US Navy planes shot down two Libyan planes that attacked them

The real combat between two F-14 Tomcat and two Su-22 that inspired the movie 'Top Gun'

"Top Gun" is the most famous aviation movie in cinema history, but did you know that some of its scenes were inspired by real events?

A recreation of the combats in which Mirage F1 managed to shoot down F-14 Tomcats
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In 1969, through a coup, Muammar Gaddafi seized power in Libya. At the end of the following decade, his government wanted to seize the international waters of the Gulf of Sidra beyond the zone of maritime exclusivity that corresponded to it under international law. This caused a conflict with the shipping routes that passed through that part of the Mediterranean Sea. Given this, the United States deployed two aircraft carriers in the area, the USS Nimitz and the USS Forrestal, as part of Operation "Freedom of Navigation".

A Libyan Air Force Su-22 photographed by a US Navy aircraft on March 26, 1985 (Photo: US Navy).

The Libyan Air Force launched a great wave of provocations against the US Navy, with up to 70 incursions of its fighters in the area where the aforementioned aircraft carriers were sailing. This forced the Americans to deploy F-4 Phantom II and F-14 Tomcat fighters on those ships. Almost every encounter between Libyan and American fighters ended without anyone opening fire. The Libyans were probing American defenses with simulated attacks.

Things changed on August 18, 1981. Two F-14 fighters from the VF-41 Black Aces squadron, embarked on the USS Nimitz, were flying on a patrol when they received a warning from an early warning aircraft E-2C Hawkeye an order to intercept two Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 fighters that had just taken off from Ghurdabiyah Air Base, supposedly to hunt down an S-3A Viking anti-submarine warfare aircraft flying through waters international claims by Gaddafi. The F-14s carried the radio callsigns Fast Eagle 102 and 107.

The F-14 Tomcat Fast Eagle 102, one of the protagonists of this story, currently preserved in the Midland Army Air Field Museum, in Midland, Texas. The Fast Eagle 107 was destroyed on October 25, 1994 when it crashed while approaching the USS Abraham Lincoln for landing (Photo: The High Sky Wing).

This time the encounter with the Libyan fighters ended badly: a Su-22 fired a Vympel R-3 air-to-air missile at one of the F-14s over international waters, missing the shot. In response, the F-14s responded by launching their AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles at the aggressors, shooting down Fast Eagle 102 one of the Su-22s and Fast Eagle 107 the other. The US Navy reported that the pilots of the two Libyan fighters managed to eject.

The crew of the film "Top Gun" (1986) was inspired by these events for the fictional story narrated by that feature film, in which the enemy planes, from an undetermined country, are presented as MiG-28, a fictitious model (all MiG models carry odd numbers). The excellent channel Yarnhub has published a video recreating that fight on a computer aerial of 1981:


Main image: CGSociety / Johnyx.

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