Air engagements of the Gulf War

During the Gulf War of 1990–1991, Coalition air forces faced the Iraqi Air Force, the fourth largest air force in the world at the time. In the opening days of the war, many air-air engagements occurred, between Iraqi interceptors and a variety of different Coalition aircraft.

Persian Gulf War Air Combat
Part of Persian Gulf War
DatePersian Gulf War
17 January – 28 February 1991
(1 month, 1 week and 4 days)
After Persian Gulf War
28 February 1991 - 3 March 2003
(12 years and 3 days)
Result Coalition victory
 United States
 United Kingdom
 Saudi Arabia
Commanders and leaders
United States Chuck Horner
United States Norman Schwarzkopf
United States Colin Powell
United Kingdom Andrew Wilson
United Kingdom Bill Wratten
Saudi Arabia Khalid bin Sultan
Saudi Arabia Saleh Al-Muhaya
Iraq Saddam Hussein
Iraq Ali Hassan al-Majid
1,000+ aircraft 750 aircraft
Casualties and losses
3-4 aircraft destroyed
4 aircraft damaged
44+ aircraft shot down
(in air-air combat varying on report)[1]

Persian Gulf WarEdit

17 January 1991Edit

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF MiG-29

The first air-air kills of the war occurred when two USAF F-15Cs shot down two Iraqi MiG-29s.[2]

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF Mirage F1s

Later on the same night, an F-15C scored a double-kill against two Mirages with AIM-7 Sparrow missile. His wingman scored another kill on a third Mirage F1, for a total of three kills in the dogfight.[2]

USN F/A-18s vs. IRAF MiG-25s

On the first night of the war, two F/A-18s from the carrier USS Saratoga were flying outside of Baghdad when two Iraqi MiG-25PDs interceptors from the 96th Squadron engaged them. In the beyond-visual-range (BVR), one of the Iraqi MiGs, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Zuhair Dawood, fired an R-40 missile, shooting down one of the F/A-18's as it was travelling Mach 0.92. The pilot, Lieutenant Commander Scott Speicher, was killed. It is widely believed he died upon the impact of the missile.[2]

USN F/A-18s vs. IRAF MiG-21s

Two F/A-18s from VFA-81 shot down two Iraqi MiG-21s, one with an AIM-7 Sparrow missile and one with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, in a brief dogfight with their bombs still latched on.[2]

USAF F-15Es vs IRAF MiG-29s

On the opening night of the war two Iraqi MiG-29s attempted to engage a flight of USAF F-15Es. One of the MiGs crashed while flying at low altitude but the other MiG pressed on. One of the F-15Es fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder when the MiG locked him up but missed. Several other F-15Es simultaneously tried to engage the lone MiG-29 but were unable to get the kill. One F-15E was actually flying past the Iraqi jet and maneuvered in for the kill but the pilot hesitated to take the shot because he was unsure of his wingmen's location and because he did not get a good tone with the Sidewinder missile.[2]

USAF EF-111 vs. IRAF Mirage F-1

On the first night of the war a USAF EF-111A Raven "Spark Vark", flown by pilot Captain James Denton and Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) Captain Brent Brandon, was on an electronic warfare mission ahead of a group of jets on a bombing run. Several IRAF Dassault Mirage F1s came in and engaged the flight. One of them went after the unarmed EF-111. Denton executed a tight turn while Brandon launched chaff to avoid missiles fired by the Mirage. An F-15C on the same flight, piloted by Robert Graeter, went after the Mirage to protect the EF-111. The Mirage launched a missile, spotted by Brandon, which the Raven avoided by turning and launching chaff. Denton decided to head for the deck to try to evade his pursuer. As he went down he pulled up to avoid the ground, the Mirage followed him through, but did not pull up in time and crashed. An unarmed EF-111 had thus scored an air-air victory against a Dassault Mirage F1, although Graeter was credited with a kill. The EF-111A crew were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[3] However this perception is under suspension because Al-Jabbouri, the pilot of Mirage F1 stated he forced the F-111 to abort its mission, and was confirmed to be alive just before Iraq War 2003.[4][3][5][2]

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF MiG-25s

Two IRAF MiG-25s fired missiles at a group of F-15Cs escorting a bombing run in Iraq (which were evaded by the F-15s). The F-15Cs gave chase, but were forced to give up when the MiGs outran them. A total of 10 missiles were fired at the MiGs.[2]

