the four-gun Crusader – which many Navy pilots still regard as the [deleted] machine of all time- in Southeast Asia, and he’d never been forced to rely totally on missiles like his Navy Phantom cohorts. After negotiations that would shame the pro football draft, Hoser was dragooned back into the Tomcat front seat as a RAG guns instructor. This, after personal entreaties from the highest levels up and including Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, himself a Reserve naval aviator.
Many active pilots and RIOs well remember Hoser’s delivery of manic harangues to fuzzy-cheeked newcomers from the RAG. In his patented Yosemite Sam voice he would whip the lads, and invariably himself, into a lethal frenzy: “Pull on the pole till the rivets pop and the RIO pukes! No kill like a guns kill! A Lima up the tailpipe is too good for any Gomer! Close with the miserable Commie [deleted] and put a few rounds of twenty-twenty-mike-mike through his canopy! If he hits the silk, gun his ass while he swings!” Hoser would then pace the corridor, bumping into hapless petty officers, muttering oaths, trying to re-align his internal INS.
Hoser also knew a thing or two about the element of surprise. During the much-maligned AIMVAL-ACEVAL fighter trials of a decade ago, Hoser was put in a 1 V 1 against a Navy Aggressor flying an F-5. As the two combatants sat side-by-side on the Nellis runway, awaiting tower clearance for a second takeoff, Hoser looked over at his opponent, reached his hand up over the control panel, and mimicked the cocking of machine guns in a World War I Spad. A thumbs up came from the other cockpit- guns it would be, the proverbial knife fight in a phone booth, forget the missiles. Both jets blasted off.
In the area, the fighters set up twenty miles apart for a head-on intercept under ground control. Seven miles from the merge, with closure well over 1000 knots, Hoser called “Fox One” – Sparrow missile away, no chance of a miss. As they flashed past each other, the furious F-5 driver radioed, “What the hell was that all about?” “Sorry.” said Hoser, “lost my head. Let’s set up again. Guns only, I promise.”
Remember Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football? Again the two fighters streaked towards the pass, again at seven miles Hoser called “Fox One.” The Aggressor was apoplectic; he was also coming up on bingo fuel state, a common situation in the short-legged F-5.
Hoser was first back to the club bar, nursing an end-of-the-day cold one as the flushed Aggressor stomped in. “Hoser, what the hell happened to credibility?” fumed the F-5 jock. Said Hoser, with accompanying thumb gestures, “Credibility is DOWN, kill ratio is UP!” It’s a popular Top Gun story, and it’s moral isn’t lost on students or teachers. From 1 V 1 to forty-plane furball, expect anything. But never expect your enemy to be a sweet guy.”
As explained by Alvin Towley in his book Fly Navy: Discovering the Extraordinary People and Enduring Spirit of Naval Aviation, on another occasion, Hoser was set to duel two versus two with a pair of U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-15 Eagles. On the tarmac, Hoser’s wingman had mechanical trouble and couldn’t fly, but Hoser decided to fly anyway and turn the situation to his advantage. Hoser and his Tomcat NFO (a backseat Radar Intercept Officer, or RIO, as they were known in the F-14 community) took off. They began impersonating two airplanes on the radio. The F-15 Eagles, who expected two adversaries, became distracted as they searched for the “other” Navy jet on their radar screens. Hoser quickly bagged two gun kills, maneuvering through missile ranges until he was close enough to trigger his 20 mm cannon. In round two, he flat outmaneuvered the air force pilots for two more gun kills. And as he always said, “There’s no kill like a guns kill.”
To add a little more insult to his adversaries’ loss, Lt. Commander Satrapa impersonated a junior grade lieutenant during the mission debrief, which was done over telephone. The air force pilots thought they’d been whipped by a student pilot.
On Mar. 17, 2019 former F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) David “Hey Joe” Parsons announced on Facebook that Joe “Hoser” Satrapa, a Naval Aviation legend, passed “after a Simple, Honest and Brave Life.”
Click here to read the complete story of Joe “Hoser” Satrapa’s famous F-15 kills.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy
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