During the War of Attrition, the IDF—and by extension, the IAF—operated on the southern front against the Egyptian army and executed several extraordinary aerial campaigns. This week marks 45 years to one of the key milestones in the war
Forty-five years ago this week, heavy artillery barrages shook the Sinai Peninsula: the Egyptian military began an offensive against IDF posts along the Suez Canal. This offensive was a major milestone in the fighting on this front, which was called “The War of Attrition”. During the war, the IDF planned and executed many operations, in which the IAF, under the command of the late Major General Mordechai Hod, played a major role.
During the night of 26 December 1969, the IAF operated against the modern, Soviet-made radar system operated by the Egyptian military. On one of the flights performed by the Vautour planes, an advanced radar station of the P-12 type operated by the Egyptians was discovered after decoding aerial photographs.
The initial plan to bomb the facility was rejected in favor of another plan, in which the station would be raided and brought to Israel in order to learn its secrets.IAF helicopters, carrying elements of the Paratrooper Brigade, took off for the joint operation codename “Rooster 53”, during which two CH-53 helicopters managed to lift the operations caravan, the communications caravan and the radar antenna and bring it to Israel.
This operation allowed the IAF to develop electronic warfare against the Soviet technology operated by the Egyptians. The success of the operation was considered Israel’s most impressive technological, operational and morale-boosting achievement and dealt Egyptian prestige a heavy blow.
During a reconnaissance flight above Cairo performed by two pairs of “Mirage- 3” planes from the “Bat” squadron, one of the planes increased its speed in order to catch up with his wing mate and accidently exceeded the speed of sound, while flying at a low altitude of 800 ft above the city’s neighborhoods.
Subsequently, a powerful, supersonic “boom” was heard. It shattered glass and wreaked havoc in the upscale neighborhood where then-President Nasser and the Commander of the Egyptian Air Force resided.
Then-IAF Commander, the late Major General Mordechai Hod, requested clarification of the circumstances surrounding the incident and saw it as an additional means of pressuring the Egyptians.
As a result, this method was adopted and during the war, IAF fighter jets performed additional supersonic booms above upscale neighborhoods in Cairo, sometimes using Phantom jets, which were powerful and caused an even stronger shock. One of the most memorable flights during the war was carried out above the Presidential Palace in Tahrir Square and shook the buildings in the area.
In the Air and in the Sea
During the war, the Egyptian Navy managed to sink an Israeli ship and to damage an Israeli Navy landing craft using naval mines. In response, Israel decided to damage Egyptian ships in the Ghardaqa port on the Red Sea.
The day after the Egyptian attack, armed with bombs and rockets, 18 Skyhawk fighters-bombers from the “Valley”, “Flying Tiger” and “Flying Dragon” squadrons attacked the port.
During the attack, a barrage of anti-aircraft fire was directed at the Israeli planes, but was unsuccessful in damaging them. The planes attacked a ship in a paired-flying formation and despite the ship’s attempts at evading the bombing, it sank.