On January 8, 2018, Saudi Arabia’s state media reported that a “twin-seater fighter jet” of the Royal Saudi Air Force was lost over Yemen. Colonel Turki Al-Malki, the spokesman for the Arab Coalition Forces Command, announced that the two-person crew of a Saudi fighter jet had been rescued uninjured while on a mission to “support legitimacy in Yemen.” The Saudis claimed the aircraft had suffered a “technical failure.”
Over the weekend, Houthi rebels released a video in which they claim to have shot down a Panavia Tornado fighter but later changed their story to an F-15. In response, the Saudi government reported the loss of a “twin-seater fighter jet” to a “technical malfunction.
The truth of the matter will be hard to get to in this case, with multiple sides spinning their own versions of the story.
Images and video have surfaced of what is claimed to be a Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle being shot down by an unspecified surface-to-air (SAM) missile over Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa.
The video is alleged to have been obtained using a ground-mounted forward-looking infra-red sensor usually mounted on helicopters for surveillance and targeting: most probably a FLIR Systems ULTRA 8500.
The video is shot from the right side of the aircraft, and as the aircraft rolls right, the height of the starboard (right) vertical stabilizer/rudder appears to be shorter than normal on an F-15, as though part of it is already missing: someone suggested that may have already sustained damage to at least one of its vertical stabilizers even though this seems to be a bit far-fetched based on the available clip.
Immediately after this right rolling maneuver two bright objects, glowing from their heat signature in the infra-red video, are separated from the aircraft that lit the afterburners (based on the glowing. These seem to be flares, countermeasures ejected against heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.
Information that surfaced on Twitter shortly after the video released suggested the aircraft may have been shot down by an S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile, a version of the venerable SA-2 Guideline SAM missile. However several sources are increasingly suggesting the F-15 was targeted by a modified R-27T based on claims that Houthis have modified a number AAMs (air-to-air missiles) to be launched from pick-ups.
The R-27 (AA-10 Alamo-B), is an IR-homing, missile with a maximum range of 63 km and a theoretical maximum allowed vertical separation of 10 km meters altitude.
If the claim of the F-15 aircraft being shot down by Houthis is confirmed, this may be one of the few instances any version of the F-15 Eagle has been shot down. The U.S. suffered the loss of F-15E Strike Eagles to anti-aircraft fire during the Gulf War back in 1991.
The Royal Saudi Air Force is believed to have a fleet of 129 active single-seat F-15C Eagles and F-15S ground attack/multi-role aircraft along with the first 13 (of 84 ordered) new F-15SA attack aircraft,