The first ever kill by an F-15 was scored by an Israeli Eagle in 1979 over Lebanon, followed, two years later by the first worldwide kill of a Mig-25 Foxbat. Since then, Israeli F-15s were credited with 60 air-to-air victories mainly against Syrian Mig-21, Mig-25 and Mig-23 jets.
The photographs in this post show the Israeli combat-proven F-15s at work.
They were taken by renowned aviation photographer Nir Ben-Yosef who has been documenting the IAF’s people, aircraft and operations for well over a decade.
Developed within a German-led multinational program as a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the ageing AIM-9 Sidewinder the IRIS-T has a range of 25 km and can engage targets flying behind the launching platform thanks to an extreme close-in agility which allows turns of 60 g at a rate of 60°/s.
Interestingly, as the top image (taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Giovanni Maduli) shows, the dummy IRIS-T missile was carried on an underwing pylon while previous tests with the AIM-9L Sidewinder were carried out with the air-to-air missiles mounted on the wing tip launchers.
An amazing footage from 41 years ago shows a dogfight between an Israeli Phantom and an Egyptian Mig.
This clip, part of the documentary “Israel: A Home Movie” was filmed by Moshe Shargal who recalls the day when, in 1973, along with his friends, he witnessed a dogfight between an Israeli Air Force F-4 Kurnass (Sledgehammer) and an Egyptian Mig-17 over Ras Muhammad beach, at the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula, overlooking the Gulf of Suez, a territory captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
It was Oct. 6, 1973, the day the hostilities started.
Suddenly, a group of Israeli friends who were celebrating the Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, in the Israeli-occupied territories, saw Mig fighter jets flying into Israel.
Twenty minutes later they spotted a Mig-17 again, followed by a Phantom that fired an air-to-air missile that brought down the Egyptian fighter jet.
Although bad in quality, the footage is an amazing document of one of the Israeli aerial victories during the Yom Kippur War.
In 1973, Israeli Air force (IAF) found itself facing an Arab Air Forces coalition which was composed by Egyptian and Syrian fighter squadrons, but also by units from Algeria, Iraq, Libya and … North Korea, that deployed a MiG-21 squadron to Bir Arida to protect Egypt’s south.
The legendary Eagle is also a very robust aircraft, that can survive some serious damages. As shown by a very well-known incident which occurred in 1983, in the skies over Nahal Tzin in the Negev desert, in Israel, during a mock aerial combat between two Israeli Air Force F-15Ds and four A-4Ns, when one of the Eagles, the F-15D #957 nicknamed ‘Markia Shchakim’, 5 killmarks, used for conversion of a new pilot named Zivi Nedivi, collided mid-air with one of the Skyhawks.
As explained in No Wing F-15, an interesting piece written by John Easley, Zivi didn’t immediately realize what had happened: he felt a big jolt and saw a huge fireball caused by the A-4 explosion, followed by radio communications according to those the Skyhawk pilot had successfully ejected.
He realized that the F-15 was badly damaged when the aircraft fell in a very tight spiral after a huge fuel leak from its right wing.
After regaining the control of the aircraft Nedivi was ordered to eject but decided not to bail out since he was confident he could land the plane at the nearest airfield, 10 miles away, even thought the F-15 was flying on vapors: he began to reduce speed but the missing right wing (that the Israeli pilot was still unaware of) caused a new spin.
Then just before ejecting, Nedivi decided to light the afterburners, gaining speed and managing to somehow control the F-15 once again.
Once he reached the air base, he lowered the tail hook, touched down at about 260 knots, which was twice the speed recommended for a standard landing, and managed to stop the plane about 10 meters before it engaged the Safeland Airfield Arrester Barrier.
As told by Easley, it was only after he turned back to shake his instructor’s hand, that Zivi discovered that he had flown and landed without a wing!
After the mishap, McDonnell Douglas, inquired by the Israeli Air Force, affirmed that it was impossible for an F-15 to with one wing only, but once they received the photo of the Eagle flying without one wing, they said that, pilot skills aside, damaged aircraft had been able to return to the base thanks to the lift generated by both its engine intakes and its fuselage.
Nevertheless proving once again its tremendous strength, after two months the Eagle received a new wing and returned to fly, as you can see in the picture below.
Image credit: Wiki
In the following video you can hear Zivi Nedivi himself explaining how he was able to land without its right wing.
Some of them are well described in the book The Sword of David – The Israeli Air Force at War, written by Donald McCarthy.
According to McCarthy, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1968 before becoming a respected and well informed historian, the information for Operation Orchard is alleged to have come from Ali Reza Asgari, an Iranian general disappeared in February 2007, who may have been the source of the intelligence required by the Syrian nuclear site attack.
After gathering the required details, the Israelis planned a secret mission that was launched on Sept. 6 2007, at night.
McCarthy points out the fact that Syria as well as other Arab countries were equipped with advanced Russian air defense systems, such as the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound as reported by NATO designation), claimed to be immune to electronic jamming. At the time of Operation Orchard, Syria operated twenty nine of these advanced air defense systems, so it remains unclear how the IAF aircraft flew undetected into the night sky out over the Mediterranean Sea, across the Euphrates River and along their route to the nuclear facility.
As explained by McCarthy, according to the most widely accepted theory the strike force included one or more Gulfstream G550 aircraft, equipped with the IAI Elta EL/W-2085 radar system.
Indeed, the success of the operation was largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind: some sources believe that Operation Orchard saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems.
This system, combined with the F-15Is electronic warfare capabilities, shut down Syrian air defense systems, providing the other airplanes the cover they needed to hit and destroy the Dir A-Zur nuclear plant.
After the attack, the initial reports stated that the IAF aircraft had almost entirely destroyed the nuclear site, claims that were also confirmed by the comparison of pre and post-attack satellite imagery.
Even if the incident was shrouded in secrecy, Turkish media outlets reported that external fuel tanks were found on the ground not far away from the Syrian border: as reported by Shlomo Aloni & Zvi Avidror in their book Hammers Israel’s Long-Range Heavy Bomber Arm: The Story of 69 Squadron, these external fuel tanks were identified by foreign press as belonging to F-15 aircraft.