Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Immediate Take Off!

Just after 0300, on the morning of the 17th of January 1991 Lieutenant Zuhair Dawood, of the Iraqi Air Force, was on duty. The day previously the deadline set for the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait had passed, and it seemed war was imminent. What Lt Dawood did not know was that the war had already started. The exact sequence of events is confused, however by about 0330 a flight of US AH-64 Apache's had struck at radar sites along the border knocking them offline. At the same time B-52's were hitting Talha with a pair of Iraqi MIG-25 Foxbat's attempting to intercept. While the low-level Iraqi radars were destroyed, their longer-range high-altitude systems were still intact. These picked up a large formation of Coalition aircraft heading towards Iraqi airspace. The phone rang at Alqadisiya air base, and Lt Dawood answered, to hear the yelled command of "MIG-25 immediate take off!".

Lt Dawood sprinted to the nearest MIG-25PD on his airbase and began to start his pre-flight sequence. In just three minutes the Foxbat was climbing away from the runway on full afterburner. During his climb out Lt Dawood was warming up his Saphire-25 radar.
Off in the distance there was a FA-18 Hornet, the pilot could see the afterburner flame from the Foxbat, equally he had a good radar return. The FA-18 locked onto Lt Dawood and prepared to fire. However, before he could release, he needed clearance from the E-3 Sentry controlling that part of the battlefield. The E-3 had more issues. The Foxbat was climbing on the edge of the radar, it also was not transmitting with its radar (which was still warming up) that would allow a positive Identification. For that reason, the FA-18 was not given permission to fire. With the lock obtained Lt Dawood knew he was under attack, and made a tight turn to the south, this meant he was heading towards the Hornet. The Hornet began to turn in towards the Foxbat, and the two planes created a circle, with each plane taking half the turn.
Please do not think of this as an old school, Second World War dogfight. There were hundreds of meters between the planes in this battle.
After both planes had covered about 180 degrees of the circle, Lt Dawood's plane was behind the Hornet's area of vision, and Lt Dawood was able to roll out of the turn and headed off south towards the main strike package. This meant he flew over the Hornet's wingman, who was over two miles from the first Hornet. By now Lt Dawood's radar had warmed up. The first thing that flashed up was a third Hornet, who was accelerating to fire a HARM towards the radars at Alqadisiya air base, so that the strike package of A-6E's could dive bomb the facility. At a range of 29km Lt Dawood fired a AA-6 Acrid missile, he held the lock until he saw the explosion. The missile detonated on the left side and below the cockpit. Containing 154lbs of explosive the blast threw the Hornet to the side about 60 degrees and inflicted 6G's onto the airframe. This caused several of the wing stores to be sheared off. The pilot, Lieutenant Commander Scott Speicher immediately ejected, but died later. Lt Dawood saw the plane spin into the ground as it burned. This was the first air-to-air kill of Operation Desert Storm.
An A-6 over Alqadisiya air base, only this is after 2003 and when the Airbase became one of the largest US bases in Iraq.
At about this time the A-6E's begun their attack, so Lt Dawood turned back towards his base. He then locked up another target and requested permission to fire from his ground controller. This was refused. Ground control stated that another MIG-25 had gotten away from base before the bombing started, and the aircraft shelters had to be sealed. However, ground control had lost track of it in the confusion. Fearing that Lt Dawood might be about to engage a friendly he was ordered to obtain a visual identification. Lt Dawood stated the target was too slow moving to be the missing MIG (in fact it was a A-6E), however, he was refused again, and ordered to return to base.

An Iraqi MIG-25 in a Hardened Aircraft Shelter, which was significantly less lucky than the one flown by Lt Dawood.
But which way was base? Lt Dawood asked for directions, as his navigation instruments were malfunctioning. Ground control stated they had lost radar contact as well but suggested a rough course. Then the connection with ground control dropped out. Now Lt Dawood was airborne, lost, with fuel running out. There were no lights as the power had been cut, all he could see were streaks of AA fire in the darkness. Then he spied Haditha train station still lit up. He knew its location and headed towards his base. He had no contact with the base tower as he approached the main runway. Suddenly a voice crackled over the radio warning him off the main approach. Lt Dawood was able to abort and land on a secondary runway. Later he found out that the main runway had been cratered.

Image credits