A US Navy F-14 lifts off of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy in the Red Sea, January 25, 1991
The US Navy had several close encounters with the Libyans in the Gulf of Sidra in the 1980s.
A 1989 incident escalated, and US pilots flying F-14 Tomcats fired first, downing two Libyan MiG-23.
One of the more constant sources of action for the US Navy in the 1980s was the Gulf of Sidra.
On three occasions, “freedom of navigation” exercises turned into violent encounters, an operational risk that all such exercises have.
The 1989 incident where two F-14 Tomcats from VF-32, based on board the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) is very notable — especially since the radio communications and some of the camera footage was released at the time.
In 1981, two Su-22 Fitters had fired on a pair of Tomcats. The F-14s turned around and blasted the Fitters out of the sky. Five years later, the Navy saw several combat engagements with Libyan navy assets and surface-to-air missile sites.
In the 1989 incident, the Tomcats made five turns to try to avoid combat, according to TheAviationist.com. The Floggers insisted, and ultimately, the Tomcat crews didn’t wait for hostile fire. Like Han Solo at the Mos Eisley cantina, they shot first.
So here is the full video of the incident — from the time contact was acquired to when the two Floggers went down.