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IAF Aircraft Inventory: Avro 625A Anson Mk. I

The Avro Anson first flew in March 1935 and exactly a year later entered service as the RAF's first monoplane with a retractable landing gear. Ansons were the mainstay of Britain's Coastal Command during the early years of World War II, equipping 21 squadrons, and also saw some combat before being replaced by Lockheed Hudsons. The type was limited in its range and fire power and is best known for its training and light transport roles. The Anson was the standard twin engined trainer for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and over 11,000 examples were built, Mk. I production reaching 6,704.

The first Ansons in Palestine were actually RAF examples. During the 1940s the RAF took part in British attempts to block Jewish immigration to Palestine. In a coordinated attack on February 25th 1946, the Jewish underground movements attacked a number of RAF bases, destroying 20 aircraft. Among the aircraft lost were a number of Ansons stationed at Lod airport.

In late 1947 detailed plans were drawn up for the formation of an independent Jewish air force. As the British were still in control of Palestine, the plans initially called for the acquisition of civilian aircraft which could be armed when it was required. Among the aircraft named were Avro Ansons. By February 1948 5 Ansons were purchased in Britain, funded by Dutch millionaire Bernard Van Lear (who also donated the IAF's two Grumman Widgeons), although the British would not yet allow them to leave for Palestine. The aircraft were therefore registered under a fake Australian company and flown to Paris. Carrying an Australian flag and reporting Australia as their destination, the 5 Ansons left for Palestine on April 10th 1948. On the way to a refuelling stop in Italy one aircraft ran out of fuel and crash landed outside Milan. While the other aircraft were on their way to their next refuelling stop at Rhodes, British intelligence had learned of the crashed aircraft which also happened to carry arms and munitions for the Israeli War of Independence. By the time the Ansons had arrived at Rhodes, Britain had already alerted the Greek authorities and the aircraft were confiscated upon their arrival.

One Avro Anson however, did make it to Israel in time to participate in the War of Independence. An Anson acquired in South Africa arrived at Tel Aviv on July 9th 1948, after a long flight through Nigeria, Morocco and southern Europe. The confiscated Ansons finally arrived in Israel during the second half of 1949, released after the end of the war. Much like their colleagues abroad, IAF Ansons were employed training pilots to fly multi engined transports. There were 7 Ansons in service during July 1950 and although reported to be on the way to retirement, there were still some active during March 1956.

Specification: Avro 625A Anson Mk.I
Type: light transport and utility aircraft.
Powerplant: 2 * Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX or XIX.
Performance: max speed - 306km/h, service ceiling - 6,260m.
Weights: empty - 3,035kg, max takeoff - 4,207kg.
Dimensions: length - 12.90m, height - 4.00m, span 17.22m.
Armament: 2 * 7.7 machine guns plus provision for up to 163kg of bombs under the wings.

Sources: IAF Inventory