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IAF Aircraft Inventory: Dassault M.D. 454 Mystere IVA

Specification: Dassault M.D.454 Mystere IVA
Type: single seat fighter and fighter-bomber.
Powerplant: one Hispano-Siuza version 350.
Performance: max speed - 604 knots, cruising speed - 424 knots, service ceiling - 58,000ft, range - 1,014km.
Weights: empty - 5875kg, max takeoff - 9820kg.
Dimensions: span - 11.12m, length - 12.90m, height - 4.5m.
Armament: 2 * 30mm cannon plus provision for up to 907kg of disposable stores carried on 4 underwing hardpoints: 12 * 105mm rockets, 2 * 68mm rocket hives, 2 * 250/500kg bombs or 4 * 70kg bombs.

The IAF's first aircraft to cross the sound barrier, the Mystere's design originated from another type already operated by the IAF. A firm believer in evolutionary developement, Dassault designed the Mystere by fitting the Ouragan's fuselage with a 30 degrees swept wing. The result was the Mystere I whose first flight took place in February 1951. Succedded by the re-engined Mysteres II and III, the Mystere design nonetheless suffered from poor performance and not until the advent of the Mystere IVA did the type enter frontline service. First flown on September 28, 1952, the IVA bore only an external resemblence to its predecessors with a different engine, oval fuselage, powered controls and thinner wings swept at 41 degrees. A total of 421 Mysteres IVAs have been build, serving with the French, Israeli and Indian air forces.

Israel opted to buy the Mystere in 1954, looking for aircraft to counter the MiG-15 which Israel's Arab neighbors had begun operating. The type entered service in 1956 at a time of increasing tensions along Israel's borders resulting from increasing Arab nationality and the rapid armament of Arab armies by Soviet weaponry. On April 11, 1956, the first four Israeli Mysteres landed at Hazor AFB, marking their arrival with a sonic boom. The new aircraft reformed the 101st "First Fighter" squadron which had been disbanded in January 1956, its P-51 Mustangs handed to the last Mustang squadron, the 116th. The Mysteres begun flying operational sorties shortly after their arrival, escorting de Havilland Mosquitos on reconnaissnce missions, but the small number of pilots available at the squadron and the delivery flights allowed for a very limited training regime and the pilots entering the approaching Suez Campaign had very little experience with the plane.

Of the 61 examples purchased only a third had been supplied by the outbreak of the Suez Campaign on October 29, 1956. Of the three planned Mystere squadrons only the "First Fighter" had been formed by that time and the Mysteres intended for a second squadron were operated by French pilots sent to protect Israel. The initial planning of operation "Kadesh" (Israel's part in the Suez Campaign) called for the Mysteres to attack Egyptian airfields in anticipation of an Egyptian air force attack on Israel. The Egyptian attack had however failed to materialize and the first Mystere sorties of the war took place on the afternoon of October 29th in preparation for a large airborne assault into the heart of the Sinai. A pair of Mysteres overflew the Mitla Pass into which Israeli paratroops were about to jump, providing real-time intelligence for the Israeli forces. Another pair overflew the Egyptian air base at Kabrit to intercept any aircraft that might have taken off to challenge the transports carrying the paratroops. While the IAF aircraft could have attacked the aircraft parked on the ground, they were under orders not to do so. Mysteres returned to the drop zone on October 30th, flying top cover for the forces below. Although Egyptian forces on the ground had counter attacked by then, the Mysteres were once again under orders not to attack these, their sole mission remaining the protection of Israeli forces from Egyptian aircraft. During the initial fighting the Mysteres had flown 22 sorties over Kabrit and 18 sorties over the Israeli paratroops on the ground.

