‘At about two miles I looked once again, but I was no longer thinking about taking a pre-merge shot. Instead, I planned to merge with the bogey just 50 ft off of its left wing. As I crossed its wing-line, I saw that the jet was in fact a brown/green-camouflaged Iraqi MiG-29,’ Capt Cesar ‘Rico’ Rodriguez, former F-15 driver.
The interesting video in this post tells the story of one of the most exciting engagements of the entire Operation Desert Storm.
On Jan. 19, 1991 Capt Cesar ‘Rico’ Rodriguez and his wingman Capt Craig ‘Mole’ Underhill both F-15C Eagle pilots with the 58th TFS/33rd TFW were conducting a fighter sweep ahead of a strike force of F-16s and F/A-18s when they were vectored by an AWACS controller towards a single pop-up threat.
As explained by Steve Davies in his book F-15C Eagle Units in Combat, within minutes Rodriguez had been locked up on radar by the approaching MiG-29, forcing him to turn away from the enemy jet in order to spoil its targeting solution. Underhill supported his flight lead by firing an AIM-7 Sparrow semi-active radar homing air-to-air missile (and not heat-seeking missile as claimed in the video), which guided squarely into the Iraqi jet.
Turning back towards the burning MiG after the AWACS controller had spotted a second pop-up threat, Rodriguez detected this second contact of the mission:
‘We received another call from the western AWACS, at which point we executed an in-place check turn to the north. I looked up and saw a smoke trail — not a missile trail, but engine smoke — and “Mole” and I simultaneously locked him up. We started going through our ID matrix, and the target displayed a friendly electronic return to both of us. I now directed a VID pass, looking out at about four miles and spotting a silhouette that looked a lot like an F-15 or an F/A-18, so I didn’t declare it hostile. At about two miles I looked once again, but I was no longer thinking about taking a pre-merge shot. Instead, I planned to merge with the bogey just 50 ft off of its left wing. As I crossed its wing-line, I saw that the jet was in fact a brown/green-camouflaged Iraqi MiG-29.’
In the scrap that ensued, Rodriguez successfully positioned himself behind the ‘Fulcrum’, chasing the jet down to the desert floor, where the MiG impacted the ground and cartwheeled for several miles.
F-15C Eagle Units in Combat is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force