The graduation ceremony of IAF Flight School will mark the 30th anniversary of the “Netz” (Hebrew for Hawk) combat planes in the IAF. The plane has been a faithful servant for decades
The first “Netz” (F-16 A/B) planes were received in July of 1980 by the IAF even though they were supposed to arrive two years later. They were actually an Israeli benefit of the Iranian revolution, as they were supposed to be delivered to the Shah of Iran but ended up in Israel.
“The arrival of the ‘Netz’ to the IAF fleet was a huge step forward”, remembers Col (Res.) Elisha who was the commander of the “Pheonix” squadron that flew the “Netz” planes and a pilot who has flown them since they first arrived to Israel. “It was very innovative technologically and the feeling for everyone during their first flight was like it was a hand glove. In fact, it was the first plane that the boundaries of its capabilities were set by those of the pilot and not by the plane itself”.
Less than a year after the IAF received it, the “Netz” set world precedence when it took down a pair of Syrian Migs in Lebanon and, in the same year, 8 of them took part in the mission of destroying the Iraqi nuclear reactor. Throughout its career, the “Netz” plane contributed to the safety of the State of Israel as it took part in Operation “Accountability,” Operation “Grapes of Wrath”, the second Lebanon War and Operation “Cast Lead”. Over three decades, the “Netz” planes are credited with taking down more than 50 enemy planes.
The “Netz” planes constitute the foundation of the F-16 system of the IAF and are the base upon which the IAF built and expanded the rest of the fleet to include the “Barak” (F-16 C/D) and “Sufa” (F-16I).
“The planes that were based on the ‘Netz’ have upgraded capabilities but don’t have as strong of a birdlike feeling as the original ‘Netz’ does”, said Col. (Res.) Elisha.
In the graduation ceremony, the “Netz” planes will be honored and will be flown over the crowd. One of the pilots during the ceremony will be Col. (Res.) Elisha for whom, after close to 30 years of flying and more than 3,000 flight hours in the “Netz” which is more than anyone else in Israel, it will for sure be exciting. “Sure, the plane has improved, but not much has changed in 30 years and it still flies and contributes to the security of the country in missions of the highest quality in my eyes”, he said. “To fly this plane at this graduation ceremony gives me a tremendous sense of pride”.