The side of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tremel’s F/A-18E Super Hornet is adorned with icons representing the strike missions he’s flown, but it’s the Syrian flag over the image of a plane that represents something unique — the first air-to-air kill by a U.S. pilot in nearly 20 years.
Tremel spoke to British journalists from Save the Royal Navy about the June 18 incident aboard the carrier George H. W. Bush, where he is assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 87.
The engagement with the Soviet-era Syrian Su-22 lasted 8 minutes, Tremel told the journalists.
The decision to down the Syrian jet came after it dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting against ISIS. Recalling the incident, Tremel told the journalists that while he didn’t communicate directly with the Syrian jet, the pilot didn’t respond to several warnings by supporting aircraft.
“So yes, we released ordnance and yes it hit a target that was in the air, but it really just came back to defending those guys that were doing the hard job on the ground and taking that ground back from ISIS,” Tremel told the journalists.
Navy Times previously reported the Bush conducted 813 combat sorties and dropped 943 munitions against Islamic State targets during a seven-month deployment as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.