An F-16 with three air-to-air kill air missions to deter Iran

There was something different about one of the American fighter jets that flew over the Strait of Hormuz last week to deter Iran from seizing oil tankers.

Three green stars are clearly visible on the F-16, tail 2137, in newly released DoD photos of the aircraft over the Strait and Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The F-16s are deployed to Central Command from Aviano Air Base, Italy, as part of the 555th Fighter Expeditionary Squadron.

F-16s join A-10s, US ships patrol the area to deter Iran from seizing merchant ships, Pentagon sends F-35s, amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and Marines for the region in the coming weeks.

But the kill marks on Tail 2137 in particular point to one of the most impressive air combat feats of recent decades: a triple kill for a single mission during the 1994 NATO mission over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the Air Force, the mission in 1994 was the first single-mission triple kill by a USAF pilot since the Korean War.

“I can confirm that the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Triple Nickel) has Tail 2137, which is the designated F-16 fighter that gets 3 air-to-air kills over Bosnia,” Air Force Central (AFCENT) spokesman Colonel Mike Andrews told Air & Space Magazine.

A US Air Force pilot assigned to the 555th Fighter Expeditionary Squadron prepares to land an F-16 Fighting Falcon after it arrives at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 17, 2023. US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III

The killing hat-trick occurred on February 28, 1994, when then-Captain. Robert Gordon “Wilbur” Wright was flying the aircraft as part of Operation Refusal to Fly, a NATO operation to enforce a UN no-fly zone during the conflict in the Balkans.

Serbian six J-21 Hawk Fighters were spotted attacking a factory and two F-16s of the 526th Fighter Squadron operating out of Aviano engaged in what became known as the Banja Luka incident.

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A fourth J-21 was shot down the same day by another F-16 piloted by Capt. Stephen L. “Yogi” Allen. A fifth Serbian J-21 was lost, but the US does not record this as a US fighter kill. The incident was the first combat action in NATO history. According to the coalition. Wright shot down both planes in minutes using an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, in the USAF.

Bob Wright, retired US Air Force F-16 pilot, poses for a photo. After retirement, his son, Jet, followed in his footsteps, becoming an F-16 pilot and getting the chance to fly the same plane. US Air Force photo

In historical photos released by the Air Force, Tail 2137 previously had three kill marks that looked like a double-headed eagle, which is the Serbian coat of arms. But those markings have since been replaced by green stars. “Wilbur” Wright’s son, Air Force Captain Jet Wright, piloted the same plane while on active duty last year, according to Public Affairs Aviano Air Force Base.

It is rare for an aircraft to be in the active inventory with an air-to-air kill in the US Army. The last US air-to-air kill of an enemy aircraft was in 2017 over Syria, when a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Close A Syrian Su-22 fighter that the United States said is dropping bombs on its Kurdish partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces. on timeThe Pentagon said it was the first time American pilots had shot down a manned plane since 1999.

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