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Combat Story

Nov 26, 2020

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Cesar “Rico” Rodriguez is an Air Force Colonel (ret.) and former fighter pilot in an elite group among veterans: he is one of three pilots with three air-to-air shootdowns since Vietnam. His dog fights and experiences from the cockpit of an F-15C Eagle taking down MiGs in both Desert Storm and Kosovo provide a first-hand account of just how challenging aerial combat can be.

In this Combat Story, Rico describes his journey from a kid in Puerto Rico to the Citadel to the Air Force and, finally, to his current life at Raytheon continuing to help the Air Force win the next air war.

2:11 - Where the call sign “Rico” came from. Unsurprisingly, it was coined at a bar.
6:35 - A description of F-15C aircraft tail number 114, an image behind Rico in the interview that you can see on the YouTube interview. Rico flew this aircraft for his first two shootdowns.
10:05 - Rico’s father - an Army Air Defense Officer - also had a desire to fly but Rico’s journey to fly had a different origin.
16:50 - Flying certain aircraft and profiles felt more like a team sport than others where you had to work as a team.
21:48 - Rico’s first aircraft was the A-10 but he then worked his way back to flying the F-15.
23:13 - Being part of a small group (Latinos Unidos) from Puerto Rico as an Air Force pilot and cadet at The Citadel.
25:15 - What was it like to be a fighter pilot in the Cold War?
31:14 - A description of Red Flag intense and real-world training scenarios as Nellis AFB.
33:55 - “Master arm hot” means all weapons are hot and raises the intensity factor.
34:23 - Transition from A-10 to F-15 personally and within the Air Force fighter community.
40:38 - The experience being part of the Panama Campaign in 1989 and it was the first time to have live weapons and open an Air Tasking Order.
49:14 - First hostile contact and shootdown on January 16th with Craig “Mole” Underhill southwest of Baghdad.
53:18 - Description of a Split-S maneuver.
1:02:00 - A classic “two circle fight” and the red baron’s description of a two vs one circle fight.
1:04:58 - The only course of action is to defeat the missile when it’s coming at you.
1:10:18 - A story of how lessons learned authored by those who fought it can change as it goes up the chain of command.
1:14:30 - The lethality of the AMRAAM missile and how it revolutionized fighting.
1:17:57 - First kill of the Kosovo War was at night and at long range and a lesson learned to not look at the missile coming off the rail when at night.
1:21:31 - Rico’s last flight teaming up in training with the youngest pilot in the Squadron going up against four Gen 4 fighters.
1:24:00 - Flying with a flag and a coin.
1:25:00 - Would you do it again and the next generation of fighter pilots?