How was an F-16 able to dodge six SAMs without countermeasures

How An F-16 Was Able To Dodge Six SAMs Without Countermeasures

HUD recording of Emmett “ET” Tullia evading 6 SA-2 missiles

The date is January 19th, 1991. Major Emmett “ET” Tullia is in his F-16 flying towards Baghdad to carry out the largest air strike of the Persian Gulf War. ‘Package Q’. On his way there, he and his fellow airmen inevitably encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. Many of the pilots were fired upon with two being shot down. Emmet however, received the worst of it all, outmaneuvering a total of SIX SA-2 surface to air missiles. That alone is impressive, however upon landing back home Emmett discovered that none of his countermeasures had been dispensed. So not only did he out fly six SAMs, but he did so without the help of chaff and flare. An undeniably incredible feat. But how did he do it? Today’s article breaks everything down regarding how an F-16 was able to dodge six SAMs without countermeasures.


What Was The Threat?

How an f-16 was able to dodge six SAMs without countermeasures
A Soviet-made SA-2 surface-to-air missile and launcher.

The six missiles that were launched at Major Emmett were enormous, soviet era surface to air missiles. SA-2s. When you think of a missile what do you think of? Do you think of a little rocket that’s just a couple of feet long? The SA-2 is anything but that. Being 30+ feet long, evading an SA-2 is like evading an explosive telephone pole. That being said, they’re old and not very nimble. They can pack a punch but aren’t the most agile things in the world. In my opinion, this is probably why Emmett was able to evade all six of them. That said, I am by no means am I undermining Emmett’s piloting skill. Just because they aren’t the hardest missile to evade doesn’t mean it’s an easy task.

What Made Emmett Such A Skilled Pilot?

How an f-16 was able to dodge six SAMs without countermeasures
An air-to-air left side view of an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 57th Tactical Fighter Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.


When it comes down to how  Emmett was able to evade so many missiles, the first and most obvious reason that he was able to out maneuver 6 SAMs is that Emmett is an extremely skilled pilot. Without a doubt, any pilot that can out fly 6 missiles, let alone without countermeasures, is a pilot that know’s what they’re doing. But why does evading missiles take so much skill?

Ability To Withstand G Forces:

One reason that evading missile is so difficult for pilots is the fact that it is physically exhausting. Pulling upwards of 9 G’s for prolonged periods of time is very taxing on the body; even for skilled fighter pilots like Emmett. If you watch the video you can hear him start to breath very heavily as he starts to get tired. The fact that Emmett was able to stay awake the entire time in extremely impressive. His skillfulness in keeping conscious is kept him alive.

“Under 9G’s, the world appears to shrink until it looks like you’re viewing it through a toilet paper roll,” F-16 turned F-35 pilot Hasard Lee explained. “Blood is being pulled out of your head towards your legs and arms, resulting in the loss of peripheral vision. If too much blood is pulled out, you’ll pass out, resulting in incapacitation for around half a minute. Due to the speeds we fly, there’s a high probability the jet will crash before you wake up.”

Situational Awareness:

Something that all pilots have to be good at is maintaining excellent situational awareness; especially fighter pilots. But before going into why it’s so important for fighter pilots, what is situational awareness? Situational awareness can be defined as “the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.” With this in mind, why is it so vital? In the case of fighter pilots like Emmet, knowing what’s going on, when it’s happening and where is the key to staying alive. In Emmett’s HUD video, his laser focus kicks into gear the second the first missile locks on to him. As each SA-2 comes barreling towards him, he keeps tabs on the situation, keeps his cool and evades the threat. This is another giant factor that kept Emmett from being shot down that day.

Skillful Flying:

There is no denying that Emmett is an incredibly skilled flyer. He has to be. Anyone that can evade six surface to air missiles without the use of chaff and flare is an artist in the clouds. Theres not much that can be said about his performance on that day. The best way to really see what kind of a Pilot Emmett is is to watch his HUD recording. There is nothing like it.

Knowing The Procedure:

Emmett’s reaction to the threat is almost robotic. As soon as the missile launches he is in full defensive mode. The reason he could react to quickly is his knowledge of what to do in that specific situation. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again. A huge part of being a pilot is memorization and repetition. It’s easy to see how well trained Major Emmett was for this scenario. He had to be.


Why Is Evading Without Countermeasures Is So Impressive?

How an f-16 was able to dodge six SAMs without countermeasures

If you don’t know what countermeasures are, they can be explained pretty simply. On most military aircraft, countermeasures are installed to help in defending against threats such as SAMs or AAMs. There are two main types of countermeasure. Chaff and flare. Chaff is basically torn up bits of material that are shot out of the aircraft in order to disrupt the radar detection of radar guided missiles. Flare on the other hand is probably what more people know about. Flares are the bright fireballs you see shooting out of aircraft at airshows. This countermeasure uses the heat of the flares to confuse infrared guided missiles. The reason that it’s so difficult to evade missiles without these is because it allows the missile to function as it was designed. Uninhibited. This is precisely why it’s so impressive that Emmett was able to evade six SAMs without them. It just shows how good of a pilot he is.



In closing, the story of “ET” managing to outmaneuver six surface to air missiles is one like no other. In some ways it sounds like a work of fiction! But alas, this is real life and Emmett really did accomplish this feat. All in all, I hope you enjoyed reading! And Emmett, if you’re reading, thank you for your service. Fly safe all.


want to fly fighters like Emmett? Give it a try in DCS World! Check out my post on the best HOTAS systems for DCS World here!







One thought on “How An F-16 Was Able To Dodge Six SAMs Without Countermeasures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.