Articles

This is how Israeli pilots saw the Six-Day War

Fifty years ago, Israel was backed into a corner. Egypt had closed the Strait of Tiran – essentially denying Israel access to the Red Sea. The situation was dire, and Israel knew it had to act.


On June 5, 1967, Israel launched Operation Focus. The objective was to neutralize the Arab air forces, particularly those from Egypt. According to the Israeli Air Force web site, the operation was a smashing success.

You can now see that operation — as well as other parts of the Six-Day War — the way Israeli Defense Force pilots saw it.

During that war, the Israeli Air Force carried out strikes on air fields and other ground targets. They also were in a fair number of dogfights. The best plane the Israelis had at that time was the Dassault Mirage III, a single-seat fighter that had a top speed of 1,312 miles per hour, a range of 1,000 miles, and the ability to carry up to 8,800 pounds of ordnance along with two 30mm cannon.

An Israeli Mirage III at a museum. Giora Epstein scored the first of his 17 kills, a Su-7, in a Mirage III. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Six-Day War saw Israeli Mirage IIIs take on MiG-21 Fishbeds, MiG-19 Farmerss, Hawker Hunters, MiG-17 Frescos, Su-7 Fitters, Il-28 Beagles, and a variety of transports and helicopters.

The Israelis lost 46 aircraft and 24 pilots, but in return had killed almost 400 enemy planes, and had control of the skies within hours of the conflict starting.

You can see what it was like for Israeli pilots in the video below, taken from the Israeli gun camera films. The compilation starts with the airfield strikes that were part of Operation Focus. Not just bomb runs, but also the strafing passes on aircraft that were caught on the ground.

The gun-camera footage then shows the Israeli pilots as they score kills in dogfights. Finally, the video shows the interdiction strikes against Arab ground forces.

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