Today we will share with you the story of U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot who Survived six days behind enemy lines evading the Bosnian Serbs. He avoided Serbian forces for six days – with limited survival gear, food, or water. He was rescued after a successful operation by Marine Corps in which more than forty planes and helicopters took part, amid a barrage of enemy fire.
On June 2, 1995, Scott Francis O’Grady was shot down over Bosnia and Herzegovina by an 2K12 Kub mobile SAM launcher and forced to eject from his F-16C into hostile territory.
Here are Details of Scott Francis O’Grady F-16 fighters shot down over Bosnia and Herzegovina
On Jun. 2, 1995 U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-16 pilot Scott O’Grady (callsign Basher Five-Two) was flying a standard “two-ship” formation with Bob “Wilbur” Wright (callsign Basher Five-One) as the lead pilot
Both pilots were assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron (FS), or the “Triple Nickel,” of the 31st Fighter Wing (FW) from Aviano Air Base (AB), northeastern Italy.
It was another routine combat air patrol in which they were flying an oval pattern over northwest Bosnia.
On the ground, the Serbs moved the mobile tracked 2K12 Kub surface-to-air missile battery near Mrkonjić Grad and laid a trap.
They switched on their missile radars sparingly, giving F-16 fighters little warning. Waiting until a plane was directly overhead, where the aircraft’s warning and countermeasures would be at their weakest, they fired two missiles. The first missile exploded between the two aircraft.
The second struck the F-16 piloted by O’Grady.
His flight lead, Captain Bob Wright, saw O’Grady’s plane burst into flames and break in two. Wright did not see a parachute, but O’Grady survived by ejecting from the aircraft.
O’Grady landed among a Bosnian-Serb population he was briefed would be unfriendly. He quickly secured a 29-pound (13 kg) survival bag, ran, and hid.
During the next six days, He ate leaves, grass, and bugs, and stored the little rainwater he could collect with a sponge in plastic bags.
O’Grady radioed for help immediately but had to remain quiet with paramilitaries coming within feet of him. On his 6th night on the ground, he made radio contact, signalling his location using his radio’s limited battery power.
Here are Details of Scott Francis O’Grady Rescue mission Behind the enemy lines
Just after midnight on June 8, he spoke into the radio. An F-16 pilot from the 510th responded and, after confirming his identity, the rescue was set in motion.
At 0440 local time, Admiral Leighton Smith, commander of NATO Southern Forces, called US Marine Corps Colonel Martin Berndt aboard USS Kearsarge with orders to “execute”.
Two CH-53 Sea Stallions with 51 marines from the 3rd Battalion 8th Marines within the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit lifted off USS Kearsarge to rescue the pilot. The two helicopters were accompanied by two Marine Corps AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter gunships and a pair of Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jump jets.
These six aircraft had support from identical sets of replacement helicopters and jump jets as well as two Navy EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare planes, two Air Force EF-111A Raven electronic warfare planes, two Marine F/A-18D Hornets, a pair of anti-tank Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts, and a NATO AWACS radar plane
At 0635, the helicopters approached the area where O’Grady’s signal beacon had been traced. The pilots saw bright yellow smoke coming from trees near a rocky pasture where O’Grady had set off a flare.
The first Sea Stallion, commanded by Major William Tarbutton, touched down and 20 marines jumped off the aircraft and set up a defensive perimeter. As the second Sea Stallion landed, a figure with a pistol who turned out to be the missing pilot appeared running towards the Marines and immediately went to the Sea Stallion.
As the side door opened, he was pulled in before the second 20 Marines poised to leave by the rear ramp could even move. They were called back to their seats, and those who had formed the defensive perimeter reboarded the other helicopter. After a quick head count, the Stallions took off. They had been on the ground no more than seven minutes.
The Marines, with O’Grady, flew low over Serb-held Bosnia. However, American aircraft detected a Serb missile radar along the Croatian coast, scanning for targets. An American plane recommended destroying the Serb radar, code-named Giraffe. The request was denied, partly out of concern that a strike could spark a wider conflict.
Minutes later, the Marines reported they were under fire. Three shoulder-held surface-to-air missiles had been launched at them but missed, as the helicopter pilots—flying 150 feet (46 m) off the ground at 175 mph (282 km/h)—jinked to evade them.
Serb small arms pocked both helicopters; the Marines aboard heard the bullets hit inside the fuselage. One door gunner returned fire. One round hit some communication gear in the chopper and the bullet ended up against Master Sergeant Angel Castro Jr.’s armour without injuring anyone.
At 0715 local time, 30 minutes after picking up O’Grady, the rescuers reported “feet wet”, meaning they were over water.
O’Grady was back aboard the Kearsarge at 0730. All of the aircraft landed without further incident.