Operation Eldorado Canyon

The 1986 US Bombing Raid on Libya

Jim Rotramel

In the early 1980s, after a series of terrorist attacks resulted in American Americans, the United States struck back. Operation Eldorado Canyon is usually remembered as a long-range mission by F-111s. However, it involved many other participants.
Date Published :
June 2023
Publisher :
Harpia Publishing
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781950394128
Pages : 256
Dimensions : 11.02 X 8.27 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


If asked to pinpoint the beginning of the war against Islamic extremism, most would probably say September 11, 2001. However, there has been tension between Islamic autocracies and Western governments going back centuries. In the early 1980s, the boogieman du jour was Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who sponsored numerous acts of terrorism throughout Europe. After a series of attacks resulted in American deaths, U.S. President Ronald Reagan elected to strike back.

Operation Eldorado Canyon is usually remembered as a long-range mission by British-based F-111s. However, it was an amazingly complex mission that involved two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and a unique air refueling plan that involved more than half of the then new KC-10 tanker inventory. For the first time, the events leading up to this operation are described, including previously unrevealed contingency operations, missions testing the ability of the F-111s to fly such an extended mission, and the mission itself from the crews that flew it.

The US Air Force classified ‘forever’ the names of the F-111 crews who participated in the mission. After a 20-year reunion of the participants at RAF Lakenheath, one of the planners, Jim Rotramel, began collecting their recollections. He was later able to expand the story to include the KC-10 part of the mission. Finally, thanks to being a member of the informal Old Geezer Fighter Pilots, he contacted the Navy veterans who participated in not only Eldorado Canyon, but also Operation Prairie Fire the month before that saw the first combat employment of the Harpoon anti-ship missile.

Like any post-mission fighter pilot debrief, this book lays out the conduct of the mission — the good, the bad, the ugly and even the humorous! It’s a truly unique insight into what it was like to plan and execute this daring mission and how it could have ended as a humiliating disaster at several points.

About The Author

Jim Rotramel graduated with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering before having a 20-year US Air Force career that included 10 years and more than 1,000 hours as an F-111D and F-111F WSO, becoming the chief training route planner for both wings. He was part of the planning effort for the 1986 Libya raid, Operation Eldorado Canyon. After retiring from the US Air Force, he worked at NAS Patuxent River, where he helped develop the first automated weapon-planning program for the F/A-18A-D Hornet. As an outgrowth of this work, he rewrote the weapon loading chapters for the F/A-18, H-60, P-3, S-3, AV-8 and F-14, ultimately becoming an assistant to the Chief Engineer of the F/A-18 program.

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