On June 27, 1979, aviation history was made when the F-15 Eagle scored its first kill in a dogfight between Israeli and Syrian aircraft.
Since then, the F-15 has scored over a hundred kills — with no air-to-air losses. The F-15 is a powerful plane, capable of carrying eight air-to-air missiles, and the M61 Gatling gun.
On that day, four Israeli F-15s were flying top cover for strikes against PLO targets in Lebanon when two flights, each with four Syrian Air Force MiG-21 Fishbed interceptors, flew in to intercept the strike.
The Israeli pilots were given clearance to fire, and they started off with a Sparrow engagement. The first Sparrow shots missed, then the F-15s closed.
Moshe Melnik, in the second of the four F-15s, took on the enemy fighters. He selected his infra-red guided missiles for the attack. It wasn’t an American-made Sidewinder, though. The Israelis had their own dogfight missile, the Python 3. Melnik selected one, and fired.
The missile tracked in, taking out one of the Fishbeds. It was thirty seconds into the engagement.
Melnik had secured a place in history as the first pilot to shoot down an enemy plane with the F-15 Eagle. Since then, between small-scale engagements and major conflicts like the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot and Operation Desert Storm, the F-15 has dominated the skies, only yielding as the premiere air-to-air platform when the F-22 Raptor entered service.
Ironically, while Melnik would make history, he would not be considered the hero of the engagement where the F-15 scored its first kill. That honor would go to another Israeli pilot, Eitan Ben-Eliyahu.
Melnik’s kill had been with an air-to-air missile. Ben-Eliyahu, though, used his F-15’s M61 to score his kill. In an interview that aired on History Channel’s “Dogfights,” even Melnik conceded Ben-Eliyahu was the hero.
You can see Melnik’s view of his history-making kill in the F-15, checkout the video from Smithsonian Channel below.