USAF F-111s vs. IRAF MiG-23

An Iraqi MiG-23 fired a R-24T missile at an F-111 on a bombing run and scored a hit, although the bomber made it safely back to base. Another similar incident occurred with the same Iraqi interceptor several minutes later, this F-111 also made it back to base despite the severe damage to the aircraft. This is Iraq's only success of the Gulf War using MiG-23s.[5]

IRAF MiG-29 vs USAF F-111 and B-52G

An Iraqi MiG-29 struck an F-111 aircraft with an R60 missile, though the sturdy F-111 stayed airworthy. Several minutes later the same pilot fired a R27 missile at a B-52G on a bombing run, severely damaging it.[5]

19 January 1991Edit

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF MiG-25s

In a brief dogfight, two F-15Cs engaged and shot down two Iraqi MiG-25s attempting to engage them, both using AIM-7 missiles.[2][3] One was destroyed by Captain Rick Tuleni and the second by Captain Larry Pitts.

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF MiG-29s

Two F-15Cs, piloted by Captains Craig Underhill and Cesar Rodriguez gave chase to a pair of MiG-29s detected by AWACS. The Iraqi aircraft, one piloted by Captain Jameel Sayhood, promptly turned and engaged the two American fighters, and one of the most dramatic dogfights of the Gulf War ensued. The two MiGs and F-15s flew straight at each other, each attempting to visually identify the other. Underhill was facing Sayhood's wingman, while Sayhood himself was facing Rodriguez. Underhill fired an AIM-7 at Sayhood's wingman, scoring a head-on hit and killing the opposing pilot instantly. Simultaneously, Sayhood gained a lock on Rodriguez, throwing him onto the defensive. Rodriguez dove to low altitude in order to clutter Sayhood's radar and break the lock-on, and dropped flares to counter his adversary's infrared search-and-track. However, after seeing his wingman shot down, Sayhood disengaged and fled to the north. Considering the engagement over, Rodriguez and Underhill turned south to rendezvous with a KC-135 tanker in order to refuel, but Sayhood reversed course and set off after them, prompting them to reengage. With the now lone MiG-29 closing head-on with the pair of F-15s, Underhill gained radar lock-on, but did not fire due to a glitch in his IFF interrogator system keeping him from being certain he wasn't about to shoot down a Coalition aircraft. Underhill initially thought he shot down an allied aircraft. Sayhood sliced into the American formation, causing a classic merge. Underhill kept Sayhood locked-on and climbed, while Rodriguez committed to the merge in order to visually identify the opposing aircraft as hostile. As they passed head-on, Rodriguez identified it as an Iraqi, and each pilot turned left to engage the other. Sayhood believed in his MiG's better turning radius and tried to get into a firing position on Rodriguez' tail but failed. Rodriguez outmaneuvered the Mig, managed to get firing position on him and successfully acquired a missile lock. Both aircraft lost altitude through the sustained hard turning, bringing them perilously close to the ground. Fearing that Rodriguez would obtain infrared lock-on and shoot him down with an AIM-9, Sayhood attempted to disengage using a split-s. Rodriguez didn't follow Sayhood's manoeuver, and observed him eject just prior to his MiG impacting the ground - he'd commenced his escape maneuver too low. It was reported years later by Iraqi sources that the Captain was rescued by some farmers after he broke his leg and evacuated to a local hospital.[2][3][4][6][7]

RAF Tornado GR.1 vs. IRAF MiG-29

It has been claimed by some sources that an RAF Tornado (ZA467) crewed by Squadron Leader Gary Lennox and Squadron Leader Adrian Weeks was shot down on 19 January by an R-60MK (NATO reporting name: AA-8 Aphid) missile fired from an Iraqi MiG-29 piloted by Jameel Sayhood,[8] however this aircraft is officially recorded as having crashed on 22 January on a mission to Ar Rutbah.[9][10]

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF Mirage F1s

Two F-15Cs destroyed two Mirage F1s with AIM-7 missiles.[2]

