Fighter Squadron THREE THREE (VF-33) “Starfighters”
Operation "Prairie Fire"
USS America (CV-66), CVW-1. March 1986
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|By Timeframe||The Gulf War I & II / Libya|
|By Operator||U. S. N.|
|By Model||F-14 Tomcat|
|By Illustrator||Tom Cooper / ACIG.info|
s/n: BuNo 161142 #200/AB
At noon of 24 March 1986, two MiG-25PDs of the 1025th Fighter Squadron Libyan Arab Air Force, led by Col. Ali Thani, were scrambled from Benina AB with an order to intercept and shot down some of USN fighters that operated over the Gulf of Sidra. Before they could get close enough both Foxbats were detected by an E-2C of the VAW-123, and then intercepted by two VF-33 “Tomcats”. The four opposing fighters engaged in a series of high-speed turns at a level of 20.000ft. As manoeuvring of Libyan fighters became aggressive they have several times turned head-on into two “Tomcats” - the leader of the USN section, Cdr. Mike “Smiles” Bucchi (XO VF-33) flying the F-14A AB200, requested permission to open fire. This was eventually granted but came too late, then both Foxbats disengaged in the meantime. “Tomcat” 161142 was at the time one of only three VF-33 F-14As equipped with TCS-system, and Cdr. Bucchi and his RIO (Lt.Cdr. Ken “Heimy” Heimgartner, MO VF-33) brought back some of the most awesome close up video of their dogfight with Libyan MiG-25s. “Tomcat” 161142 continued on to soldier with various units of Atlantic Fleet until being stricken, in October 1995.