What happens when a MiG-29 and a legendary F-14 Tomcat go head to head: Author Dave Bio Baranek surely knows a thing or two about military aircraft, as he was a former F-14 RIO and Topgun instructor.
Since retiring from the U.S. Navy more than twenty years ago, he is now one of the hosts of the new podcast series the F-14 Tomcast. Recently, per the Aviation Geek Club, there was a notable appearance made by former F-14 pilot and Topgun instructor Sam “Slammer” Richardson, now a retired U.S. Navy Captain.
1 on 1 Dogfight
Baranek mentioned that “the story sure to get the most attention is when Slammer describes a memorable 1v1 training engagement against a Luftwaffe MiG-29 Fulcrum in the late 1990s while he was attached to VF-14 Tophatters.”
Richardson dived further into his personal experience. “One day I was fighting a MiG-29. The first fight I’ll never forget did not work out well for me. I tried the aggressive pressure fight and failed miserably.”
What happened after the first engagement? “I’m scramblin’ through my mind,” he said. “What do I gotta do? I realized I can’t fight the airplane, I gotta fight the pilot.”
Then came the second engagement. “I intentionally flew directly under him. I knew he was aggressive as hell, and sure enough he bit. I saw his two afterburners. He is probably doing five hundred knots, straight downhill, with both afterburners. And I thought, ‘Gotcha!’ I came up over the top, repositioned my nose, and I’m looking at an arcing MiG-29,” Richardson noted.
Baranek claimed that “Slammer used his knowledge of his opponent’s aircraft limitations to get into a favorable situation. … He forced the MiG-29 pilot to call ‘Knock it off.’ Afterwards, he said the Fulcrum pilot could only talk about how he lost the fight against the Tomcat.”
Richardson added: “I got into his head. The quality of the crate matters little. What matters is the quality of the man inside it.”
The podcast’s co-host Craig “Crunch” Snyder pointed out that “Slammer had a game plan for the fight, thinking two and three moves ahead.”
How It Started
The podcast also delved into Richardson’s background and early experience in Navy pilot training.
“When he earned his Wings of Gold, there were no F-14 seats available so his commanding officer directed him to a program where he would temporarily instruct other students,” Baranek writes.
“He said this was a beneficial experience that gave him more air sense,” he continues.
Richardson also credited the veterans of the West Coast F-14 community with giving him important lessons.
“They wouldn’t teach you tricks. You had to learn the basics: energy management … where the Tomcat had the advantage … and the disadvantage,” he said.
“The Tomcat is a very easy airplane to fly. But it’s a very, very hard airplane to fly well,” he added.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.