24 January 1991Edit

RSAF F-15C vs. IRAF Mirage F1sEdit

See: Attack on Ras Tanura

26 January 1991Edit

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF MiG-23sEdit

In what is considered a textbook "beyond visual range" or BVR kill, four MiG-23s took off from an Iraqi airbase. One of them turned back with mechanical problems, however the other three pressed on. Four F-15Cs were flying when AWACS reported the MiGs. The four F-15s lined up, were assigned targets and fired AIM-7 missiles at all of them, destroying all three MiGs within seconds of each other. Only three of the F-15C pilots were granted kills, as the fourth missile didn't reach the MiG until after it had already been brought down. One of these kills was Cesar Rodriguez's, his second of the conflict.[2][3][7]

27 January 1991Edit

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF MiG-23s and Mirage F1Edit

Two F-15Cs managed to get kills on three MiG-23s and one Mirage F1, after they caught them trying to flee to Iran. They were brought down with AIM-9 and AIM-7 missiles after a brief dogfight DAB.[2]

29 January 1991Edit

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF MiG-23Edit

An American F-15C shot down a MiG-23 fleeing to Iran with an AIM-7 missile.[2]

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF MiG-23Edit

A USAF F-15C eliminates an Iraqi MiG-23 in a short-lived dogfight with an AIM-7 missile.[2]

30 January 1991Edit

Two MiG-25s engaged four F-15C in Samurra Air Battle. Capt. Qassim Ar Sammarai piloting one MiG-25 fired R-40 (missile) which according to USAF damaged the left engine of a F-15c . According to IQAF this aircraft crashed in Saudi Arabia after bedouin smuggler reportedly found the wreckage near the site where Iraqi radars lost the track of the damaged F-15C, but USAF debunks these claims.[5][3][4]

2 February 1991Edit

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF IL-76Edit

An F-15C kills an Iraqi transport, an IL-76, that was parked by strafing it with 20mm bullets.[2]

6 February 1991Edit

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF MiG-21sEdit

A lone F-15C takes down two Iraqi MiG-21s with AIM-7 missiles after they both engage him. These MiGs were escorting the Su-25s mentioned below.[2]

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF Su-25sEdit

An F-15C spots two Iraqi Su-25s and gives chase, locking on, and shooting down both planes with AIM-9 missiles.[2]

USAF A-10A vs. IRAF Bo-105Edit

A USAF A-10 ground attack aircraft, piloted by Captain Robert Swain[11] shoots down an Iraqi Bo-105 helicopter using its GAU-8 30mm cannon. Swain fired approximately 75 rounds with his cannon on his first pass. He then fired approximately 300 rounds on his second pass, causing the helicopter to explode. It is the first air to air victory recorded by an A-10. It earned Swain and his aircraft the nickname "Chopper Popper."[12] The aircraft is now on display at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.[2][13]

7 February 1991Edit

USN F-14 vs. IRAF Mi-8Edit

A USN F-14 shoots down an IRAF Mi-8 helicopter with an AIM-9 missile. It is the last USN F-14 air-to-air kill.[2]

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF Su-22s and Su-7Edit

Two USAF F-15Cs shoot down two IRAF Su-22s and one Su-7 as they attempt to flee Iraq. All with AIM-7 missiles.[2]

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF Mil-24Edit

An F-15C shoots down an IRAF Mi-24 with an AIM-7 missile.[2]

11 February 1991Edit

USAF F-15Cs vs. IRAF helicoptersEdit

Two F-15Cs shoot down two unidentified Iraqi helicopters by using AIM-7 missiles for both.[2]

13 February 1991Edit

IRAF Dassault Mirage F1 vs. EF-111Edit

An Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 piloted by Capt. Nafie Al-Jubouri engages a USAF EF-111 piloted by Capt. Douglas Bradt with his electronic warfare officer Capt. Paul Eichenlaub. The EF-111 maneuvered to avoid a missile fired at them by Al-Jubouri, and the deadly mixture of target-fixation and a brief loss of situational awareness resulted in the Mirage crashing hard into the desert, obliterating the aircraft. Thus, the EF111 scored a maneuvering kill.[14][15]

14 February 1991Edit

USAF F-15E vs. IRAF MI-24 HindEdit

An F-15E Strike Eagle fighter/bomber dropped a laser-guided bomb onto a MI-24 Hind Helicopter in the air. The helicopter was on the ground initially loading up commandos, though it took off. Even with it taking off they left the laser on it and the bomb hit it when it was "200 or so" feet in the air. A special forces team on the ground witnessed the event.[2]

