The downing of Speicher F/A-18: Iraqi perspective Jan 1991

Cold war, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm - up to and including for example the A-10, F-15, Mirage 200, MiG-29, and F-18.
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oldiaf

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Unread post30 Aug 2015, 02:20

To American public the first Air to Air victory achieved in Operation Desert Storm was either that of Cap. Steve Tate F-15C from 71TFS/1TFW on a Mirage F.1EQ ( pilot Lt.col. Sabah Mutlag 89 Squadron - ejected safely ). Or Lt.Col.Jon Kilk F-15C from 58TFS/33TFW on MiG-29 ( Iraqis never admitted this loss ) .

In fact the first Air to Air Victory in that war was achieved by Iraqi Air Force Lt. Zuhair Dawood MiG-25PD from 96 Squadron on USN F/A-18C ( Pilot LCDR Scott Speicher VFA-81from USS Saratoga CV-60 ).

While the story has been covered very well by American media ( with the details of the loss and confusion to what cause the loss or the fate of the pilot )... No one had ever get the story from the Iraqi perspective ... The perspective of the Pilot him self .... The following is the story of the engagement as the Pilot at that time Lt. Zuhair Dawood reported it to his command :

Jan 17 1991
On the night of Jan 16/17 , I was on standby alert along with other 3 pilots of 96 squadron in the main aircraft shelter of Alqadisiya base ( Ain Alasad base ) and other 4 pilots in the other shelter ( Note 1 ) ... In fact I was wearing my flight suit.
On 0238 hr the Air Defence telephone ring and I answered the call and there was a guy screaming at the other end of the line : MiG-25 IMMEDIATE TAKE OFF !! ( Note 2 ) ... So I hurried to the aircraft MiG-25PD ( Note 3 ) ... In Fact the technicians were ready for this moment and the aircraft was ready ... So the take off was exceptionally fast ( 3 minutes since I received the call ) ...

After take off I switched to safe frequency and established contact with GCI of the Air Defence Sector... Sky was clear with very good visibility .... The GCI started to give me directions of group of aircrafts that penetrated the Iraqi air space to the south of the base ...

My radar was still warming and I was 90Km ( 50nm ) from the target formation when an enemy aircraft locked me with Radar ... So I performed a hard maneuver and the lock broke .... I reported what happened to the GCI and he told me to return to the same direction and you have targets at 38Km ( 20nm ) .. Mean while my Radar became ready ... I locked a target 38Km ( 20nm ) from me and at 29Km ( 15nm ) I fired R-40RD missile from my under Rt. wing .... I kept the target locked with my radar till I witnessed I huge explosion in front of me ... I kept looking to the aircraft going down spirally to the ground with fire engulfing it ... This happened at almost 180Km from base ( less than 100nm ) .

At that time as I understood later , Enemy aircrafts were attacking the base as they hit the old runway while others attacked with cluster bombs both the runway and taxiways and as a result my squadron mates took shelter in the underground bunkers and closed the hardened hangers doors .

Meanwhile .... I locked another target from behind ( Note 4 ) at 40Km ( 22nm ) and I asked the GCI for permission to fire but the GCI refused and asked me to confirm the target visually so I approached it and I couldn't believe he still unaware of me till I reached 8Km ( 4.5nm) and prepared R-40TD heat seeking fire and forget missile and asked the GCI again for permission to fire but he denied my request again and I asked him why ? ... He told me there was a MiG-29 ( Note 5 ) took off 10 minutes after me and he lost track with it and he fears I might engaging it ... I told him this slow moving target is impossible to be MiG-29 but he insisted I disengage and return to base .... So I moved passed the target aircraft and I can still remember the cockpit lights of that aircraft .....

I asked the GCI for directions to base because there was a malfunction in the Navigation instruments in my aircraft and he told me that he lost Radar contact with me !! but told me to take 340 barring from my last location ... I asked him where was my last location in relation to base ? .... But the connection was suddenly lost ... I tried to contact him again but to No use .... I feeling of despair as fuel is becoming low and the navigation instruments is down as I mentioned and as It was dark I could see nothing of ground features as electricity is lost all over the place ....the only thing could see is AAA and SAM fire .... But suddenly I noticed that Haditha train station having electrical power and since I know its location 35Km ( 19nm ) north of base ... I turned around toward the base and connection with GCI re-established but with very poor quality and he told me to switch to base frequency and I did it but no one was responding but anyway I started approaching the base and I switched the wing lights of the aircraft so they would know its friendly airplane and the runway lights were switched on for me ( I later knew that they were tracking me visually ) ... But suddenly and with connection is very poor and breaking up voice the landing officer was screaming to me : DO NOT LAND AT THE MAIN RUNWAY !!! ... So I made a turn and landed in the secondary runway ( later I understood that the main runway was crated by bombing in its last 1/3 ) .... No one was there when I landed .. All inside shelters ... So I taxied the aircraft to the gate of one of the shelters and while doing that I noticed the amount of destruction to the base with concrete chunks and metal objects ( bomb fragments ) all over the place ... I increased the thrust so they can hear the sound of the engine inside the shelter and let me in ... And it worked and they let me and the aircraft to go to the shelter..
End of Story

