Watch: F/A-18 Hornet Vs MiG-21 Dogfight During Gulf War
On January 17th of 1991, four F/A-18C Hornets from the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) were approaching a ground target near western Iraq. Meanwhile one of the US carriers E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft discovered 2 enemy fighter aircraft just 15 miles ahead.
Since the F/A-18s were getting ready to take down a ground target they were loaded with 2000 pounds bombs. But unlike other navy aircraft, the Hornets were designed to easily switch between ground attack roles and dogfight roles with just a flick of a switch.
Lieutenant commander Mark Fox got a lock on one of the MiG-21s and two of the other pilots could as well. Both groups of Navy aircraft and enemy aircraft were approaching each other at Mach 1.2 supersonic speed. Then pilot Fox fired his heat-seeking missiles first and then a radar-guided missile. Navy pilots could see a fireball just seconds after the firing. Then Fox’s wingman fired a second missile and they could see a second fireball.
After taking down the enemy MiG-21s they rejoined with the other two F/A-18C fighters and continued with their attack on the ground targets. The whole battle took less than 40 seconds and this attack is considered the first successful air-to-air kill while carrying bombs. As the four F/A-18s returned to the carrier after the ground attack, they could see 4 columns of black smoke rising from the ground.