The United States Air Force has enjoyed dominance and air superiority in virtually all theaters of combat for quite some time, but that certainly doesn’t mean there is zero risk for the pilots who operate in the skies above a combat zone.
There is always the chance an American fighter pilot could be engaged by enemy aircraft, and there is always a threat posed by surface-to-air missiles that can lock in on their jet and knock them out of the sky.
A chilling example of the risks faced by American pilots can be seen in the following video of an F-16 pilot flying a combat mission over Iraq in the opening days of Operation Desert Storm on Jan. 19, 1991, according to We Are The Mighty.
Air Force Major ET Tullia, call sign “Stroke 3,” was part of a mission sent to destroy a rocket production facility on the north side of Baghdad, an area chock-full of defensive anti-aircraft artillery and SAM batteries.
The mission began normally enough, but as Tullia and the rest of his wing reached the vicinity of their target, the AAA and SAM batteries came to life and turned the open sky into an incredibly dangerous place.
Tullia began to hear a bone-chilling beep within his cockpit, the warning that his jet had been locked on to by an enemy missile.
The fighter pilot took evasive maneuvers to avoid the missle, but he was nowhere near safe, as the stressful situation played out again five more times within the span of several minutes.
Indeed, Tullia managed to dodge six different SAMs fired his direction, and a couple could even be seen streaking past him in the heads-up-display, with at least one being seen detonating a short distance away off to his lower left at one point.
Luckily, the major didn’t black out from the no-doubt extreme g-forces he felt as he pitched and rolled and banked his jet sharply to both the right and left in continuous efforts evade the incoming missiles tracking him.
The heavy breathing of Tullia and nervously excited chattering of his wing mates on the radio give a slight clue as to the incredibly tense nature of the moment.
In the midst of all of his evasive manuevers, Tullia became separated from the rest of his group, but thankfully he was able to avoid being hit by any of the missiles fired his way and eventually rejoined his compatriots to make it back to their base, alive and well.
You can watch the fraught-with-tension video of Tullia’s near-brush with death six times right here:
This video display of the skillful flying and determination to stay alive of this F-16 fighter pilot in the skies over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm is an incredible sight to behold.
Americans should be grateful that we have brave individuals just like Maj. Tullia still dominating the skies above combat zones, regardless of what the enemy may throw their way.
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