Russia’s target was not to fight Israel but to assist Syria and Egypt. Captured: The Mirage jet
A MiG-21 jet from IAF exhibit
The F-4 Phantom fighter jet
45 years ago, Israeli fighter jets intercepted five Soviet “MiG-21” jets over Egypt. A new book dealing with Soviet involvement in the Middle East depicts one of the hottest arenas of the Cold War
July 1970, “The War of Attrition”. The Egyptians, who couldn’t deal with IAF’s aerial attacks, sought assistance from the Soviet Union. After several Soviets attempted attacks, the Israeli Air Force, which at first tried to avoid confrontation with the Russian pilots, decided to set up an ambush. Five MiG-21 fighter jets were shot down during one of the most famous “Dogfights” in the history of the IAF. No IAF aircraft was hit.
The renowned ambush included “F-4 Phantom” and “Mirage” squadrons which carried out a sophisticated deception. Parallel to a distractive attack by Phantom jets south to Suez, a quartet of Mirages from the “Bat” squadron was sent out on a fake photography sortie. The plan worked: six quartets of Soviet MiG-21s were dispatched to thwart the Mirages when a quartet of Israeli Phantoms suddenly emerged to the scene, followed by another quartet of Mirages and a pair of jets from the “First Combat” squadron.
“The Israeli strike stunned the world”, determines Col. (Res.) Pesach Malovany, who served in the intelligence division at that time. “This event was a blow for Moscow. The commander of the Russian Air Force flew straight to Egypt to figure out what stands behind these results. They couldn’t accept the fact that Israeli pilots have overpowered the best of their pilots”. However, the questions that should be answered are what were Soviet jets doing in the skies of Egypt and why did the IAF decide to intercept them?
Col. (Res.) Melovany spent the last years researching complex historical issues in the Middle East and has already published two books regarding the Iraqi and Syrian armies. He has just finished writing his third book which deals with the Soviet involvement in the Middle East and reveals details and evidence never published before.
Turning Point: Six-Day War
The years following World War II marked the beginning of the struggle between the Eastern bloc countries and the Western bloc countries. At the same time, the Arab countries in the Middle East, which were hostile toward the West, have become allies of the Soviet Union.
After the 1967 Six-Day War, the Soviet Union was quick to restore the Syrian and Egyptian armies and began to pour large quantities of weapons to the region. “It is important to mention that Russia’s target was not to fight Israel but to assist Syria and Egypt owing to personal interests”, clarifies Col (Res.) Melovany. “The Middle East was considered a highly strategic area in the eyes of the Soviets and it was important for them to make their presence felt there, and also in other areas of the world. The Arab countries aspired to destroy the State of Israel and relied on the military, economic and scientific assistance supplied to them by the Soviets”.
The deep Soviet involvement in Egypt came to an end in 1973, in the days preceding the Yom Kippur War, when Egypt prepared for another war against Israel and the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat tried to conceal his actions from both the US and the Soviet Union.
According to Col. (Res.) Melovany, the Russian involvement in the Middle East has significantly decreased over the years. “The dissolution of the Soviet Union had a positive effect on the Israeli-Russian relations. Economically-challenged Russia began speaking out against the warmongering inclination of Arab countries and acted to improve its relations with the West”, he noted.