For over a decade, there were rising tensions between the US and Libya, and it all came to a head on January 4, 1989. As the USS John F. Kennedy sailed in the Mediterranean, they detected two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers taking off from a nearby base and headed toward the carrier.
Two F-14 Tomcats were sent to investigate the floggers, and it eventually led to a full-fledged dogfight caught on video threatening international relations.
Threat in North Africa
In 1973, the new Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi claimed most of the gulf as its territorial waters, and Libya became a significant security challenge to the West.
Challenging the Limits
Then President Reagan was very much concerned about the North American nation’s potential attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction since Libya was considered a state sponsor of terrorism.
The US constantly challenged the limits to keep its military presence in the region, including activities like stationing aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean.
Because of this, the US Navy had several close encounters with the Libyan military in the 1980s. Tensions between the two nations peaked in 1988 when the US accused Libya of building a chemical weapons plant.
Spotting the Libyans
On January 4, 1989, the USS carrier John F Kennedy was sailing through the Mediterranean for training exercises and patrol missions and detected two Libyan Air Force MiG-23 Floggers heading towards them.
Two F-14s were sent to investigate and intercept the planes, but it eventually turned into a full-fledged dogfight. The F-14 crews were able to take down the enemy planes, and the crew saw the Libyan pilots eject and deploy their parachutes.
Fortunately, the footage was caught on cam, and the footage showed the MiG-23s were indeed armed with air-to-air AA-7 Apex missiles proving once and for all that the Libyan fighters represented a real threat.
To this day, the exact intent of the Libyan aircraft remains unknown and although the pilots were seen ejected and parachuting from their aircraft, it remains a mystery if they were ever rescued.