Aerial chases until the final drops of fuel, battles filled with MiGs and three kills in one flight. Giora Epstein, international ‘Ace of Aces’ who holds the record for 17 kills which made, tells the IAF Magazine how to make history. “I didn’t recognize the word ‘fear’”
Nowadays, aerial battles are extremely rare within or outside Israel’s borders. But the glory handed to pilots who succeeded in the killing of one or two airplanes while serving, helping set the score in favor of their homeland, still glitters in their eyes like they have just climbed out of the Mirage after an intense battle.
“I remember each of my kills”, says Colonel (Res.) Giora Even-Epstein, a former combat pilot of the IAF. When he speaks of ‘all’ his kills, he means no less than 17–a number that made him the “Ace of Aces of Jet kills”, a title that he still holds.
One “Nesher”, Ten MiGs
Even-Epstein recorded his kills one by one in a journal, a block of paper that is worn out fro, use, giving a specific, handwritten description of all the details. In a very technical manner he wrote of aerial chases that emptied his fuel tank as well as the aircraft’s flying abilities, about aerial battles in skies filled with MiGs which he managed to escape alive usually with one, two or three kills.
“I remember this one special battle that occurred on October 20th, 1973”, says Colonel (Res.) Even-Epstein. During said battle, he found himself surrounded by as many as ten Egyptian MiGs but refused to give up. “Ever since I was a child, I didn’t know or care for the word ‘fear’. Facing the Egyptian MiGs only encouraged me to overtake them”, he states. The score was 4:0 in favor of the IAF (Even-Epstein states that it could have been higher if one of the missiles hadn’t been stuck).
“Any More Targets?”
In aerial battles you have no choice: The pilot in the cockpit has to overcome his fears and operate successfully under pressure. “Aside from the usual characteristics that a combat pilot has to have–quick thinking, fast reactions, healthy instincts and obviously flying abilities–in order to kill a plane you need a certain character with what I call ‘internal steel’. In your heart, inside the body. Something on the inside that makes you react in a complete and total way, to fight as long as you can. A certain type of cockiness, that made me fight and kill many aircrafts in one battle and then to ask the controller whether he’s got any more targets for me to handle”.
It’s not only pilots who determine how the aerial battles turn out. It requires good chemistry with the most important pilot–the airplane. “The Mirage, which was not the ideal airplane for aerial battles, was definitely my favorite. The F-16 aircrafts are without a doubt better for aerial fights since they are more advanced, but the lack of technology in the Mirage is what made us connect with the plane. The direct feelings you get while flying the Mirage, not through a computer, alongside the shared history with it, makes it my favorite to this day”.