Sukhoi Su-15

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The Sukhoi Su-15 (NATO codename: Flagon) was a supersonic, single-seat interceptor built by the Soviet Union, which was the only user. Two Tumansky turbojet engines gave it a top speed of 1386 mph (Mach 2+). Armament consisted four air-to-air missiles (no guns). It served exclusively in the air defense role, intended for the interception of U.S. bombers, and like all Soviet defense fighters of the time, depended heavily on guidance from ground control stations. The Flagon first flew in 1965, entered operational service in 1969, and was the Soviet Air Force’s most numerous all-weather interceptor by the mid-1970s. The plane achieved notoriety in 1983, when a Flagon downed Korean Airlines Flight 007 near Moneron Island west of Sakhalin when it accidentally crossed into Soviet airspace. The missiles fired in this incident were two R-98 medium range air-air missiles. "The heat-seeker" failed to hit as evidenced by the First Officer twice reporting after missile dtonation to the Captain, "engines normal, sir." The second, a radar guided missile, exploded, as designed, 50 meters behind the target, causing damage to the passenger Jumbo Jet. By the time the Soviet Union fell, the Su-15 was largely retired, replaced by newer fighters. (see: MiG-31)

Korean Airlines Flight 902

Before the KAL 007 tragedy, the Flagon was involved in an eerily similar incident involving a KAL civilian airliner. On April 20, 1978, Flight 902, a Boeing 707, departed Paris for Seoul with a stop at Anchorage. A navigational error took it over Soviet airspace however, and the plane soon had company: two Su-15s flew up to take a look. The 707 was in military use at the time, as the RC-135 electronic intelligence aircraft, but the Russian pilots saw at once that this was a civilian plane. According to US sources, the pilots attempted to convince their superiors of this, but the order was issued anyway: Shoot it down.

Two missiles were fired at the airliner, one of which hit the left wing. Shrapnel breached the fuselage, causing rapid decompression and killing two passengers. The pilot made an emergency descent over the Kola Peninsula and flew at low altitude looking for a place to land. The plane made a successful landing on the frozen Korpijarvi Lake on the Finnish border, and all surviving 107 passengers and crew were rescued.[1]

Sources

  • The World’s Great Fighters: From 1914 to the Present Day, by Robert Jackson, Amber Books, 2001
  • Dogfights: Military Aircraft Compared and Contrasted, by Robert Jackson and Jim Winchester, Amber Books, 2006
  • Su-15 Flagon from FAS.org
  • Su-15 Flagon from Global Aircraft
  • Sukhoi Su-15 from Military Factory

External Links

  • See [2] for the KAL 007 shootdown sequence and transcripts
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