image.jpg
Lt. Zuhair Dawood and a Soviet technician at late 80s or 90 ... Faces were not shown for privacy


Notes :
1- Alqadisiya AB was home base of 2 squadrons : Squadron 96 MiG-25PD and Squadron 39 MiG-29A , He didn't clarify wether the other 4 pilots in the second shelter from his squadron or the MiG-29 squadron.
2- Contrary to what coalition thought that the Iraqis didn't realized the war has started until Baghdad was bombed by the F-117A at 0300 hr ... The news of Nukhaib air defense sector strike by an F-117A tail No. 85-816 Lone Wolf pilot Maj. Greg Best at 0238 reached Baghdad or at least the air defense sector command as the order to MiG-25 to take off came at the same minute.
3- Iraq received MiG-25PD and the export version PDS . The PD was allocated to squadron 96 while the PDS to squadron 97 ... The same with MiG-29. Iraq received the A version (33) and the B version (7) and 4 trainers (UB).
4- This was an A-6E from VA-35 also from CV-60 Saratoga
5- USAF F-15C pilot Jon Kilk reported killing MiG-29 with AIM-7 but Iraqi documents never shown this incident ... Kelk reported an explosion in the horizon ... But since Speicher F/A-18 was infront of him and downed at almost the same time ... This probably what he saw .... In total US claims of 6 MiG-29 shut downed in war later revealed by the Iraqi Air Force archive after the war to be 3 and 1 damaged ... The other 1 being the above and the famous dogfight of Jan 19 in which the Iraqi pilot claimed he through his EFT to the desert floor after performing a split-s maneuver and the F-15C pilot thought he hit the ground and explode while he escaped the Radar using ground clutter .

image.jpg
LCDR Scott Speicher while was a Lt.
Last edited by oldiaf on 30 Aug 2015, 22:33, edited 1 time in total.
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old.iraqi.air.force

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Unread post30 Aug 2015, 03:02

For those who lost in that war we will remember their bravery and honor their sacrifice, rest in peace Michael Speicher and all of those lost in that war our pray to your souls.
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Unread post30 Aug 2015, 17:42

Great accounting Old Iraqi AF!

So nice to hear the other side of the story. While I wasn't surprised it was an F-18 that was downed, I was surprised that the pilot almost didn't make it back to base!

He must be one proud/celebrated fighter pilot in your country? And yeah, it's too bad about Speicher. That's what happens in war though, you lost plenty of your own too. Gone, but not forgotten...
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Unread post30 Aug 2015, 22:33

mixelflick wrote:Great accounting Old Iraqi AF!

So nice to hear the other side of the story. While I wasn't surprised it was an F-18 that was downed, I was surprised that the pilot almost didn't make it back to base!

He must be one proud/celebrated fighter pilot in your country? And yeah, it's too bad about Speicher. That's what happens in war though, you lost plenty of your own too. Gone, but not forgotten...

This story smells bad-from what I hear, they did not even try to find him.
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Unread post30 Aug 2015, 22:35

sergei wrote:
mixelflick wrote:Great accounting Old Iraqi AF!

So nice to hear the other side of the story. While I wasn't surprised it was an F-18 that was downed, I was surprised that the pilot almost didn't make it back to base!

He must be one proud/celebrated fighter pilot in your country? And yeah, it's too bad about Speicher. That's what happens in war though, you lost plenty of your own too. Gone, but not forgotten...

This story smells bad-from what I hear, they did not even try to find him.

Find who ? If you mean Speicher ...then in Dec. 1995 a special investigative team from the Pentagon went to Iraq with the assistance of the Red Cross and examined the crash site .... His remains was discovered in 2009 and brought back to the US.
Last edited by oldiaf on 30 Aug 2015, 22:53, edited 3 times in total.
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Unread post30 Aug 2015, 22:36

mixelflick wrote:Great accounting Old Iraqi AF!

So nice to hear the other side of the story. While I wasn't surprised it was an F-18 that was downed, I was surprised that the pilot almost didn't make it back to base!

