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    F-16’s Harrowing Dance with Death: Dodging 6 Missiles Without Countermeasures in 1991

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    In the perilous skies of Operation Desert Storm, a remarkable display of aerial agility unfolded as an American F-16 Fighting Falcon piloted by Major Emmett Tullia dodged a total of six Iraqi surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) during a high-stakes mission over Baghdad on January 19, 1991. This feat was accomplished without the aid of flares or chaff, traditionally used to evade such threats.

    As the largest F-16 strike in history, the mission involved a formidable force of 72 F-16s, supported by F-15 Eagles for air superiority, F-4G Wild Weasels targeting air defense systems, and EF-111 Ravens for electronic warfare.

    Assigned with the mission of neutralizing government targets and the Tawaitha nuclear reactor located just south of the city.

    Despite the overwhelming force, the intricate operation faced challenges from the onset—weather-induced refueling issues, and exhausted pilots from previous continuous sorties.

    The EF-111s discovered that the region housed an overwhelming number of anti-aircraft systems, making it impossible to effectively jam all of them.

    This left significant portions of the strike force vulnerable to the substantial Iraqi missile arsenal.

    Subsequently, the F-15Cs assigned to escort the F-16s were compelled to disengage. With no enemy aircraft to engage and the sky filled with anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles, they became additional targets for the Iraqi defenses.

    Consequently, the decision was made to withdraw the entire strike force from Baghdad airspace.

    One of the members of the small group from the 401st was Major Emmett Tullia, operating under the callsign “Stroke 3.”

    During his approach, a warning alert sounded in Tullia’s cockpit, indicating that he had been locked onto by a radar-guided surface-to-air missile.

    Skillfully, he maneuvered to evade the missile, which was as large as a telephone pole, but observed that his chaff and flares had little effect on altering the missile’s trajectory.

    Unfazed by the near miss, Tullia continued his mission and was among the select few F-16 pilots who managed to navigate through the intense Iraqi defenses to reach his target, releasing two 2,000-pound bombs over an oil refinery.

    Upon turning his F-16 southwards to exit the city, he found himself targeted once more. This time, three missiles were en route towards him. Once again, Stroke 3 took evasive maneuvers, successfully avoiding the incoming SA-3 missiles, only to then encounter a lock from an even more advanced SA-6 surface-to-air missile.

    “Stroke 3 defending 6!” Tullia’s voice crackled over the radio amidst the intense G-forces exerted by his evasive maneuvers. A groan escaped Tullia as the SA-6 missile whizzed past, the pilot bracing for impact, convinced it was about to strike.

    With limited speed and altitude remaining after evading the previous missiles, Tullia had no choice but to initiate a dive to accelerate and break free, inadvertently descending into a barrage of anti-aircraft fire below. Despite the perilous situation, Tullia skillfully outmaneuvered the sixth missile just as he had done with the previous five, relying solely on his piloting expertise. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, his chaff and flares proved ineffective.

    Relevant articles:
    How an Air Force F-16 Fighter Barely Dodged 6 Surface-to-Air Missiles, The National Interest
    How an F-16 dodged 6 surface-to-air missiles in an airstrike gone wrong, Sandboxx
    How an Air Force F-16 Fighter Barely Dodged 6 Surface-to-Air Missiles, The National Interest

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