The first time the F-15 Strike Eagle saw combat was in the skies over the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Although the F-15 C and D were incredibly lethal in air-to-air combat, the F-15E was primarily used to take out mobile Scud missiles and surface-to-air missile sites. It was the F-15E’s only air-to-air kill during Desert Storm that would become the most memorable.
On Valentine’s Day 1991, the offensive part of the First Gulf War was in full swing. U.S. Air Force Captains Richard “TB” Bennett and Dan “Chewie” Bakke were pilot and weapons system officer, respectively, on a Scud patrol. AWACS ordered their F-15E to hit Mi-24 Hind Gunships that were close to a U.S. Special Forces operation.
Bakke told the author of “Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements” that the F-15E’s radar became “intermittent” when they moved to strike. The pilot couldn’t get a missile lock on the targets because one the Hinds began to accelerate so fast. Bakke switched his thinking to a ground attack.
Since he could only see the rotors using his LANTIRN pod (the ground targeting system used by the Strike Eagles) Bakke used a laser-guided, 2,000-pound GBU-10 bomb on the helicopter as it began to lift off. The bomb when through the rotors and the cockpit, its fuse delay exploding the munition underneath the Hind, completely disintegrating the helicopter. The other helicopters bolted after that and more U.S. air cover came in to protect the ground force.
After the Special Forces team was extracted, they confirmed the F-15E’s kill and sent Bennett and Bakke a “Thank You” via their headquarters based in Riyadh.