Gulf of Sidra, Freedom of Navigation Exercise –
By Dario Leone, Contributions by David Cenciotti
Aug. 19 is an important date for the Tomcat community, because that day in 1981 US Navy F-14s were employed for the first time in an air to air combat.
For better understanding the facts that led to the downing of two Gaddafi Su-22 Fitter we have to recall the political situation that increased the tension between USA and Libya. When in 1974 Colonel Gaddafi declared territory of the Libyan Arab Republic the waters below 32° 30’, violating the international laws, the U.S. only response was an ignored official protest. Even when six years later an American reconnaissance aircraft was attacked in the zone, President Carter ordered the Sixth Fleet to stay away from the area.
When Reagan succeeded to Carter, things changed. In fact he ordered the Navy to conduct the “Freedom of Navigation” (FON) exercises which culminated in the Open Ocean Missile Exercise (OOMC).
Conducted in August 1981 by USS Forrestal (CV-59) and by USS Nimitz (CVN-68), this training had the aim to show Tripoli that America was serious about its right to project its naval power in international waters.
The rules of engagement (ROE) stated that to protect his assets the on-scene commander could take any necessary action without waiting for a clearance from a higher authority. For fighter pilots this meant “do not fire until fired upon.” Against the US Navy, Libya could deploy modern and powerful fighters and fighter bombers such as the Soviet-built Su-22 Fitter, MiG-23 Flogger, the Mach 3 interceptor MiG-25 Foxbat and the French-made Mirage F.1 and 5D.
In fact, when the exercise began on Aug. 18, 1981, a flight of MiG-25s immediately approached the carrier groups but were intercepted by VF-74 F-4J Phantoms belonging to the USS Forrestal and by VF-41 and VF-84 F-14s launched from USS Nimitz.
The Libyans were trying to detect the aircraft carriers, and to find them they sent no less than 35 pairs of combat aircraft of each type in their fighter inventory. No shots were fired, but there was a lot of aggressive maneuvering between US Navy and Libyan Air Force fighters.
However a higher state of readiness was placed by the Libyan Air Force in the second day of the exercise. In fact in the morning of Aug. 19, two VF-41 Black Aces Tomcats, callsigns “Fast Eagle 102” (BuNo. 160403) and “Fast Eagle 107” (BuNo. 160390) stationed in Combat Air Patrol (CAP) off the Libyan coast.
Towards the end of their patrol, at 07.15 Commander Henry “Hank” Kleemann and its RIO Lieutenant Dave Venlet in “Fast Eagle 102” wit Lieutenant Larry “Music” Muczynski and its RIO Lieutenant James Anderson in “Fast Eagle 107” detected a pair of Su-22 Fitter approaching the two US fighters with their AN/AWG-9 radars.
Two years after these facts, Lt. “Music” Muczynski released the account of the dogfight for Bert kinzey Detail & Scale F-14A & B Tomcat book, so we can read its explanation for better understand how the engagement was won by the Tomcatters:
Read In It’s Entirety Here –