15 February 1991Edit

USAF A-10A vs. IRAF Mi-8Edit

An A-10A ground attack aircraft shoots down an Iraqi Mi-8 helicopter with its GAU-8 30mm cannon.[2]

Post Persian Gulf WarEdit

20 March 1991Edit

USAF F-15C vs. IRAF Su-22

In accordance with the ceasefire, an F-15C shoots down an Iraqi Su-22 bomber with an AIM-9 missile.[16]

27 December 1992Edit

USAF F-16 vs. IRAF MiG-25

A MiG-25 crossed the no-fly zone and an F-16D shot it down with an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. It is the first kill with an AIM-120, and also the first USAF F-16 kill.[17]

17 January 1993Edit

USAF F-16 vs. IRAF MiG-23

A USAF F-16C shoots down a MiG-23 when the MiG locks the F-16 up.[18]

USAF F-16s vs. IRAF Su-22s

Two IRAF Su-22 "Fitters" open fire on two USAF F-16s in protest of the no-fly zones. No aircraft are damaged in the encounter.

Late 1990s and 2002Edit

McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle

Following Desert Storm, two no-fly zones over Iraq were set up, and enforced typically by US and UK aircraft. In one incident, an attack on up to 600 Kurdish refugees by Iraqi helicopters at Chamchamal, northern Iraq, was observed by a flight of F-15Es. As they were not allowed to open fire, the F-15Es instead conducted several high speed passes as close as possible to the Iraqi helicopters to create severe wake-turbulence, while aiming lasers at the helicopter's cockpits to attempt to blind their crews; this caused the crash of one Hind. Afterwards, USAF leadership ordered F-15Es not to fly below 10,000 feet (3,000 m) to deter a repetition.

5 January 1999Edit

USAF F-15Cs and USN F-14Ds vs. IRAF MiG-25s

A group of four Iraqi MiG-25s crossed the no-fly zones and sparked a dogfight with two patrolling F-15Cs and two patrolling F-14Ds. A total of six missiles were fired at the MiGs, none of which hit them. The MiGs then bugged out.

9 September 1999Edit

USN F-14 vs IRAF MiG-23

A lone MiG-23 crossed the no-fly zone heading towards a flight of F-14s. One F-14 fired an AIM-54 Phoenix at the MiG but missed and the MiG headed back north.

23 December 2002Edit

USAF RQ-1 Predator vs. IRAF MiG-25

In what was the last aerial victory for the Iraqi Air Force before Operation Iraqi Freedom, an Iraqi MiG-25 destroyed an American UAV RQ-1 Predator after the drone opened fire on the Iraqi aircraft with a Stinger missile.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ("The First Night" by Cooper/Sadik (IAPR, Vol.26))
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "Coalition Air-Air Victories". 2004. Archived from the original on 4 June 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dogfights of Desert Storm History Channel accessed 11 September 2010
  4. ^ a b c "Iraqi Armed Forces Forums منتدى القوات المسلحة العراقية - مشاهدة الموضوع - Desert storm dogfights MIG-29 vs British Tornado GR.1". Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d "Iraqi air-air victories during the Arab Gulf War 1991" (PDF). 2004. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
  6. ^ "164-1 F-14 kill ratio claim? - Military Aircraft of the Cold War". Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b [Former F-15 Eagle Pilot Describes Desert Storm MiG Kills] Interview with Cesar Rodriguez
  8. ^ Iraqi Aces of Desert Storm
  9. ^ "Tornado data." Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident 22-JAN-1991 Panavia Tornado GR1 ZA467." Flight Safety Foundation via
  11. ^ FRANTZ, DOUGLAS (8 February 1991). "Pilot Chalks Up First 'Warthog' Air Kill : Aerial combat: Iraqi copter is downed by a plane not known for its dogfighting capabilities". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  12. ^ "Photos". Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 153060". Aircraft Safety Network. Aircraft Safety Network. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  15. ^ Mailes, Yancy (2007). Mountain Home Air Force Base. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing. p. 112. ISBN 9780738548050.
  16. ^ John Pike. "Operation Provide Comfort II". Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Airframe Details for F-16 #90-0778". Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Airframe Details for F-16 #86-0262". Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  19. ^ Knights, Michael (2005). Cradle of conflict: Iraq and the birth of modern U.S. military power. Naval Institute Press, p. 242. ISBN 1-59114-444-2