When the fighters boarded their familiar planes, a surprise awaited: The F-16 became a Mystere
“This is the war legacy of the squadron”
A technician preparing the plane for takeoff, 1967
Preparing for Operation “Focus”, 2012 Version 45 years after the first mission of the Six Day War, the IAF is going back in time. The pilots listened to that first briefing of 1967, planned the aviation routes with the help of old maps, technology-free, and took off to reenact Operation “Focus”
Fighters of the “Defenders of the South” sat in the briefing room and listened carefully to the Squadron’s First Lieutenant, Major Mickey, who took the role of Major Avihu Ben-Nun who was a First Lieutenant 45 years ago, and later Commander of the IAF. He gave them specific details of the operation as he pointed at an aged map filled with pen scribbles, and pointed out the aviation route they shall complete.
When the 2012 fighters got onto the familiar F-16, a surprise awaited them: The F-16 became a Dassault Mystere IV. The Navigation systems, radar and display were turned off. They could only use an old manual sighting device, which made it very hard for them to hit the targets.
After discovering in debriefing that the first attack didn’t come out as they hoped for, they took off again, determined to complete what they started, but in the last minute they were rushed to different mission. “In a conversation we had with the pilots of the original operation, they told us that there were frequent changes in the mission minutes before takeoff–even a change of the location of the mission–meaning different countries”, says Head of the Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Matan. During the new takeoff, the closed radar systems didn’t recognize the enemy’s MiG-21 airplanes which were flying the Squadron’s Commanders, and the fighters were forced to deal with ‘Texan Battles”–unexpected aerial battles, a phenomenon which was very common in the war.
After the fighters landed, the seniors of the Squadron awaited them. Amongst them the original commander, Major General (res.) Ben-Nun, who shared with them his personal experiences from the war. As the end of the day neared, the pilots were exposed to the original debriefings of Operation “Focus”, along with many of the original participants who viewed the documents for the first time.
The next day, at 6Am, a siren awoke the fighters. This time, it wasn’t about another mission. The Squadron members went out for a patrol of the border and discussed the influence of the war on today’s reality. “The senior generation sees the passage of the legacy to the younger generation as a mission. Our connection to history is very important, just like every fighter in Golani knows the heritage of his regiment and is proud of it; The ‘Defenders of the South’ have a combat heritage and being a part of it is mandatory”, says Lieutenant Colonel Matan, Commander of the Squadron.