1967: The Six Day War
Arab hostility toward Israel
reached a fever pitch in the days preceding the Six
Day War. Egypt's President
Nasser once again closed
the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and expelled U.N. peacekeeping
forces from the Sinai. As Moslem leaders called for jihad
(Holy War), the IAF
quietly prepared for what would become its finest hour.
The outcome of the war was determined during its first hours,
as the result of a devastating attack against Egyptian air bases.
Later that morning, as additional Arab states entered the war,
the IAF quickly responded by striking Syrian, Jordanian and even
Iraqi airfields. By day's end, IAF Commander Mordechai (Motti)
Hod proudly announced that the Arab air forces had been
From this point on, the IAF turned its attention to the land
battles raging on three fronts. Fighters provided close air
support, wreaking havoc on enemy armies which had been stripped
of their air cover. The Mitla Pass became a graveyard for
Egyptian armor. Helicopters and transports moved troops and
equipment in support of the rapidly advancing forces. Helicopters
evacuated wounded and rescued downed pilots far behind enemy
lines. The daring use of choppers as assault transports enabled
paratroopers to conquer the southern half of the Golan Heights in
the waning hours of the war. By ruling the skies, the IAF
guaranteed Israel's smashing victory.
A few statistics reveal the extent of Israel's air
superiority: with only 200 fighters, the IAF destroyed 391 enemy
planes on the ground and 60 in dogfights. The IAF generated over
3,300 sorties, many times more than the combined Arab air forces.
However, the victory was tempered by the loss of 46 Israeli
planes and of 24 pilots, who gave their lives in a war that
changed the face of the Middle East.
Operation Moked (Focus):
The Destruction of the Egyptian Air Force (June 5, 1967)
In three hours in June, 1967, the IAF achieved one of the most
spectacular victories in the history of modern warfare. During
these fateful moments, Israeli fighters struck a crippling blow
to the Egyptian Air Force by destroying most of its aircraft on
the ground. During the tension-filled weeks that preceded the
war, all efforts were focused on the operation. As Arab leaders
whipped their populations into a militant frenzy, IAF maintenance
forces whipped their aircraft into shape.
The planners concentrated on Egypt, the leader of the Arab
world. They risked nearly all of the IAF's 200 fighters on the
attack. Only 12 planes were held back to protect Israel's skies.
The first wave struck precisely at 07:45, the daily change-over
time at Egyptian air bases. Eleven fields were initially
targeted. Special emphasis was placed on destroying the Tupelov
and Ilyushin bombers which posed a strategic threat to Israel.
As the attack began, fighters dropped bombs designed to crater
the runways, preventing enemy aircraft from taking off. This was
followed by an intricate pattern of strafing runs, which caught
scores of planes trapped on the ground. The perfect execution of
this difficult aerial choreography was the result of
countless hours of training. The first wave was a brilliant
success: 189 planes, nearly half the Egyptian air force, lay
burning. The second wave pressed the advantage against Egypt.
Fourteen bases were hit and 107 more planes destroyed.
Later that morning, Syrian Migs and Jordanian artillery
attacked Israel. Within one hour, Israeli planes were on their
way to these countries, catching Migs and Hunters on the ground
and in the air. By the end of the first day, the IAF controlled
the skies, paving the way to victory. Not since the Battle of
Britain had so many owed so much to so few.
Source: Israel Defense Forces.