He must be one proud/celebrated fighter pilot in your country? And yeah, it's too bad about Speicher. That's what happens in war though, you lost plenty of your own too. Gone, but not forgotten...

Why you didn't suprised it was an F-18 ?
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Unread post31 Aug 2015, 02:57

I forget to mention that the F/A-18C that locked the MiG-25 in the first place was flown by CMDR. Michael Anderson who was Squadron leader of VFA-81
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 08:20

In essence, his account confirms what I've learned from him back in the mid-2000s (via Brig Gen Ahmad Sadik), but is slightly more detailed.

Dawoud was vectored to intercept an incoming strike package from USS Saratoga (CV-60), consisting of five F/A-18s and eight A-6Es, escorted by two pairs of F-14As, and three EA-6Bs. This was to hit H-3 with LGBs a minute before four RAF Tornado GR.Mk.1s were about to plaster the place with JP.233s.

Dawoud was first vectored on F/A-18s and - because he flew perpendicular to the nearest USAF's E-3A Sentry and to escorting F-14s - he remained undetected, and thus was not engaged early enough.

He first attacked Cdr Anderson (CO VFA-83), nearly head-on. Anderson achieved a lock-on on Dawoud's MiG-25, but didn't fire because there was no positive ID from the AWACs. Nevertheless, Anderson's lock-on forced Dawoud to break towards south. He then continued a high-speed counter-clockwise 360-degrees turn. Anderso tried to follow but eventually lost the MiG somewhere behind him, while Dawoud found Speicher's F/A-18 (AA403) and attacked him instead. Because Speicher's ECM-system malfunctioned, he was an easy target: the R-40 hit his Hornet beneath the cockpit, force of impact throwing the F/A-18 out of control and shearing off the external fuel tanks and pylons. Speicher was badly injured by the missile blast: he was conscious enough to eject, but died shortly after.

What I do not understand is why Dawoud is never mentioning his second engagement during that mission? Namely, after shooting down Speicher, he engaged the second wave of the US Navy's strike package, again consisting of F/A-18s. Involved US Navy pilots reported Dawoud making two runs on them, each time from above and their six o'clock. He just couldn't achieve a lock-on because his radar lacked 'look down' capability, and because of heavy ECM.

BTW, the full story - with many additional details - is to be told in the book F-15 Eagle versus MiG-23 and MiG-25, to be published the next year.
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 08:47

oldiaf wrote:
sergei wrote:
mixelflick wrote:Great accounting Old Iraqi AF!

So nice to hear the other side of the story. While I wasn't surprised it was an F-18 that was downed, I was surprised that the pilot almost didn't make it back to base!

He must be one proud/celebrated fighter pilot in your country? And yeah, it's too bad about Speicher. That's what happens in war though, you lost plenty of your own too. Gone, but not forgotten...

This story smells bad-from what I hear, they did not even try to find him.

Find who ? If you mean Speicher ...then in Dec. 1995 a special investigative team from the Pentagon went to Iraq with the assistance of the Red Cross and examined the crash site .... His remains was discovered in 2009 and brought back to the US.

I'm talking about the search in the first days.
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 11:33

sergei wrote:I'm talking about the search in the first days.
This issue was 'very complex' (to put it mildly).

Firstly, there was lots of confusion about what happened, and even more uncertainity about Speicher's fate.
Speicher was 'tail end charlie': last aircraft in his formation, and nobody saw him going down.

Then, CO VFA-81 and CAG CVW-17 were initially 'in denial' about any kind of loss at all. They wanted to make sure that he didn't divert to some place in Saudi Arabia - or even Jordan.

Then the USN's establishment took over and handled the entire affair in - sorry to say it - most sorrid fashion. For example, while subsequent investigation revealed that the USAF E-3 actually picked up an 'unknown radar contact heading south, that the controller obtained 'IrAF IFF transmission' and issued a warning 'bandit, bandit' and 'heads up' before the plots merged, he used 'bullseye format' - which was completely meaningless to Hornet pilots (even more so as they were heads down, programming the launch of their HARMs).

Meanwhile, the DIA 'fusion cell' (in Riyadh) reported that one of KH satellites recorded a 'missile', 'impact', and subsequent 'fireball', but did not record any Fox Fire emissions. That prompted somebody within the chain of command to start 'loudly guessing' about a possible 'blue on blue'. This erroneous report diverted plenty of attention from the CSAR effort for Speicher (indeed, ADM Mixon even launched an investigation board into relevant claims, although everybody knew that all the F-14s came home without firing a single missile).