On the morning of October 30, four MiG-15s attacked the Israeli paratroops at the Mitla Pass. By the time their request for assistance had arrived back at IAF headquarters the number of aggressors had somehow inflated to 24 and the entire 101st squadron was scrambled to engaged the MiGs. Within 20 minutes of the alarm being raised 8 Mysteres arrived at the Pass to find a dozen MiG-15s at the site. Scoring the first Mystere kill, one MiG was shot down while another was damaged but managed to return to its homebase.

On October 31, IAF activity was stepped up all over the Sinai as pistoned engined aircraft which had previously been held back, could now enter the fighting. Throughout the day Mysteres flew top cover for both Israeli forces on the ground and in the air. At dawn pair of Mysteres encountered four Egyptian deHavilland Vampires and managed to shoot down all four of them. More dogfights took place throughout the day : at 09:00 another Mystere pair pounced on seven MiG-15s but failed to down any of them. The same pair had however encountered another MiG upon their return home and forced it to crash land. The plane was later recovered and returned to Israel. Another MiG was downed later in the day while two more were hit but failed to crash. Beginning on November 1, the Mysteres also begun flying air-to-ground missions during which one Mystere piloted by the squadron commander Beni Peled (IAF chief of staff during the Yom Kippur War) was shot down. On the same day IAF Mysteres rocketed a ship which proved to be a Royal Navy Vessel, the HMS Crane.

With the war end the IAF could get back to building its Mystere force. During December 1957, a second squadron, the 109th, was finally formed at Ramat David while a third was formed at Tel-Nof in 1961. Although the Mysteres lost their seniority as Israel top interceptor to the Super Mystere on December 3, 1958, they continued to fly both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions in the years following the war. That same month saw two Mysteres intercept two Egyptian MiG-17s which had penetrated Israel's airspace, downing one and damaging the other. On November 19, 1959, Mysteres forced a Lebanese Dragon Rapide to land at Haifa. With the arrival of more Super Mysteres and the Mirage IIICs in the early 1960s the Mysteres were relegated to the role of ground attack. Throughout the 60s they took part in the strikes against Syrian attempts to divert the waters of the Jordan River.

At the outbreak of the Six Day War on June 5, 1967, the IAF operated 35 Dassault Mysteres in two squadrons. During operation "Moked" the Mysteres were initialliy tasked with destruction of Egyptian air bases in the Sinai and the Suez Canal zone. Air bases attacked included Faid, Abu-Sweir, Bir Gifgafa and Kabrit where SA-2s were launched against the attacking force. The Mysteres managed to destroy a varied array of Egyptian aircraft: MiG-21s, Mig-19s, MiG-17s, MiG-15s, Il-14s, Mi-4s, Mi-6s and Su-7s. As operation "Moked" widened to include Jordan and Syria as well, Mysteres attacked Jordanian air bases at noon and destroyed Syrian MiG-21s and MiG-17s during the afternoon. In all, four Mysteres were lost on the first day of the fighting, including the aircraft of a Mystere squadron commander. After the successful annihilation of Arab air forces, the IAF turned its attention to aiding the IDF's ground forces on the various fronts. Mysteres participated in attacks against Egyptian forces in the Sinai, Jordanian armour on the West Bank and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights. They shot down three aircraft, two Syrian MiG-17s and a Jordanian Hawker Hunter. By the war's end the IAF had lost 8 Mysteres IVAs.

Following the Six Day War, all IAF Mysteres were concentrated at a single squadron, the 116th which operated the type throughout the War of Attrition. For the next three years, Mysteres routinely took part in IAF operations against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, as well as against Palestinian terrorists based in Jordan and Lebanon. The first post-war sorties included intercepton of Syrian MiGs and destruction of Jordanian artillery, while later sorties included strikes agains Egyptian SAM sites, Iraqi forces in Jordan, Jordanian radar stations and more. Even the introduction of the latest American aircraft, the A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom, into the IAF did not bring an end to Mystere operations and joint missions were flown on a number of occasions. IAF Dassault Mystere IVAs were retired on March 18, 1972, after nearly 16 years in service.

Sources: IAF Inventory