On January 4, 1989, near the Libya coast, Two F-14s from the USS John F. Kennedy are alerted to a pair of Libyan MiG-23 Floggers. The MiG-23s had taken off from Al Bumbaw Airfield near Tobruk.
The F-14 Tomcats locked the MiGs with their powerful AWG radar. Normally such a radar lock resulted in the MiGs retreating back to Libya, not this time. The Tomcats were threatened by AA-7 Apex missiles and were cleared to engage the MiGs. During a lengthy six to eight minute air battle, the MiGs continued to threaten the Tomcats and finally, after several attempts to evade the MiG radar threat, the incoming pair of MiG-23s were declared hostile and the F-14 crews were cleared to engage.
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The crew of the lead F-14A, fired an AIM-7 Sparrow missile which did not strike its target, while the second F-14A AIM-7 missile found its target, destroying one of the MiG-23s. The lead F-14 re-engaged the remaining MiG-23 firing an AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missile which detonated in the tailpipe of the MiG. Both MiG-23 pilots ejected safely from their destroyed jets.
No future Libya MiG-23s ever engaged another U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat.
The Northrop Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a Navy long-range fighter interceptor and served the Navy well from 1974 – 2006, as a air superiority fighter jet. The F-14 Tomcat was retired by the Navy in December, 2006, and the F-22 Raptor is proudly filling it’s shoes today.