Gulf of Sidra

Gulf of Sidra:

In the first Gulf of Sidra incident, August 19, 1981, two Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter attack aircraft were shot down by two American F-14 Tomcats off of the Libyan coast.

In the 1970s, Libya had claimed a 12 mile extension zone of its territorial waters in the Gulf of Sidra, which prompted US naval forces to conduct Freedom of Navigation operations in the area, the so-called "line of death". These operations intensified when Ronald Reagan came to office; in August 1981, he authorized a large naval force, led by USS Forrestal and Nimitz, to deploy off the Libyan coast.

The Libyan Air Force responded by deploying a high number of interceptors and fighter-bombers. Early on the morning of August 18, when the US exercise began, at least three MiG-25 'Foxbats' approached the US carrier groups, but were escorted away by F-4 Phantom IIs from Forrestal and F-14s of VF-41 and VF-84 from Nimitz.

The Libyans tried to establish the exact location of the US naval force. Thirty-five pairs of MiG-23 'Floggers', MiG-25s, Sukhoi Su-20 'Fitter-Cs', Su-22M 'Fitter-Js' and Mirage F.1s flew into the area, and were soon intercepted by seven pairs of F-14s and F-4s. The situation was tense, but neither side fired any weapons, even in at least two cases when MiG-25s tried to breach through the American fighters by flying high and fast.


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