The Dassault Super Mystere, Israel's first supersonic fighter, had enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the IAF. This career was, however, plagued by problems with its Atar 101G-3 engine. The engine was not only heavy and weak, but also suffered from high fuel consumption as well as frequent mechanical failures. In late 1967 the A-4H Skyhawk arrived in Israel and IAF engineers recommended the implant of its Pratt & Whitney J52-P-8A engine in the Super Mystere. The Pratt & Whitney engine, although not afterburning, was lighter, more reliable and 25% more powerful than the Sambad's original Atar engine. It allowed the carriage of more ordance, a longer range and longer endurance over the battlefield, and since the type was no longer an interceptor, the afterburner was no longer a necessity. The upgrade programme was also inspired by the French embargo of weapon sales to Israel and Super Mystere no. 909 was the first aircraft to undergo the conversion, re-engined at an IAF maintenance unit at Tel-Nof. Ground trials were carried out in January 1969 and On February 13th the new aircraft, the Sa'ar (Tempest), took off on its maiden flight. It was shown off to the IAF on February 28th as the "Super Super Mystere" and soon won approval for the upgrade of the entire IAF Super Mystere fleet. Modifications to the original airframe included an extension of the rear fuselage in order to accomodate the new engine, strengthened wings and 2 new harpoints where the Shafrir 2 air-to-air missile could be carried. The new aircraft were given a brown/tan/green livery, replacing the blue and brown scheme of their predecessors.
Serial work on the Sambads was carried out at Israel Aircraft Industries' "Bedek Aviation" plant at Lod Airport. The first production Sa'ar was handed over to the IAF in December 1969 and entered service with the 105th "Akrav" (Scorpion) squadron. The 105th which up that point had operated the Super Mystere, continued to employ both aircraft at the same time. Once a month, a Sambad would depart the squadron for IAI and would return a Sa'ar. The whole programme was completed in early 1973, the entire Super Mystere fleet of 26 examples converted to Sa'ar standard.
When the Yom Kippur War broke out on October 6th 1973, the Sa'ars went into action on both the Syrian and Egyptian fronts to halt the invading Arab armies. On the Golan heights, strikes were conducted against Syrian armour and against the Israeli post on Mount Hermon taken over by the Syrians. On the southern front, the Sa'ars participated in attacks against Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal and the makeshift bridges they were using. IAF aircraft encountered heavy anti aircraft fire on both fronts and four Sa'ars were lost on the first day alone, two from Egyptian fire, one on the Golan heights and one upon take off from Hazor. The remainder of the war saw the bulk of Sa'ar activity turned against the Egyptians in the south and on October 8th the 105th squadron redeployed to Rephidim AFB in the Sinai. The majority of Sa'ar strikes were carried out against the Egyptian Third Army, which had crossed the Canal at its southern point. Over 150 tanks were destroyed by the Sa'ars, as well as numerous other vehicles, command posts, artillery and more. When news arrived of Iraqi Hawker Hunters also participating in the fighting, the Sa'ars were painted with large yellow trapezoids on their wings and tails. Although somewhat different in configuration, the IAF nonetheless wanted to prevent the Sa'ars from being mistaken for Hunters in the heat of battle.
The Sa'ars returned to the Syrian front on October 11th. The IDF had by then repelled the Syrian army from the Golan Heights and the Sa'ars were sent in to aid the Israeli incursion into Syria. A single Sa'ar was lost to Syrian anti aircraft fire. The Israeli crossing of the Suez Canal was also accompanied by the Sa'ars, attacking Egyptian artillery and armour on Egypt's side of the Canal. A single aircraft was lost on October 17th, downed by an SA-6. The pilot had parachuted between Israeli and Egyptian lines and was rescued by an Israeli tank. On October 21st the Sa'ars again participated in IAF attacks against the Mount Hermon Post. These were carried out before an infantry assault on the post, which retook it from the Syrians. A total of 887 Sa'ar sorties were flown throughout the war, the majority of them in support of IDF ground forces. Two 105th squadron pilots were killed and 6 aircraft were lost, out of the 20 available before the war.
March 1975 marked the end of the type's career with the IAF, the 105th replacing its aging aircraft with the brand new F-4 Phantom. 12 Sa'ars were sold to Honduras in 1976 where they remained in the service of the Fuerza Aerea de Honduras (FAH) until January 27th 1996. A single Sa'ar, no. 096, is on display at the IAF Museum at Hatzerim.
Specification: Israel Aircraft Industries Sa'ar (Dassault Super Mystere)
Type: single seat fighter-bomber.
Powerplant: one Pratt & Whitney J52-P-8A.
Performance: max speed - 546 knots, rate of climb - 15,300ft per minute, service ceiling - 54,300ft, range - 1231km.
Weights: empty - 6760kg, max speed - 9046kg.
Dimensions: span - 10.52m, length - 14.44, height - 4.55m.
Armament: 2 * 30mm DEFA cannons, 2 * Shafrir 2 air-to-air missile, provision for 1107kg of bombs or rockets under the wings
Sources: IAF Inventory