F-15 Fighter Jet That Shot Down Two MiG-29s In A Single Engagement Makes Final Flight To The USAF Museum

The F-15 fighter jet that famously shot down two MiG-29 Fulcrum planes in a single encounter arrived at the National Museum of the US Air Force on April 25. 

The iconic plane will now join the museum’s impressive lineup of exhibits, showcasing the aircraft’s significant role in US military aviation history. 

After conducting several fly-bys to burn off fuel, Lt. Col. Matthew “Beast” Tanis piloted the F-15C from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts to Dayton. He then shared his personal connection to the aircraft and what it signifies to him.

According to Tanis, it was a privilege to fly the historic fighter jet to what he referred to as the Air Force’s “Hall of Fame.” When questioned if the experience was bittersweet, he said it was emotional. 

Tanis compared the situation to the feeling of driving your favorite car to a garage and never being able to drive it again. 

“This is like one of those sad things with your favorite car; you’re basically driving it to the garage to never fly it again,” the pilot said. 

Reflecting on flying the F-15 in general, Tanis said it is “rewarding but challenging.” According to him, the aircraft provides a lot of freedom and offers an exciting flying experience due to its unrestricted capabilities. 

As he explains, the F-15C is unique in that it lacks fly-by-wire technology and instead uses manual controls, including belt cranks and pullies. 

This feature provides the pilot with a direct physical connection to the plane, making it possible to feel every movement and change in direction. This sensation, Tanis emphasized, is absent in modern aircraft that rely on electronic systems for control.

Meghan Anderson, a curator in the Research Division of the museum, revealed that the newly acquired F-15C would probably replace the currently displayed F-15A. 

However, she clarified that there is no set timeline for when the “MiG-Killer” will be available for public viewing, as it first needs thorough cleaning and preparation to be ready for display.

The museum highlighted the importance of adding the F-15C to its collection, stating that it is an important aircraft because the F-15 has recorded the most air-to-air victories of any US fighter since the Vietnam War. 

How F-15 Achieved Double MiG-29 Victory

In March of 1999, Captain Jeff “Claw” Hwang achieved a remarkable feat of aerial combat when he successfully shot down two MiG-29 fighters while piloting his F-15C, with the tail number 86-0156. 

The incident occurred during the NATO intervention in the Kosovo conflict, which saw the alliance carry out a series of air strikes against Serbian forces supporting Kosovo Albanians seeking independence.

Capt. Hwang was part of an F-15C detachment from the 493rd Fighter Squadron headquartered at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. He and his wingman were on a routine combat air patrol over Kosovo on March 26 when they became aware of the presence of two MiG-29s in the vicinity. 

The Serbian fighters were also on a mission to intercept the NATO aircraft. As per the museum’s account of Hwang’s mission, he detected only one radar signal when the American pilot approached the Bosnian/Serbian border.

As Hwang and his wingman monitored the radar signal, they realized that it was actually two targets positioned together. 

Distinguished fighter pilot retires
Col. Jeff Hwang, 142nd Fighter Wing Vice Commander, pauses on the ladder of his F-15C Eagle following his ‘Fini Flight’ with the Oregon Air National Guard, September 19, 2014, Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. Painted on the Eagle are two green stars, which were added to his aircraft for his final flight in the Air Force, and reference the two Mikoyan MiG-29’s that he shot down over Kosovo on March 26, 1999.

Just 90 seconds after detecting the second aircraft, Hwang fired two AIM-120 missiles in quick succession from a range of 16 miles, and he successfully shot down both the MiG-29 Fulcrum planes in a single engagement, which was a first for the F-15.

The shootdown of two MiG-29s by Hwang was a significant achievement in the history of aerial combat. In recognition of his heroic actions, Hwang was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the highest honors for military aviators in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has begun the process of returning an older fleet of F-15C/D Eagle aircraft from Kadena Air Base in Japan back to the United States. As part of its plan to wind down operations of this fighter jet in Japan, the service has already sent 18 F-15Cs back to the United States. 

During a congressional hearing in March, Lt. Gen. Richard G. Moore, Jr., the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, revealed that out of the 18 F-15Cs being returned from Kadena Air Base in Japan, three of them are permanently grounded and “four are only capable of one-time flight to the Boneyard.”