[Updated] Israeli Air Force using combat trainers to drop leaflets over Gaza

Initially, the headline of this post was “If this picture is authentic, the Israeli Air Force is using combat trainers and dumb bombs to hit Gaza.”

According to the caption, it was taken on Nov.15, by AP photographer Ariel Schalit, as an Israeli Air Force war plane dropped a bomb over the northern Gaza Strip and it was taken from the Israel Gaza Border.

Image credit: AP/Ariel Schalit

What’s wrong with the caption?

The first weird thing was that the aircraft (a TA-4J) is actually an obsolete two seater trainer plane (to be replaced by the M-346 Master in the near future). This proves the Israeli version of the venerable Skyhawk, locally dubbed “Ayit”, still plays a role in a modern conflict.

My doubts were: are Israeli using such “basic” bombers because of the low lethality scenario in Gaza? Or are they keeping their more advanced F-16I and F-15I advanced combat planes on stand by?

Second detail that made me suspect the photo wasn’t taken today at Gaza was that the TA-4J seems to drop a dumb freefall bomb.

Because of the low resolution of the image, it was quite difficult to say what’s the exact type of the weapon. A cropped version of the same image published by The Times online pointed towards a cluster bomb like an Mk-20 Rockeye or a CBU-87/89.

I ended the article saying: “Summing up, I believe the picture was not taken today at Gaza. The platform and type of ordnance are among the less likely pair we can expect to be employed in Pillar of Defense by the hi-tech Israeli Air Force.”

Then with the help of some readers, I found that the one that can be seen in the picture was an M129 leaflet bomb.

Indeed, according to the IAF website:

This morning the IAF dispersed leaflets in various locations around Gaza Strip. The proclamations call for civilians to stay away from terrorist target areas and emphasize that Hamas is responsible for the situation in Gaza. “For your own safety, take responsibility for your life and abstain from approaching terrorist organizations”




About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.