Here’s The U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet That Scored First Air-To-Air Kill Since 1999

Here's The U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet That Scored First Air-To-Air Kill Since 1999
Lt. Cdr. Michael Tremel stands next to his F/A 18-E Super Hornet on board the USS George W. Bush last July. The tomahawk symbols represent strike missions and the “kill” symbol for his shootdown is upper right. (Photo courtesy of Save The Royal Navy via Military.com)

On Jun. 18, 2017, F/A-18E Super Hornet BuNo 168917 Modex 302 belonging to the VFA-87 “Golden Warriors” from Carrier Air Wing 8 on board the USS George Bush and piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Michael “Mob” Tremel,” shot down a Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22 Fitter.

The aerial engagement occurred near Raqqa, Syria after the aircraft struck ground troops in Ja-Din, south of Tabqah, near Raqqa.

While a definitive account of the 8-minute engagement was given by Tremel during the Tailhook Association’s annual symposium in September 2018, the VFA-31 Tomcatters, also embarked on USS George Bush (CVN-77) supporting Operation Inherent Resolve from the Mediterranean Sea back then, included footage of the aerial engagement, filmed with their ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra Red) pod, in their 2017 OIR cruise video. The clip shows the AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) hitting the Syrian Sukhoi (from two different angles – maybe because other Hornets filmed the scene) and then the Fitter crashing into the ground.

It’s worth noting in the above photo that while the Super Hornet is no longer operated by Tremble — Navy Cmdr. J.A. Calby’s name is printed directly below the canopy — the aircraft still bears his name and the date of the shootdown, as well as the tell-tale Syrian flag.

Here's The U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet That Scored First Air-To-Air Kill Since 1999
A close-up view of the nose of the F/A-18E BuNo 168912 with the Syrian kill markings on the right-hand side at NAS Fallon on Sept. 5, 2019. (Image credit: Christopher McGreevy).

“It’s not just Tremel’s plane,” a Navy official told Task & Purpose of the kill marking. “It applies to the aircraft.”

On the day of the shootdown, Tremel and his wingman, Lt. Cmdr. Jeff “Jo Jo” Krueger, were conducting a close-air support sortie over Syria when they spotted the Syrian Su-22 approaching ground forces with ordnance at the ready. As Tremel recalled back in 2017, repeated radio calls to the aircraft went unheeded, as did the multiple flares he launched.

After the Su-22 released its ordnance near the U.S.-backed forces on the ground, Tremel fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder at the aircraft in line with the rules of engagement, only to have the advanced missile drawn away by the Sukhoi’s own flares. The AIM-120 AMRAAM, however, did the trick, striking the aircraft. The pilot ejected and the burning aircraft quickly plummeted towards the ground.

“I know I was just operating on brainstem power,” Tremel recalled during the Tailhook symposium before adding that, despite achieving the first U.S. air-to-air kill in nearly two decades, his CO immediately reminded him of his responsibilities of air-wing duty safety officer that day: “The show goes on.”

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