All of this was kind of 'stuff' nobody could talk about openly in the public (it was eventually published, but only about 10 years later).

And then the time passed by and things only got worse. Cheney and few others began claiming that 'no US or Coalition aircraft was shot down by IrAF interceptors during the whole war', which everybody knew was a lie, but nobody was curious to correct them. This meant that this affair became a 'political' rather than 'military' affair, and further degraded efforts to find out what actually happened... On the top of that, although Speicher's fate was quite certain at least by 1992 (when Iraqis learned that Speicher is still considered 'MIA', and their case-officer discussed this issue with UN-inspectors in Iraq), at latest by 1995 (US investigation inside Iraq), various circles at the Capitol Hill and elsewhere around the DC found it more suitable to bullshit about this affair than do something serious (was 'useful to keep Iraq under pressure')... the rest of the story (foremost the part including entirely pointless - actually: idiotically counterproductive - US invasion of Iraq), should be more than 'well-known'...
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 11:56

Please correct me if I wrong but from what I know the formation consisted of 6 Hornets : 4 from VFA-81 and 2 from VFA-83 :
CMDR - Mike Anderson squadron leader VFA-81
LCDR - Scott Speicher - VFA-81
LCDR - Tony Albani - VFA-81
LCDR - Barry Hull - VFA-81
CMDR - Bob Stumpf squadron leader of VFA-83
LCDR - Dave Renaud - VFA-83
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 17:24

There was a total of 10 F/A-18Cs: 5 from VFA-81 'Sunliners' and five from VFA-83 'Rampagers'.

Rampagers formed a 'wall' to the 'left' (or north-west) of A-6Es, which followed about 75 miles behind (and south), Sunliners to the 'right' (or north-east) of them, and they were gradually fanning (spreading their formations) after entering Iraq.

Dawoud was initially vectored against Rampager formation (i.e. 'almost directly west'), but after his near-engagement with Anderson and that turn he ended to the left of Speicher and... well: fired.
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 17:28

tomcooper wrote:There was a total of 10 F/A-18Cs: 5 from VFA-81 'Sunliners' and five from VFA-83 'Rampagers'.

Rampagers formed a 'wall' to the 'left' (or north-west) of A-6Es, which followed about 75 miles behind (and south), Sunliners to the 'right' (or north-east) of them, and they were gradually fanning (spreading their formations) after entering Iraq.

Dawoud was initially vectored against Rampager formation (i.e. 'almost directly west'), but after his near-engagement with Anderson and that turn he ended to the left of Speicher and... well: fired.

Thats will make the Formation consisting of 10 F/A-18C + 8 A-6E + 4 F-14A+ + 3 EA-6B = 25
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 21:01

oldiaf wrote:Thats will make the Formation consisting of 10 F/A-18C + 8 A-6E + 4 F-14A+ + 3 EA-6B = 25

Yes, but Rampages didn't get involved - just like F-14As from VF-32, that were further north (i.e. between Dawoud and Taqqaddum AB). They were far too far away to the west, and Tomcats were far too far away to the north. So, only 5 Sunliners and A-6Es were around.

BTW...
To American public the first Air to Air victory achieved in Operation Desert Storm was either that of Cap. Steve Tate F-15C from 71TFS/1TFW on a Mirage F.1EQ ( pilot Lt.col. Sabah Mutlag 89 Squadron - ejected safely ).

One more thing: Mutlag flew a F.1BQ (two-seater). His single-seater had a malfunction on scramble, and he had to quickly change to 'spare' aircraft.

He was well-experienced from the war with Iran and knew what it looked like when a Sparrow was fired at him. He evaded at least one AIM-7, before another hit his aircraft.
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Unread post01 Sep 2015, 23:32

tomcooper wrote:
sergei wrote:I'm talking about the search in the first days.
This issue was 'very complex' (to put it mildly).

he used 'bullseye format' - which was completely meaningless to Hornet pilots (even more so as they were heads down, programming the launch of their HARMs).



Use of "bullseye" reference calls is standard and has been for decades. If the Hornet drivers found it meaningless they have no one to blame but themselves. Radio traffic stepping on the calls is more likely.

One other note on why there was no CSAR effort. No survivor radio calls were heard. The Navy switched to the PRC-90 the night of the first strikes and it turned out the survival vest pocket for the new radio wasn't big enough. Many are convinced the radio wouldn't stay in the pocket during ejection. It would be interesting for participants to report whether survival seat beacons were set to auto (standard during peace time to accelerate recovery efforts) or manual (often used during combat so as not to highlight aircrews on the chute to the enemy.)
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