Israeli Air Force vs. Soviet AF
Ambush in the skies. Two minutes and 5 MIGs down.
Israeli Air Force shoots down 5 Soviet Russian MIGs.

The Arab-Israeli conflict in 1967, known as the Six Days War ended with an Israeli decisive victory. Within 6 days Israel defeated the armed forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan and captures territories which are 3 times larger than the State of Israel, The Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

The disgrace and humiliation of the Arab world was enormous and Egypt's president, Jamal Abdel Nasser was desperate to obtain the Sinai Peninsula back. For this, he would have sold his soul. Not to the devil this time, but to his so called alley, Soviet Russia. The Russian sent everything they had in their arsenal to Egypt. Together with the huge amount of new Russian "toys" an air train full of instructors, operators and experts landed in the Egyptian capitol, Cairo.


The Israeli Military Intelligence had to meet a new challenge, the Russian language. All Israeli intelligence braches were totally Arabic oriented. There was no unit that could listen to the Soviets, decipher and gather vital information about their activities in Egypt. Therefore, the Israelis decided to establish such unit. The unit got the highest priority level and could get any soldier it needed. The problem was that those were the times of the almost sealed Iron Curtin. It was before the first wave of immigration from the Soviet Union and not many Israelis spoke fluently the Russian language. Nevertheless, 34 soldiers were recruited and sent to Um Hashiba, the communication and intelligence nerve center in Sinai. The unit got the code name "Masrega" (knitting needle) and started listening to the Russians stationed in Egypt.


On April 18, 1970 two Israeli Air Force F-4 Phantoms were on a reconnaissance mission deep in Egyptian territory. The two jets belonged to the IAF 69th squadron (The Hammers). While crossing the border back to Israeli occupied Sinai Peninsula, members of "Masrega" the Russian language intelligence unit realized that they are listening to Russian Mig-21 pilots that were chasing the two Israeli Phantoms. The news was a shock to the Israeli military and political leadership. This was the first time that the Soviet Union not only advices but sends its soldiers and pilots to fight for Egypt.

The Egyptian Air Force stood naked and helpless when their Israeli counterparts got from the USA their first McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms. Waves of IAF Phantoms bombed Egyptian facilities day and night and the Egyptians became desperate and hopeless. In their despair they turned again to their Russian partners, for help. The Soviet Union leader, Léonid Brejnev decided to help his dependents. In March 1970 three Mig-21 Soviet Air Force squadrons were stationed near Cairo, Alexandria and Aswan.


Israel's political and military leadership during the War of Attrition :
Golda Meir-Prime Minister, Moshe Dayan-Minister of Defense, Haim Bar-Lev-Chief of Staff, Moti Hod-Commander of the Air Force.


The Israelis did not seek an encounter with the Soviet empire and Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Minister of Defense ordered to stop the deep territory bombing of Egypt. But the Russian pilots got bored and on July 25th 1970 they chased a group of Israeli Skyhawks and damaged one of them. The Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir was furious and decided to teach the Russians a lesson. A green light was given to the headquarters of the Israeli Air Force. It meant, go and get those Russian aggressors.

In the Operations branch of the IAF HQ a group of planners and experienced pilots under the master-mind David Porath formulated a brilliant ambush. Once the plans of the ambush were accepted and confirmed, Moti Hod, CIC of the Israeli Air Force decided that only the best pilots will participate in the coming battle. The crème de la crème of the IAF were sitting in their cockpits shortly after noon of July 30th 1970. Ready to take off and anxious to add more kills to the already 67 Arab Air Force roundels painted over their score boards.

phantom 69 squadron the hammers

Stage 1
The first group of Phantoms of the 69th squadron took off from Ramat David AB and was sent to attack Egyptian radar post south east to the city of Suez. But instead of a regular Phantom F-4 attack formation, they attacked the target as they were A4 Skyhawks. A much slower and more vulnerable aircraft. On the Egyptian radar screens the 4 green dots looked like 4 skyhawks. An easy and tempting prey for the jaws of the Soviet MIGs.

