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6/12/2017 How Israel's Air Force Won the Six-Day War in Six Hours | The National Interest Blog

THE BUZZ

How Israel's Air Force Won the Six-Day


War in Six Hours

Michael Peck
June 2, 2017

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At 7:10 a.m. Israeli time, sixteen Israeli Air Force Fouga Magister training jets took off
and pretended to be what they were not. Flying routine flight paths and using routine
radio frequencies, they looked to Arab radar operators like the normal morning Israeli
combat air patrol.

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At 7:15 a.m., another 183 aircraftalmost the entire Israeli combat fleetroared into
the air. They headed west over the Mediterranean before diving low, which dropped
them from Arab radar screens. This was also nothing new: for two years, Egyptian,
Syrian and Jordanian radar had tracked Israeli aircraftthough never this many Israeli
aircrafttaking off every morning on this same flight path, and then disappearing from
their scopes before they returned to base. But that morning, instead of going home, the
Israeli armada of French-made Mirage and Super Mystere jets turned south toward
Egypt, flying under strict radio silence and just sixty feet above the waves.

It was June 5, 1967, and the Six-Day War was about to begin. The conflict, which would
shape the Middle East as we know it today, had been simmering for months between
Israel and its neighbors. Outnumbered by the combined Arab armies, and surrounded
by enemies on three sides and the deep blue Mediterranean on the fourth, Israel had
resolved to strike first and win quickly.

That meant controlling the skies. But the Israeli Air Force could pit only two hundred
aircraft, almost all French models (the United States wouldnt sell aircraft to the IAF
until 1968), against six hundred Arab planes, including many Soviet-supplied MiG
fighters. Israeli leaders also worried over Egypts thirty Soviet-made Tu-16 Badger
bombers, each of which could drop ten tons of bombs on Israeli cities.

Thus was born Operation Moked (Focus), a preemptive strike aimed at destroying the
Arab air forces on the groundand one of the most brilliant aerial operations in
history. The plan had been worked out and practiced for several years. IAF pilots flew
repeated practice missions against mock Egyptian airfields in the Negev Desert, while
Israeli intelligence collected information on Egyptian dispositions and defenses.

Would all the effort pay off? The answer would become clear minutes after the Israeli
aerial armada banked over the Mediterranean and arrived over Egypt.

Jordanian radar operators, troubled by the unusual number of Israeli aircraft in the air
that day, sent a coded warning to the Egyptians. But the Egyptians had changed their
codes the day before without bothering to inform the Jordanians.

Not that the warning would have made a huge difference. Rather than attacking at
dawn, the IAF decided to wait for a couple of hours until 0745hrs, 0845hrs Egyptian

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6/12/2017 How Israel's Air Force Won the Six-Day War in Six Hours | The National Interest Blog

time, writes author Simon Dunstan. By this time, the morning mists over the Nile
Delta had dispersed and the Egyptian dawn patrols had returned to base where the
pilots were now having their breakfast, while many pilots and ground crew were still
making their way to work.

Meanwhile, the commanders of the Egyptian armed forces and air force were away
from their posts on an inspection tour, flying aboard a transport as the Israeli aircraft
came in (scared that their own antiaircraft gunners would mistake them for Israelis and
blast them out of the skies, the commanders had ordered that Egyptian air defenses not
fire on any aircraft while the transport plane was in the air).

The Israeli aircraft climbed to nine thousand feet as they approached their targets: ten
Egyptian airfields where the aircraft were neatly parked in rows, wingtip to wingtip.
Almost totally unhindered by Egyptian interceptors and flak, the Israeli aircraft, in
flights of four, made three to four passes each with bombs and cannon. First hit were
the runways so planes couldnt take off, followed by Egyptian bombers, and then other
aircraft.

Embed from Getty Images

TEL NOF, Israel: An Israeli F-4 Phantom takes off for a training flight 27 October 200 see more

AFP | YOAV LEMMER

It was here that the Israelis deployed a secret weapon: the concrete dibber bombs, the
first specialized anti-runway weapons. Based on a French design, the bombs were
braked by parachute, and then a rocket motor slammed them into the runway, creating
a crater that made it impossible for Egyptian aircraft to take off.
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The first wave lasted just eighty minutes. Then there was a respite, but only for ten
minutes. Then second wave came in to strike an additional fourteen airfields. The
Egyptians could have been forgiven for thinking Israel had secretly managed to amass a
huge air force.

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9 Comments The National Interest


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Common Sense 9 days ago


You should have put images of the Dassault Mystere or Mirage-III or even the Sud Aviation
Vatour instead of the F-4 since these were the aircraft that participated in '67 as your article
mentions.
4 Reply Share

fuscator > Common Sense 7 days ago


speaks lots about the depth of research, and the attention to detail the writer exhibited,
doesn't it?
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Mikronos > Common Sense 9 days ago


The French equipment couldn't carry half the load-out of the typical Phantom. Those
opening air-strikes were miraculous.
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Dan Roth 8 days ago


The tactics were very simple, organization, preparation and people who are able to do both. I will
leave to others to list what the Arab tactics were which lost.
1 Reply Share

fuscator 7 days ago


Your simplistic take on the IAF in the 1973 war demeans every other opinion of yours.
BTW the first sale of American aircraft to Israel was agreed on in 1966, possibly late 1965, not
1968.
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R. Arandas 9 days ago


They were simply better organized and more skillfully trained than their Arab opponents.
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Pennywhistler > R. Arandas 9 days ago


Golly. You read the article and felt compelled to re-state and summarize it.
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Mikronos 9 days ago


"The first wave lasted just 80 minutes"? Then the second wave
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/how-israels-air-force-won-the-six-day-war-six-hours-20980 came in? 10 airfields targeted, 5/10
6/12/2017 How Israel's Air Force Won the Six-Day War in Six Hours | The National Interest Blog

"The first wave lasted just 80 minutes"? Then the second wave came in? 10 airfields targeted,
flights of four, 3/4 passes each - at a force of 100 aircraft that's 10 per airfield or 2 flights of 4
(averaged) - and they're 'attacking' for 80 minutes? On what? Fumes?

If that 'first wave' lasted 80 minutes there had to be many more aircraft involved, on multiple
sorties, than the historians are admitting. And we have to remember that there was an air defence
required, at least until attention could be turned on the Jordanians and Syrians.

"The hand of God" - as seems apparent in some very 'lucky breaks' and successful spoofing - is a
powerful Israeli weapon, but then so is keeping your hand pat.
Reply Share

fuscator > Mikronos 7 days ago


At least during the first sortie against Egypt, Israel kept back only 4 fighters for 'air
defence'.
Reply Share

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