Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part III


0220– The level of air activity on the Arabian Peninsula continues to rise. With the first wave of Iraqi aircraft outbound from their targets in Kuwait, the Il-76 Candid transport aircraft carrying men and equipment of the 328th Guards Airborne Regiment, along with their MiG-29 Fulcrum escorts began lifting off from Al-Taqaddum Airbase. Around the same time a squadron of Iraqi Air Force MiG-25 Foxbats was taking off from Tallil Airbase, and a small force of eight Su-24 Fencers, and six MiG-23 Floggers had departed from Al Ghaydah Airbase in South Yemen and were presently headed north.


0235-0310– Over northern Saudi Arabia, the controllers aboard a USAF E-3B Sentry had detected the MiGs rising from Tallil. With hostilities between Iraq and Kuwait in its earliest stages, the senior controller expected the MiGs to move east into Kuwaiti airspace. To his surprise, and horror, the MiGs formed up and started heading south towards the Saudi border instead.

Immediately, the Sentry started vectoring fighters off the northern CAP stations towards the border. The downbound aircraft were definitely MiGs, and judging by their speed, flight profile, and intermittent radar returns almost certainly MiG-25 Foxbats.  Scramble orders went out to Al Kharj Airbase and Dhahran. Additional Saudi and US fighters were going to be needed.

Around this time, the Saudi E-3A patrolling south of Riyadh obtained intermittent contact with what appeared to be 10+ aircraft coming into Saudi airspace from Yemen. Southern CAPs were directed to intercept, and additional requests for additional fighter support began to make their way up the chain of command.

US and Saudi CAP fighters were engaging the Iraqi Foxbats, and scoring kills. The MiGs did not have the benefit of an AWACS or ground-based GCI to assist them. They had an advantage in numbers, and speed though and made the most of them. As more and more fighters from Dhahran, and Riyadh joined the expanding air battle over northern Saudi Arabia it meant less fighters that would be available to challenge the transport aircraft and their escorts when they arrived in Saudi airspace. In this respect, the MiGs were doing their job spectacularly. As the battle wound down, the five surviving Foxbats turned and sped back north with F-15s and Electric Lightnings in close pursuit. Of those five MiGs only two would make it home.


0315– The north AWACS picked up a second group of contacts over southern Iraq, approaching the border. This one was much larger than the squadron of Foxbats from earlier. From the radar data, this group appears to be made up of slow moving, large aircraft escorted by at least twenty fighters. The senior controller believes this to be the main body of an airborne force bearing down on the Kingdom. The most likely targets are either Riyadh or the oil fields in the east. Al Kharj, and Dhahran are ordered to scramble all available fighters.


0328– The four surviving Su-24 Fencers from the Yemen flight approach their targets: two Saudi HAWK batteries. One is situated just south of Dhahran airbase, and the other on the northern outskirts of the city. HAWKs manage to kill the first section, but the follow-up aircraft hit the battery in the north, causing heavy damage to the radar and knocking out two launchers.


0335-0410– The heavy escort screen of over twenty MiG-29 Fulcrums does not prevent losses among the Il-76 transport aircraft. A running battle develop from the border to the airspace just outside of Dhahran. Flights of USAF and Saudi F-15s nip at the formation, trying to avoid the MiGs as much as possible. As the formation turns southeast more fighters arrive from Dhahran, and Al Kharj and the transit turns into a full blown furball. USAF and RSAF fighters shoot down thirteen transports and a similar number of MiGs while losing seven in return.

Two more IL-76s fall to the remaining HAWK battery as they approach Dhahran.

By now it is apparent Dhahran is the intended objective. At the airbase just outside of the oil city, aircraft that are ready for flight take off for alternate fields in the Kingdom and neighboring countries. The process starts immediately and continues on until after Soviet paratroopers are on the ground. The A-10 Warthogs based there relocate to Sheik Isa as per contingency plans. The airbase on the island of Bahrain is just sixty kilometers from Dhahran, allowing the A-10s to fly close air support missions from there easily. As a hedge against a possible enemy assault on Dhahran, munitions, and fuel had been pre-positioned in Bahrain, enabling the twenty-one A-10 Warthogs to fly two combat sorties each before needing to be replenished from outside sources.


Author’s Note: I was hoping to get the entire air/land battle into a single post, but it didn’t pan out. So APPG D+12 will finish up on Thursday. -Mike


8 Replies to “Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part III”

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