“We’ve Been Hit”

F/A-18 vs. surface-to-air missile: Guess who won.

The starboard engine on the author’s F/A-18D takes licking, keeps ticking after a February 21, 1991 Iraqi missile strike. (Courtesy John Scanlan)
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“Combat two-one, departure control, radar contact.”

“Hey Bubba.”


“Don’t pull the handle. There’s going to be smoke in the cockpit.”

“Roger that.”

On Thursday, February 21, 1991, my takeoff with Cheyenne was the usual.

“Departure control, combat four-one is airborne, climbing to one-zero thousand.”

“Combat four-one, departure control, radar contact.”

“Hey Bubba. Don’t pull the handle….” and “Roger that.”

However, on that particular afternoon, our section stumbled upon the mother lode of Iraqi targets: four tanks and eight artillery pieces 45 miles northwest of Kuwait City, heading south. At the time we found them, there were no aircraft on station for us to control. Worse, the next section of potential bombers wasn’t supposed to check in for another 30 minutes.


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