The Israeli Air Force (IAF; Hebrew: זרוע האויר והחלל, Zroa HaAvir VeHahalal, "Air and Space Arm", commonly known as חיל האויר, Heyl HaAvir, "Air Corps") is the air force of the Israel Defence Forces. Founded at the same time as the formation of the State of Israel, the IAF is renowned for maintaining air superiority over its foes, repeatedly demonstrating superior combat performance. Its current Commander in Chief is Major General Ido Nehoshtan.
The IAF operates all of the IDF's aircraft, there being no equivalent of the Army Air Corps or the Fleet Air Arm. The IDF has an inventory of ballistic missiles of the Jericho family. The IAF also operates surface to air missiles for Israel's national defence and the defence of its air bases.
The Israeli Air Force roundel is a blue Star of David on a white disc. It is painted in six positions on fixed wing aircraft (either side of the fuselage, above and below both wings). On helicopters, it is painted on both sides of the fuselage.
Israeli Air Force roundel
- 25 Boeing F-15I "Ra'am"
- 101 Lockheed Martin F-16I "Sufa"
- 43 Boeing F-15 Eagle
- 20 Boeing F-15A "Baz"
- 6 Boeing F-15B "Baz"
- 11 Boeing F-15C "Baz"
- 6 Boeing F-15D "Baz"
- 198 Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon
- 58 General Dynamics F-16A "Netz"
- 14 General Dynamics F-16B "Netz"
- 78 Lockheed Martin F-16C "Barak"
- 48 Lockheed Martin F-16D "Barak"
Maritime Patrol/Surveillance AircraftEdit
- 5 Beechcraft B-200T "Kookiya" (maritime patrol)
- 3 Beechcraft B-200CT "Kookiya"
- 5 Beechcraft RC-12D "Kookiya"
- 3 Beechcraft RC-12K "Kookiya"
- 4 Boeing RC-707 "Barboor"
- 2 Boeing EC-707 "Khasida"
- 2 Lockheed EC-130H "Aya"
- 3 Gulfstream G500 "Nahshon-Shavit"
- 2 Gulfstream G500 "Nahshon-Eitam" (AEW)
- 3 Northrop-Grumman E-2C Hawkeye
- 3 IAI 1124N "Shahaf" (SeaScan)
- 1 Boeing 707 "Re'em"
- 7 Boeing KC-707 "Saknai"
- 8 Lockheed C-130E "Qarnaf"
- 5 Lockheed C-130H "Qarnaf"
- 4 Lockheed KC-130H "Qarnaf"
- 10 Beechcraft Super King Air
- 4 Beechcraft B-200 "Tzofit"
- 10 Beechcraft B-200T "Tzofit"
- 22 Beechcraft A-36 "Khofit"
- 38 Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion
- 6 Sikorsky CH-53A "Yas'ur 2000"
- 32 Sikorsky CH-53D "Yas'ur 2000"
- 48 Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk
- 10 Sikorsky UH-60A/L "Yanshuf"
- 38 Sikorsky S-70A-50/55 "Yanshuf"
- 45 Boeing AH-64 Apache
- 28 Boeing AH-64A "Peten"
- 17 Boeing AH-64D "Saraph" (6 more ordered)
- 33 Bell AH-1Q/S "Tzefa"
- 5 Eurocopter AS-565SA "Atalef"
- 27 Grob G-120A "Snunit"
- 39 AMIT Fouga CM-170 "Tzukit"
- 20 Hawker Beechcraft T-6A "Efroni"
- 44 McDonnell Douglas A-4N/TA-4J "Ayit"
Unmanned Aerial VehiclesEdit
- Elbit Hermes 450
- IAI Heron
- IAI Eitan
- Jericho II MRBM
- Jericho III ICBM
- Amos (1, 2, 3) - communications satellite
- EROS (A, B) - earth observation satellite
- Ofeq (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) - reconnaissance satellite
- TecSAR - reconnaissance satellite
- Shavit - space launch vehicle
Surface to Air MissilesEdit
- FIM-92 Stinger
- MIM-23 Hawk
- RAFAEL SPYDER (Python 5 and Derby)
- MIM-104 Patriot (PAC-1, PAC-2, PAC-3)
- IAI Arrow missile (anti-ballistic missile system)
Air to Air MissilesEdit
- AIM-9 Sidewinder
- AIM-7 Sparrow
- AIM-120 AMRAAM
Air to Surface MissilesEdit
- BGM-71 TOW
- AGM-114 Hellfire
- AGM-65 Maverick
- AGM-88 HARM
- Gabriel IV
- Delilah missile
- Popeye Lite
- Popeye Turbo
- Mark 82 500lb Bomb
- Mark 83 1000lb Bomb
- Mark 84 2000lb Bomb
- Spice Guided Bomb (Mark 83, Mark 84)
- GBU-12 Paveway II 500lb Laser Guided Bomb
- GBU-16 Paveway II 1000lb Laser Guided Bomb
- GBU-24 Paveway III 2000lb Laser Guided Bomb
- GBU-27 Paveway III 2000lb Penetrating Laser Guided Bomb
- GBU-28 Paveway III 5000lb Penetrating Laser Guided Bomb
- GBU-31(V)1/B 2000lb Joint Direct Attack Munition
- GBU-31(V)3/B 2000lb Penetrating Joint Direct Attack Munition
- GBU-32 1000lb Joint Direct Attack Munition
- GBU-38/B 500lb Joint Direct Attack Munition
- MK-20 Rockeye
- ATAP-1000 RAM
Israeli Air Force Coat of Arms
The Israeli Air Force has had extensive combat experience since its foundation in 1948. It has gone from a hodge-podge collection of impressed civil aircraft and World War 2 aircraft to the most modern air force in the world. The IAF was descended from the Haganah's air wing, the Sherut Avir. The IAF started with 25 Avia S-199s (Czech-built Bf-109s), and 62 Spitfires (most either left behind by the RAF, or assembled from parts of crashed/shot down Egyptian Spitfires. It achieved its first air victories on 30 May 1948 when an S-199 shot down two Egyptian DC-3s which had just bombed Tel Aviv. More aircraft were acquired, including F-51 Mustangs, B-17 Flying Fortresses (converted in Sweden from bombers to airliners then converted back bombers in Israel), Beaufighters, and Mosquitos. By early 1949, Israel had acquired air superiority.
