In 1801, the United States Navy sloop of war, Enterprise, bombarded a barbary pirate ship in the harbor at Tripoli; in the spring of 1986, Arnie Franklin carried America's flag across the same harbor during Operation El Dorado Canyon. Born in Franklin, Kentucky on 22 August 1944, he attended high school in nearby Bowling Green. After graduation from Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Mathematics, he attended the USAF Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, expecting to become a weather officer.
Before receiving his commission, he applied to and was accepted for undergraduate pilot training. Upon graduation from Officer Training School, he went to Williams AFB, Arizona, and earned his wings in 1968. Franklin's first operational unit was the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the "Buccaneers," at Nellis AFB, Nevada, flying the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. He served two tours in Southeast Asia and logged 782 combat hours. As a forward air controller, he flew the North American OV-10 Bronco from Nakhom Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, during 1971 and 1972. In late 1972, Franklin transferred to the 430th TFS at Takhli, Thailand, to fly the Aardvark.
After 1 year, he returned to Nellis AFB and continued to fly the Aardvark as an instructor pilot. He attended the Air Force Institute of Technology where in 1975 he earned a Master of Science degree in Laser Physics. He then was assigned to the Air Force Material Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. In October 1980, he crossed the Atlantic to RAF Lakenheath, England, and ultimately assumed command of the 493rd Tactical Fighter Squadron 4 years later. In April 1986, as a squadron commander, Franklin led the USAF raid on Libya. Then, in the fall of 1986, Franklin moved to Headquarters USAF at the Pentagon to become Chief, Middle East, Africa, South Asia Division in the Directorate of Plans and Operations.
The next summer he attended the National War College, and after graduation in 1988, became the Director of Operations and then the Vice Commander of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Franklin, who began flying the F-111 as a second lieutenant, rose steadily in rank and responsibility and was named Commander, 27th TFW at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. He has spent almost his entire flying career in the General Dynamics F-111.
At 0200, 15 April 1986, Lieutenant Colonel Arnie Franklin led 18 General Dynamics F-111s from Royal Air Force Station, Lakenheath, England, on a mission bombing three targets in Libya while the U.S. Navy simultaneously bombed two other target areas near Benghazi, on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Sidra. The mission demonstrated U.S. resolve and served as a warning against continued Libyan-sponsored terrorist attacks around the world. The grueling mission lasted more than 14 hours with numerous refuelings. The bombing run over Libya lasted a long 2 minutes.