Watch: Two F-14 tomcat fighter jets destroying two MiG-23 Floggers in combat

Two F-14 fighter jets Destroying two MiG-23 Floggers in combat

On 4 January 1989, Two F-14 fighter jets Destroying two MiG-23 Floggers in combat

The engagement took place over the Mediterranean Sea about 40 miles (64 km) north of Tobruk, Libya

The USS John F. Kennedy was sailing toward the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Aircraft on the Kennedy included  A-6 Intruders, two pairs of F-14 Tomcats from VF-14 and VF-32 conducting combat air patrols, and an E-2 Hawkeye from VAW-126 providing airborne early warning and control.

The easternmost combat air patrol station was provided by two F-14s from VF-32


The aircraft call signs were

Gypsy 207 (crewed by Commander Joseph Bernard Connelly and Commander Leo F. Enwright in Bureau Number 159610)

Gypsy 202 (crewed by Lieutenant Herman C. Cook III and Lieutenant Commander Steven Patrick Collins in Bureau Number 159437).

At 11:55 local time, the E-2 detected two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers take off from Al Bumbah airfield, near Tobruk, and observed them heading north toward the battle group.

The F-14s from VF-32 were directed to intercept the MiG-23s, while the F-14s from VF-14 covered the A-6s as they departed to the north.

Using their onboard radars, the intercepting F-14s began tracking the MiG-23s

MiG-23s were 72 nautical miles away, at an altitude of 8,000 feet, and traveling at a speed of 420 knknots.


Unlike some previous aerial encounters, where Libyan pilots were instructed to turn back after detecting an F-14’s radar signal sweep their aircraft

The MiG-23s continued to close in on the American fighters with a head-on approach.

As both pairs of aircraft converged, the E-2 and other U.S. eavesdropping assets in the area monitored radio communications between the Libyan aircraft and their ground controllers.

The Americans listened to the MiG-23s receive guidance to intercept the F-14s from ground controllers at a radar station in Al Bumbah.

This radar station was one of several that were activated along the Libyan coast to support the MiG-23s

At 11:58, the F-14s made a left turn, away from the MiG-23s, to initiate a standard intercept.

Related Article: Declassified dogfight footage: F-14 Tomcat vs. Libyan MiG-23

Seven seconds later, the MiG-23s turned back into the American fighters for another head-on approach and were descending in altitude.

At this point, the F-14 crews began employing tactics which would reduce the effectiveness of the MiG-23s’ radars and the 12-mile-range AA-7 Apex missiles they were potentially carrying.

The American aircraft started descending from 20,000 feet (6,100 m) to 3,000 feet (910 m) to fly lower than the Libyan fighters.

The American pilots executed another left turn away from the Libyan aircraft during the descent.

Moments after the F-14s created a 30 degree offset, the MiG-23s turned to place themselves back into a collision course and accelerated to 500 knots (930 km/h).

The air warfare commander gave the American aircrews the authority to fire if they believed the MiG-23s were hostile.

The F-14s turned away from the approaching MiG-23s two more times

Each time, the American aircrews saw the Libyan aircraft turn back toward them for a head-on approach.

The American aircrews armed their weapons when the opposing aircraft were less than 20 miles (32 km) away and closing in on each other at a rate of 1,000 knots (1,900 km/h)}.

At a distance of about 14 nautical miles (26 km), the lead F-14 pilot, Commander Joseph Connelly, made a radio call to the carrier group’s air warfare commander to see if there was any additional information in regard to the MiG-23s.

There was no response to his call.

At 12:01:20 and a range of 12 nautical miles (22 km), Enwright fired an AIM-7

he surprised Connelly, who did not expect to see a missile accelerate away from his aircraft. The missile failed to track toward its target.

At about 10 nautical miles (19 km), Enwright launched a second AIM-7, but it also failed to hit its target.

The MiG-23s continued to fly directly toward the American fighters at 550 knots (1,020 km/h).

The F-14s executed a defensive split, where both aircraft made turns in opposite directions.

Both Libyan fighters turned left to pursue the second F-14, Gypsy 202.

Connelly prepared Gypsy 207 for a right turn to get behind the MiG-23s as they went after the other American fighter.

With the MiG-23s pointed directly at him

Lieutenant Commander Steven Collins, the RIO in Gypsy 202, fired a third AIM-7 from roughly five miles away

He successfully managed to downed one of the Libyan aircraft.

After executing a sharp right turn, Gypsy 207 gained a position in the rear quadrant of the final MiG-23.

As the Libyan fighter was turning left and at a distance of one and a half miles

Connelly fired an AIM-9 missile which downed its target.

The F-14s descended to several hundred feet in altitude and departed at high speed back to the carrier group.

Both Libyan pilots have seen to successfully eject and parachute into the sea

It is not known whether the Libyan Air Force was able to successfully recover them.

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