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.
That is one hot bird. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower)
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.
This is the view from the HUD when Moshe Melnik scored the F-15 Eagle's first kill. (Youtube Screenshot)
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.
Okay, the Raptor is pretty cool, too. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alejandro Pena)
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.
Israeli F-15Is, the most modern version of the Eagle in the IDF. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
You can see Melnik's view of his history-making kill in the video from Smithsonian Channel below.