The Story of the 160 Victories Scored by Iran's F-14 Tomcats

David Axe

Key point: During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran used its F-14s to great effect.

Iran’s force of American-made F-14 Tomcat interceptors dominated the sky during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988. F-14s reportedly downed more than 160 Iraqi planes.

Journalist Kash Ryan in his book Air Combat Memoirs of the Iranian Air Force Pilots compiled first-hand accounts of some of these aerial battles, including one by F-14 radar intercept officer Capt. Parviz Moradi.

“Departing from 8th [Tactical Fighter Base] Isfahan as Dragon 5 flight piloted by then-major Amir Aslani to perform the day’s [combat air patrol] over oil facilities near Kharg Island, we were vectored by ground based radar controllers to sweep the skies in anticipation of enemy intruders,” Moradi told Ryan.

From the book: 

Most of the time our combat air patrols were done within the distinct shapes of parallel triangles. The base of the triangle was towards our own soil, while the two other arms of the triangle faced the enemy territory. This tactic would give us a better radar sweep and plenty of time to detect incoming enemy aircraft.

Heading 90 degrees back after completing our first turn, Bushehr radar warned us that an enemy jet was right behind us. Going in afterburner, we did a sharp left turn to face the enemy head-on. I started sweeping the sky electronically, scanning the scope in order to locate the enemy jet. Shortly after our left turn, I managed to find an Iraqi jet on my Tactical Information Display. As soon as I locked on him, the sole Iraqi jet turned and ran back to Iraq. This happened one more time.

Since we knew Iraqi SIGINT/ELINT posts were listening in on our conversation with ground radar controllers, I decided to hatch a plot to deceive the next Iraqi fighter. Through the intercom, I told Maj. Aslani of my plan. “Sir, I have a plan. We are going to ignore our radar controllers’ warnings and we are going to delay our eventual turn toward the enemy fighter as long as possible in order to draw them further inland. Also, I request to be doing all the talking with radar controllers from now on.”

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