The three 493rd FS “Grim Reaper” pilots that shot down the Fulcrums were Lt Col Cesar “Rico” Rodriguez, Capt Mike “Dozer” Shower and Capt Jeff “Claw” Hwang.
Taken after the end of Operation Noble Anvil (the name given to the US portion of Operation Allied Force, OAF), the interesting photos in this post show F-15Cs from the 493rd FS/48th FW, based at RAF Lakenheath, England, featuring ‘weird’ kill markings for the MiG Kills scored during the conflict.
As we have explained in an extensive piece (click here to read the article) the 493rd FS claimed four Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Air Force (FRYAF) MiG-29s destroyed during the brief campaign.
The three “Grim Reapers” that shot down the Fulcrums were Lt Col Cesar “Rico” Rodriguez (who scored the first kill on Mar. 24, 1999 in F-15C 86-0169), Capt Mike “Dozer” Shower (who scored the second kill on Mar. 24 in F-15C 86-0159) and Capt Jeff “Claw” Hwang (who scored the final two kills on Mar. 26 in F-15C 86-0156). ‘Boomer’ McMurry, who was Hwang wingman during the engagement, fired an AIM-120 to one of the of the two MiG-29s Hwang was engaging but it was later determined that McMurry’s AIMRAAM had failed to hit its target. Hwang’s near simultaneous multi-bogey AIM-120 engagement in fact had brought down both Fulcrums.
As you can see by looking at the photos in this post, the weird kill markings appeared on both F-15C 86-0169 and F-15C 84-014.
84-014 was Rico’s assigned jet. However, he was flying 86-0169 when he scored the kill as Rico himself confirmed to The Aviation Geek Club: ‘0169 or as I called her the LOVE MACHINE was the jet I flew on night one and scored the first kill of OAF.’
But what about the weird kill markings?
‘Rico’s assigned jet carried a kill flag… Representing no known country… For a while after the Serbs packed it in,’ Scott Brown, who made the decals of the OAF F-15C MiG Killers and runs Bullseye Model Aviation and Wall Pilot Facebook pages, explained to The Aviation Geek Club. ‘This represents “Boomer” McMurry’s denied kill. Both he and Hwang shot at the same aircraft. McMurry was initially awarded the kill, so 014’s crew chief applied what he thought was a Serb flag. Remember, at the time, Google wasn’t really a thing, so it was hard to just look up what a Serb flag looked like. Eventually, it was determined that Hwang killed both MiGs and McMurry’s Slammer went through the debris and fire where the Fulcrum used to be…’
‘The crew names were removed after [F-117] Vega 31 was shot down, but on the night of the MiG kills, Rodriguez’s name was on it. The Iraqi flag represents John Doneski’s kill of a Fitter with the 53rd TFS during Desert Storm. Rico chose it as his assigned jet because the tail number was close to his double kill jet from Desert Storm 85-0114.’
During OAF, NATO faced a Yugoslav air force that included 16 MiG-29 and 80 MiG-21 fighters plus 28 J-22 and 70 G-4M attack airplanes. Serbian air defenses included more than 800 man-portable SA-7, SA14, and SA-16 surface-to-air missiles and 130 other low-altitude anti-aircraft missiles. Other larger and longer range missiles included four SA-2s, 16 SA-3s, and more than 80 SA-6s.
Besides the four MiG-29 kills scored by USAF F-15Cs, another Fulcrum was shot down by Dutch F-16 pilot (who actually scored the third MiG kill of the war) on Mar. 24. NATO had shot down five of the best Yugoslavian fighters in the first three days of the conflict, with no friendly aircraft losses.
Photo credit: Scott Brown, Unknown and U.S. Air Force