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Meet the Hornet Pilot Who Shot Down a Syrian Fighter Jet in June

An F/A-18E super hornet prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Credit: PO3 Bryan Mai/Navy

On June 18, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet from the carrier air wing aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter jet, after it dropped bombs on part of a U.S.-led coalition dedicated to defeating ISIS.

It marked first air-to-air kill for the F/A-18 since two shot down a pair of Iraqi MiG-21s in the Gulf War, and the first air-to-air kill between manned aircraft for the U.S. since 1999, when an Air Force F-16 shot down a Serbian MiG-29 over Kosovo.

Now, the USS George HW Bush is in British waters to participate in exercise “Saxon Warrior” with the Royal Navy, and gave journalists onboard a chance to hear from Lt Cdr Michael Tremel from Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-87, the ‘Golden Warriors’.

As reported by Save the Royal Navy:

I did not directly communicate with the Syrian Jet but he was given several warnings by our supporting AWACS aircraft… So yes, we released ordnance and yes it hit a target that was in the air, but it really just came back to defending those guys that were doing the hard job on the ground and taking that ground back from ISIS.” He said.

Super Hornet on the deck. Credit: Navy

“I didn’t see the pilot eject but my wingman observed his parachute,” he added.

On encounters with Russian aircraft, he said: “They behaved with great professionalism at all times.”

According to Tremmel, the kill actually took firing two different missiles. The first shot, an infrared guided AIM-9X Sidewinder short range air-to-air missile, missed when the SU-22 pilot popped off decoy flares.

It took a second shot with a radar-guided AIM-120 AMRAAM, to make the kill.

The engagement lasted 8 minutes, the kill decision was made by Tremmel in accordance with the rules of engagement.

.You can read the full story here.
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Written by Mike Killian

Mike Killian

Killian is an accomplished aerospace photographer and writer, specializing in rocket launch and air-to-air aviation imagery. Over the years his assignments have brought him onboard NASA's space shuttles, in clean rooms with spacecraft destined for other worlds, front row for launches of historic missions and on numerous civilian and military flight assignments, including working as a photographer for Breitling Jet Team in 2016.

When not working the California-native enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, storm chasing, producing time-lapses and shooting landscape and night sky imagery, as well as watching planes of course.