The IAF participated in the 1956 Suez War by cutting Egyptian telephone wires (F-51s sometimes used their propellor blades to cut the wires!), and dropping paratroopers. During the 1950's, the IAF entered the Jet Age with the Gloster Meteor, entering service in 1953. Later, French aircraft including the Ouragan, Mystere, Super Mystere and the Vautour were introduced. The Mirage IIIC was Israel's first supersonic fighter.
Just before the Six-Day War, France stopped supplying aircraft to Israel. Consequently, Israeli Aircraft Industries began a program of fighter production. Israel also turned to the United States for aircraft.
In three hours, on the morning of 5 June 1967, the Israeli Air Force in a series of coordinated strikes crippled the air forces of Egypt and Syria. The IAF retained air superiority for the rest of the war. By the end of 5 June, the IAF had also crippled the air forces of Iraq and Jordan. By the end of the Six-Day War, Israeli aircraft destroyed 452 Arab aircraft, including 49 aerial victories. Israel lost 46 aircraft (12 in aerial combat).
Between 1967 and 1970, Egypt fought a War of Attrition against Israel. Israel launched raids deep into Egyptian territory, while trying to draw the EAF into battle. During the War of Attrition, Israel destroyed 111 Egyptian aircraft for four losses. Some of the raids became legendary, including a raid to capture a Soviet radar, which was flown back to Israel slung under a CH-53.
During the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, the Israeli Air Force shot down 277 enemy warplanes, accounting for over a third of the IAF's total kills since 1948, but at the price of 53 pilots and over 100 of its own aircraft (104 according to Israel, 180-200 according to some western sources, 280 according to Soviet estimates). The IAF suffered heavy losses mainly due to the introduction of new Soviet air defence equipment and doctrine: medium range SA-6 mobile SAM batteries and point defence provided by short range Shilka radar guided SPAAG and SA-7 Strela MANPADS (employed by Egyptian infantry), advancing with the mechanized forces and covered by older but longer range and still very dangerous SA-2 and SA-3 anti aircraft missile batteries. Nevertheless, throughout the war, the IAF managed to assist IDF ground forces, and kept up strikes on targets in Syria and Egypt.
One of the first encounters of the war was the Ofira Air Battle, involving two Israeli Phantoms versus 28 Egyptian Mig-17s and Mig-21s, and resulting in 7 downed Egyptian planes and disengagement of the rest. On October 9, 1973, two F-4 Phantom quartets attacked and destroyed the Syrian General Staff Headquarters in the heart of Damascus, damaging Syrian Air Force Headquarters as well. During the war, IAF helicopters proved to be highly useful in the logistic and MedEvac roles.
Ever since the Yom Kippur War, most of Israel's military aircraft have been obtained from the United States. Among these are the F-4 Phantom II, A-4 Skyhawk, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and E-2 Hawkeye. The Israeli Air Force has also operated a number of domestically-produced types such as the IAI Nesher, and later, the more advanced IAI Kfir, which were unauthorised derivatives of the French Dassault Mirage 5 (Israel bought 50 Mirage 5's from Dassault Aviation, but these were not delivered due to the French embargo emposed following the Six Day war). The Kfir was adapted to utilize a more powerful US engine, produced under license in Israel.
In 1976, IAF C-130 Hercules aircraft participated in Operation Thunderball, the rescue from Entebbe,Uganda, of the hostages of Air France flight 139.
In 1981, Israeli F-16s bombed the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak near Baghdad.
Prior to the 1982 Lebanon War, the Soviet Union helped Syria to build an air defence network that covered parts of Lebanon's Bekka Vally. In response, the IAF launched an operation to cripple the system. In subsequent battles, the IAF destroyed 80 Syrian aircraft with no losses. The conflict introduced the use of drones to fool Syrian radars. This allowed Israeli Phantoms armed with Standard and Shrike missiles to destroy them.
In 1985, the Israeli Air Force bombed the PLO's headquarters in Tunisia.
Today, the IAF is a high tech force. It has participated extensively in the second 'intafada'. It has also undertaken the targetted killing of senior Palestinian terrorists. The IAF takes more care than any other air force in the world to avoid civilian casualties.
F-15 Baz flying over Auschwitz
F-15I Ra'am at Red Flag
F-16I Sufa on Independence Day
Flag of the Israeli Air Force