On June 18th, 2017 Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael “M.O.B.” Tremel made history—he was the first pilot to shoot down an enemy airplane in 18 years. Tremel told his story at last week’s annual Tailhook convention for naval aviators, describing the tense aerial environment, which saw the skies over Syria filled with planes from nearly a half dozen countries, and what it was like to engage in combat the first time.
Lieutenant Commander Tremel, a member of VF-87 (“Golden Warriors”) had launched off the aircraft carrier USS Bush in the Mediterranean Sea in support of U.S. and pro-U.S. forces on the ground. Syrian combat aircraft had been attempting to engage anti-government Kurdish and Arab militias, with U.S. aircraft attempting to stop them by flying low—but not using weapons to shoot the Syrians down.
Tremel moved to intercept the Syrian jet, and flew overhead discharging anti-missile flares, hoping the Syrian Air Force Su-22 “Fitter” strike aircraft would back off. But instead of backing off the Su-22 dropped two bombs on friendly positions. Tremel first launched an AIM-9X Sidewinder—which missed—and then fired a AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range missile. The Fitter exploded, and Tremel’s aircraft ended up flying through the debris field. The Syrian pilot survived the shootdown, parachuting to the ground.
Tremel received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the incident.
The last time U.S. military aircraft had shot down hostile planes was on March 26th 1999, when U.S. Air Force pilot Capt. Jeffrey Hwang, flying a F-15C Eagle fighter jet, shot down two Yugoslav MiG-29 fighter jets with AMRAAM missiles.