Losses and Aviation Safety

[Updated] This US Navy F-14A Tomcat was damaged over Beirut in 1983 (but not by Syrian AAA or SAMs)

The interesting photo in this post features a damaged F-14A Tomcat from VF-11 (modex AE103) embarked aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), returning from a mission over Beirut, in 1983.

The interesting photo in this post features a damaged F-14A from VF-11 (modex AE103) embarked aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), returning from a mission over Beirut, in 1983.

As the image clearly shows most of the right stabilator is missing. However, it wasn’t shot away by Syrian anti aircraft artillery (AAA) or surface to air missiles (SAMs).

Robert (Bob) Fiegl, former Maintenance-Material Control Officer for F-14 Tomcat, explained to me: ‘I happened to be in JFK’S CIC on unrelated business (had to use the Sat phone) when a TARPS aircraft. from VF-31 escorted by a Red Ripper from VF-11 went over Lebanon and took all kinds of fire. The admiral and the JFK Ops O were seated in the ‘Big Guy’ chairs. I’ll never forget the audio. Tense! Neither aircraft. sustained damage that mission. Immediately after that, the admiral gave the command to our surface ships which were in close to shore to commence fire on the AAA and SAM positions. Moving on, I had the opportunity to see the Ripper aircraft. pictured above up close…. hands on, actually nobody saw any signs of damage from hostile fire. [If my memory is good here] It was determined to be material failure. It was ugly.’

‘In Nov. ’83 there were 2 US carriers (and a French carrier) in the east Med near Lebanon. The US lost 2 F-14s (non-combat) and an A-6 (combat) from JFK and 1 A-7 from Indy (combat).’

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-14D Tomcat VF-31 Tomcatters AJ100 & AJ101, Last Cruise – 2006

In October 1983 John F. Kennedy was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon from her planned Indian Ocean deployment, after the Beirut barracks bombing killed 241 US military personnel taking part in the Multinational Force in Lebanon, and spent the rest of that year and early 1984 patrolling the region. As previously reported, on Dec. 4, 1983 ten A-6 aircraft from Kennedy along with A-6 and A-7 aircraft from USS Independence took part in a bombing raid over Beirut, in response to two US F-14 aircraft being fired upon the previous day. The Navy lost two aircraft during the raid: an A-7E from Independence and an A-6E from John F. Kennedy were shot down by SAMs. The A-7E pilot was picked up by a fishing boat, but the A-6E pilot Lt. Mark Lange died after ejecting and the B/N Lt. Robert “Bobby” Goodman was taken prisoner and released on Jan. 3, 1984.

Update: Marc Wolff, owner of the Facebook Group Where have all the Tomcats gone, brought to The Aviation Geek Club attention the comment appeared on his group released by Larry J Collier who was MCPO Aircraft Maintenance with the US Navy at the time of the incident: ‘It was corrosion fwd of the aft spar and below the boron skin. New stab had been on order and the aircraft was going SPINTAC so everyone wanted the plane to fly so CAG didn’t have to report it. So it was scheduled on a three plane go to fly but only around the ship while the other birds did a Tarps mission. As things will happen the best plans of mice and men sometimes go a rye, the escort aircraft suffered a maintenance issue and Ripper 03 provided escort. Due to the rigorous clearing maneuvers to watch the ground below the tarps bird the stab failed. The inboard flaps CB was pulled to raise the flaps so that increased airflow over the damaged stab. Big debate over if it was hit by small arms fire or corrosion. Admiral finally asked the skipper why, if he thought it was combat damage, why was he asking for a engineering investigation. Stab went over the side that afternoon. We did not lose the aircraft. OK3 wire recovery. Plane flew a few days later.’

Stay tuned for additional updates if further details on this story had to come to light!

Check out Helion & Company website for books featuring interesting stories written by The Aviation Geek Club contributor Tom Cooper.

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in the worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in Middle Eastern, African and Asian air forces. As well as authoring and co-authoring 560 books and over 1,000 articles, he has co-authored the Arab MiGs book series – a six-volume, in-depth analysis of the Arab air forces at war with Israel, in the 1955–73 period. Cooper has been working as editor of the five @War series since 2017. tom@acig.info

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