The second Gulf of Sidra incident, January 4, 1989, occurred when two US Navy F-14 Tomcats shot down two Libyan MiG-23 Flogger Es that appeared to be attempting to engage them, as had happened previously in the first Gulf of Sidra incident (1981).
In 1973 Libya claimed much of the Gulf of Sidra as its territorial waters and subsequently declared a “line of death”, the crossing of which would invite a military response … Tensions between Libya and the U.S. were high after the U.S. accused Libya of building a chemical weapons plant near Rabta, causing the U.S. to deploy USS John F. Kennedy near its coast. A second carrier group, based around Theodore Roosevelt, was also being prepared to sail into the Gulf of Sidra.
On the morning of January 4, 1989, the Kennedy battle group was operating some 130 km north of Libya, with a group of A-6 Intruders on exercise south of Crete, escorted by two pairs of F-14As from VF-14 and VF-32, and as well as an E-2C from VAW-126. Later that morning the southernmost Combat Air Patrol station was taken by two F-14s from VF-32, AC207 (CDR Joseph Bernard Connelly/CDR Leo F. Enwright 159610 AC207) and AC202 (LT Hermon C. Cook III/LCDR Steven Patrick Collins 159437 AC202). The officers had been specially briefed for this mission due to the high tensions regarding the Carrier Group’s presence; the pilots were advised to expect some kind of hostilities.