Sixty years, and not one wrinkle: Once a training formation for young pilots, and many kills and fierce operations later, the recipient of the newest combat airplane in the force
The Knights of the Orange Tail Squadron’s legacy can fill the pages of one thick book: Since the 50s, the squadron has managed to switch names, symbols, participate in Israeli Wars and receive the newest combat airplane in the force’s ranks, the F-16I.
Important Milestones in the History of the Squadron:
The First Decade: Flying in Open Air
In 1953, the “Third Spitfire” Squadron was established to operate as an advanced training squadron in Ramat David. The squadron was responsible for certifying the next generation of IAF pilots. A year later, the squadron was reestablished as a reserve duty squadron that took off in times of emergency and war. As time went by, the airplanes in the underground hangers were upgraded and the pilots traveled amongst the bases from one spitfire to the next mustang.
The Second Decade: Dozens of attacks within Six Days
After the formation was reestablished, it participated in the Six Day War, during which the famous attack of Sinai airports occurred through “Operation Focus”. The squadron took part in the attacks over airports and radar locations in Egypt and Jordan, and also attacked infantry forces, cannon batteries and anti-aircraft centers.
The Third Decade: The First Kill
On January 2nd, 1973 four Phantom F-4 airplanes conducted a patrol over Syrian terrirory. Six MiG-21 airplanes were headed toward them and the two sides began an aerial battle which eventually ended when one of the MiGs was dropped by an F-4. After the Yom Kippur War was over, the squadron moved to its current location at Hatzerim Airbase, and even received its well-known symbol of a tiger on an orange background.
The Fourth Decade: Syrian Missile Formation is Destroyed
At the start of the Lebanon War, the IAF begins with operation “Mole Cricket 19”, in which the Syrian ground-to-air missile battery formation (the 19 batteries gave the operation its name) and 82 enemy planes were brought down. The squadron participated in the operation, which was later deemed a tremendous success for the IAF and IDF.
The Fifth Decade: Operation “Accountability”
On July 25th 1993, the IDF began operation “Accountability” following an ongoing escalation on the northern border. Throughout the operation, the IAF, with the combat planes of the “Knights of the Orange Tail” in its ranks, attacked many targets in Southern Lebanon and inflicted immense damage to terrorist organizations on the Lebanese border.
The Sixth Decade: Fighting Falcon on Its Way
In the year 2006, new F-16I combat planes arrived at the force to replace the veteran Phantom F-4s, which had served the “Knights of the Orange Tail” squadron faithfully throughout most of its prior operations.
Three years in to the F-16I’s service, the squadron participated in the extensive aerial attack that began operation “Cast Lead”. Throughout the operation, the squadron continued to attack numerous targets in the Gaza Strip. Nowadays, despite the fact that the squadron is already celebrating its 60th anniversary, it seems that its story is only beginning–the crews never rest on their laurels and are preparing for their operational activity in the 60 years to come.