Maj. Gen. Rom becomes squadron commander and flies a Skyhawk aircraft for the first time in combat
Date: 06/10/2011, 3:10 PM Author: IAF Website
Three days before the “Yom Kippur” war, Maj. Gen. Giora Rom assumed command of Skyhawk squadron after its previous commander was killed. An hour after the war commenced, he was already airborne, charging towards the enemy in a jet he has never flown before. Here is an expert he wrote of the day of the attack.
My aircraft number was 4 on runway 33 at the Tel-Nof airbase: Saturday, Yom Kippur, Oct. 6th 1973, 15:00.
The target: Egyptian forces attacking the “Budapest” post at the northern Suez Canal.
Even though I was the squadron commander, when I take off that day it was my first flight on the Skyhawk. At that point I have never trained with nor operated this type of aircraft before.
Only three pilots in history dared go on a combat operation in an aircraft they have never operated before and I was about to become fourth.
Three days earlier, Lt. Col. Ami Goldstein, commander of the “First Jet” squadron was killed in an accident. When I returned to the Hazor base that night, I got a call from the Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Benny Peled asking me to report to him the next morning to assume command over the squadron.
One of the officers at the Tel Nof Airbase told me, “I want you in this post”, even though I have never operated a Skyhawk before. “You can set up a training course for yourself next week,” he said.
After one funeral, an introduction with the pilots, and only two days in the position, I was ordered to stay on the base during the weekend due to the high alert.
That Saturday, sirens went off and we were briefed on the strike to be carried out against the Syrian air force.
Though the operation was later cancelled and I took the opportunity to go on a basic training flight on the Skyhawk. I was briefed me on how the cockpit is built, the visual systems, and how to start the jet. Already at the runway and after some difficulty closing the canopy door, I asked for permission to take off at 2:00pm.
“Abort takeoff. Egyptian forces are attacking the base”, I heard on the two-way radio.
Without ever flying the aircraft I returned to the squadron where I found all the pilots equipped and ready to go. “We take off in 20 minutes,” I told them. “You will be responsible to train me on the jet en route to target”, I told the commanding pilot, Kochva.
A voice on the radio told me to disengage. We were airborne, south bound. The jet responded well to me, and Kochva assisted with weaponry controls. Finally we lowered and prepared to attack the outer perimeter of the “Budapest” post.
I rolled over and dove towards the target. I spotted the bright yellow light of SAM-2 missile launched in my direction from Port-Said though I completed the attack and joined the formation.
“4, the landing speed is 150”, Kochva instructed me. My Skyhawk landed without difficulty.
I learned how to operate the Skyhawk in real time and lead my pilots in what proved to be the most challenging war I ever fought in.