Open to the public since 1997, the Israeli Air Force Museum is located southwest of Be’er Sheva on the northwest corner of the Hatzerim Air Force Base. Visitors can often hear the roar of engines from the base and a variety of planes, including state-of-the-art F-15s and F-16s, occasionally fly overhead . On holidays and special occasions, historic aircrafts as well as some of Israel’s current fleet conduct air shows for visitors.
The museum takes visitors on a tour of Israeli aviation history. The main part of the museum is an outdoor exhibition of more than 140 aircraft, including helicopters and airplanes. Most of the aircraft are in excellent condition and accompanied with a detailed description of its history and use by the IAF.
The main outdoor display area contains fighter planes, such as Phantom II’s, Skyhawks, Alouette II’s, the Hawkeye radar plane, and combat helicopters such as the Cobra. Also on display are some of enemy aircraft captured by Israel, including Soviet MiGs. In addition to fighter aircraft, the museum has a collection of civil aviation exhibits featuring Dakotas, Stratocruisers, and Cessnas. The Boeing 707 on the grounds was used during the Entebbe Raid, the rescue operation of kidnapped Israelis in Uganda. You can also see the “Bar Mitzvah Twins,” two aircraft whose pilots each shot down 13 enemy aircraft in combat.
In addition to aircraft displays, there is an anti-aircraft exhibit that includes missile launchers, missiles, drones, captured radar, anti-radiation equipment, and SAM batteries. More rockets and missiles are displayed in a gallery along with information on Israel’s elite rescue squad and survival tactics. On the outskirts of the museum grounds are revetments and wrecks of airplanes such as the remains of Cessnas and Boeing-Stearman Kaydets, as well as spare parts and other unrecognizable pieces of aluminum. Next to this semi-junkyard looking area are trucks and cranes that were once used by the air force.
A rare collection of historical and instructive films are available in the video archives and are shown in the Boeing 707, accompanied by explanations. These films show the development of aviation and Israeli Air Force history. These films contain such titles as, “Roots of the Air Forces,” “1948 - Takeoff Permitted,” “Air Force Commanders,” and “Stay Alive.” The Pioneer House, dedicated in memory of Zorik Lev, the commander of the IAF's Ramat David base in Emek Izre'el and a pilot whose plane was shot down during an attack against Egyptian targets in Port Said during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, contains additional exhibits about the Israeli Air Force.
Throughout the outdoor exhibition grounds are sun shelters for visitors’ relief during the summer. There are also groves of trees, grassy knolls, rest areas, a cafeteria, and water stations dispersed throughout the museum grounds. A small indoor display provides a photographic history of the Israeli Defense Force and Air Force. The museum gift shop sells toys, model kits, and t-shirts but does not have the type of books on aviation you might expect and no publication about the exhibition other than a general map of the grounds you receive on entry to the museum.