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The light and agile A-4 Skyhawk was the first modern American jet to be offered to the Israeli Air Force, marking the point where the US took over from France as Israel's chief military supplier. Deliveries began too late for the A-4 to fight in the Six-Day War (1967), but it soon formed the backbone of the IAF's ground-attack force. From 1969 to 1970 it flew endless sorties against Egyptian forces in the War of Attrition (1967-1970). Then, during the Yom Kippur War (1973), five squadrons of A-4s saw combat and 50 planes were lost as they battled against the Arab armored onslaught. Using previously unpublished first-hand accounts and rare photography from the IAF archives and pilots' private collections, Shlomo Aloni tells the definitive history of the IAF's A-4 squadrons, including the story of Ezra "BABAN" Dotan who became an ace with an unique double-kill of MiG17s.
Diplomacy, politics and national trauma has dominated the frontline career of the Israeli F-15 to date. In the wake of the losses suffered in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli government opted for technology in an effort to reassure a traumatised population that they would never suffer a surprise attack from the air again. Despite Israel Defense Force Air Force (IDF/AF) interceptors having performed extremely successfully during the Yom Kippur War, they did not achieve the kind of results that allowed Israel to achieve future deterrence. The nation was not only looking for weapons that would win a war, but that would also prevent it in the first place. Post-Yom Kippur diplomacy enabled Israel to purchase the F-15 Eagle, which was then the world's best air-to-air fighter. For the first time in its history the IDF/AF could operate a fighter that was a full generation ahead of all opposing interceptors in the region. The first 'Kill' F-15 Baz (Buzzard) arrived in Israel in December 1976, and three years later it got the chance to prove its worth in combat. Israeli Baz pilots were credited with 12.5 kills between 1979 and 1981, with 33 victories following during the June 1982 Lebanon War. A further 4.5 kills followed in post-Lebanon War skirmishes. Despite all of this combat, no Israeli F-15 has ever been lost to enemy action. Once the jet secured air superiority and deterrence had been achieved along the Israeli borders, the IDF/AF went on to explore the Baz's long-range attributes and as air-to-ground capability. As an example of the former, Israeli F-15s escorted F-16 strike aircraft all the way to Iraq's nuclear reactor in June 1981, and in its bomber role, the type flew the IDF/AF's longest ever attack mission in October 1985 when it bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunis. Diplomacy prevailed again in the 1990s when the US government agreed to supply the IDF/AF with the F-15I Ra'am (Thunder) to fulfill the long-range surface-to-surface missile (SSM) mission post-Desert Storm. These aircraft also acted as a counter-balance to the sale of the F-15S to Saudi Arabia. A follow-on to the F-15I purchase was the development of the Improved Baz Avionics Upgrade Program, which saw the integration of many of the F-15I features into the older F-15A/B/C/D. From A to I, the extremely capable, and combat-tested, Israeli F-15 force will continue to deter potential enemies well into the foreseeable future.
The American manufactured F-4 Phantom II was used by the Israelis in air-to-ground missions, as an attack aircraft, and air-to-air missions as a fighter. Despite performing both roles with equal success the Israeli reliance on the Mirage III and Nesher delta fighters meant that the F-4 was used most regularly in its air-to-ground role. The kill total of the Israeli F-4 community was, consequently, a modest 116.5; significantly lower than that of other Israeli aircraft types in service between 1969 and 1982. A handful of aces were, nevertheless, created and, using first hand accounts, this unique book tells their stories. Many F-4 pilots had previously flown the Mirage III but most of the navigators were either inexperienced flying school graduates or had been transferred from transport aircraft. The decision to create such teams may have appeared an odd one and it certainly led to a number of interesting experiences but proved, ultimately, to be so successful that by 2010 the Israeli air force will have more two-seat combat aircraft than single-seat fighters. The F-4 experience was, therefore, crucial to moulding the future of the Israeli air force.
Israeli delta fighters pilots have been credited with almost 300 kills between 1966 and 1974, and dozens of them became aces. The Israeli aerial kill exchange rate and overall air-to-air performance was phenomenal. Although the Israeli pilots were flying Mach 2 fighters, they lacked any modern radar equipment and their MiG-21 flying opponents should have had a performance edge over them. This book details their most signifcant engagements, many of which were essentially World War 2 style dogfights fought with jet aircraft. Because neither side had the combat edge to disengage at will most engagements were a life and death struggle and the introduction of air-to-air missiles and the Israeli Nesher was to prove decisive in this theatre.
Although the opposing forces of the Six Day War were both flying comparable third-generation Mach 2 jet fighters, the pilots were trained to different standards, and were expected to utilize different tactics. Using the latest research, first-hand accounts, and specially commissioned artwork, Shlomo Aloni tells the dramatic story of the dogfights in the skies over the Middle East.
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