Stage 2
Four Mirage IIIC, French made fighter jets of the 119 squadron (the Bats) took off from Tel-Nof AB heading south in law altitude. Once they have entered the Egyptian air space the turned north and climbed to an altitude of 35,000 feet. The trick was that they flew in a very tight formation, disguising themselves as a single Ariel photography unarmed plane on a reconnaissance mission.

Stage 3

Another four Mirages IIIC from the 117 squadron (The First Jet) took off from Ramat-David AB and were hiding behind the low mountains range east to the Suez channel. They were flying in circles waiting for the battle to begin.

mirage IIIC 117 squadron IAF

Stage 4

Two top Mirage pilots of the 101st squadron were sitting in their cockpits, waiting at standby positions at Rephidim AB (Bir Gafgafa). The largest IAF air base in the Sinai Peninsula and the closest to the Channel. All 10 Mirages were armed with a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinder air to air missile while the four Phantoms carried AIM-7 Sparrow radar homing missiles.


It took the Soviets 11 minutes to catch the bite. Four quartet formations of Mig21 were scrambled into the air in order to engage the Israelis. Eight MIGs were rushing to meet the "Skyhawks" while another eight were chasing the "lonely Mirage" at high altitude. The MIGs were about 20 kilometers away from their prey when Moti Hod, commander of the Israeli Air Force pushed his stopwatch button and ordered his pilots to attack.


The four Phantoms threw away their "Skyhawk" costumes, pulled the stick and climbed up while the tight formation of the Mirages broke up and turned to face the Soviet MIGs. Soon the hunters became the hunted. The Russian pilots found themselves surrounded by eight Mirages while from above four Phantoms pounced at them. It is only fair to mention that the 14 Israeli pilots were the most experienced dog-fight experts at the time, while their Soviet counterparts had no real battle experience. They were helpless and desperate.


The first kill was scored by a Mirage pilot. Abraham Shalmon (6 kills in his logbook) positioned his Mirage behind the first MIG and fired one Sidewinder AIM-9D missile. The MIG exploded killing its pilot. Another Mirage flown by Asher Snir downed the 2nd MIG. His pilot managed to bail out but was killed during the decent. While the Mirages scored already two kills the Phantoms were seeking for their first. Aviam Sela, a skilled Phantom pilot launched a Sparrow missile that downed another MIG, This time its pilot bailed out successfully and managed to get to the ground safely.

Avihu Ben-Nun, commander of the Phantom Hammers squadron noticed two Mirages of the 117 squadron chasing a lone MIG at very low altitude but in almost the speed of sound. The Mirage attempts to down the MIG failed and they tried to close the distance in order to use their gun, as an
AIM-7 Sparrow that was fired by Avihu Ben-Nun passed by, strucking the MIG that exploded, killing its pilot instantly.

The fifth and last kill of the battle was confirmed only years later. Abraham Shalmon who already downed the first MiG of this engagement was after another MiG that tried to escape out of the slaughter house. The Russian pilot tried to shake the Mirage off his tail and Shalmon already fired his last missile that failed to hit. At that time the two "standby" Mirages arrived to the scene and commander of the 101st squadron, Yiftach Specktor joined the fight. He fired his two sidewinders and one of them struck the MiG. Nevertheless, the damaged MiG continued to fly west as Shalmon closed the gap and emptied his 20mm gun into the already hit MiG. All Israeli aircrafts were short on fuel now, and Moti Hod ordered to disengage and finish the battle. No one saw the MiG crash and the Israelis confirmed only 4 downed MiGs. Only 6 years later, when the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited Israel it was revealed that 5 MiGs were downed and Shalmon and Spector were credited with the fifth and last kill.

Eight days after the battle the War of Attrition came to its end. Israel and Egypt signed a cease-fire treaty that lasted until the 6th of October 1973.


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This book is the second book in our IDF Armor series.
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