The Gulf of Sidra Incident of 1981: A Study of the Lawfulness of Peacetime Aerial Engagements

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On August 19, 1981, U.S. F-14 fighter aircraft engaged in combat with two Libyan Sukhoi-22 fighters above the Gulf of Sidra, approximately sixty miles off the coast of Libya. By the end of the encounter, both Libyan planes had been destroyed and one Libyan pilot killed. According to Libyan assertions, one of its fighters destroyed one of the U.S. F-14s, but this contention was denied by the United States. Although Libyan aircraft had on previous occasions fired upon U.S. military planes, the Gulf of Sidra incident marked the first time that U:S. aircraft returned fire.