28 September 2009

During the Cold War, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles assigned to the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron "Black Knights" based in Iceland made frequent intercepts of Tupolev Tu-95/Tu-142 Bear aircraft transiting and operating in the GIUK Gap (Greenland-Iceland-UK). One several occasions the encounters between the Eagle pilots and the Bear crews got "interesting".

At night, the Bear-F ASW version would frequently use its powerful searchlight to try and disorient the pilot of an approaching Eagle. One Eagle driver took issue with this tactic- he zoomed ahead, turned 180 degrees, and while closing in on the Bear nose-on, lowered his landing gear and the Eagle's landing lights lit up the Bear cockpit, frightening the Russian crew. While the Eagle driver was reprimanded for his "innovative tactic", the Bears stopped shining their seachlights at the F-15s.

On another occasion, the mechanics of the 57th FIS created a fictitious EW pod by attaching all sorts of spare aerials and parts to a standard baggage pod. It was attached to an alert Eagle and when it went out to intercept a Bear, the pilot rolled out next to the Bear with the pod in full view. A battery of cameras suddenly were pulled out by the Russian crew to photograph this "new" EW pod.

The younger Eagle drivers with the 57th FIS would often spread a Playboy centerfold across the canopy when flying next to an intercepted Bear. Usually the Russian crew smiled back and waved. On one occasion the Bear flight crew repeatedly extended and retracted the nose mounted refueling probe in response!

Source: F-15 Eagle Engaged: The World's Most Successful Jet Fighter by Steve Davies and Doug Dildy. Osprey Publishing, 2007, p129.

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