50 years since the “Six Day” War: The IAF website goes back in time to one of the most significant operations in its history, the operation that began the war and led the IAF to complete aerial dominance in all theatres
Carmel Lahad and Eynat Ravid
On Monday, June 5, 1967, the IAF attacks Egyptian airfields and successfully destroys the Egyptian Air Force in a mere three hours. It also attacks the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi Air Forces, all as part of Operation “Moked” (Focus), which was planned many years in advanced.
Operation “Moked” was the preemptive strike of the “Six Day” War, which occurred 50 years ago this month. The purpose of the operation, which had been meticulously planned since 1962 by the late Col (Res’) Yaakov Nevo, then Head of the Operations Branch, and Brig. Gen. (Res’) Rafael Savron, then a young officer, was to attack and destroy the airfields of enemy countries. The two believed that an effective attack on the Arab airfields should focus on runways, a move that would, in practice, trap the aircraft on the ground and result in their destruction. This plan was different to past attacks, as until then, attacks on airfields were planned to target control towers and aircraft on the ground.
By 07:30, about 200 aircraft, which took off from IAF bases in complete radio silence, were already in the air and had attacked 401 enemy aircraft. The operation began with the attack of the Abu-Swir airfield in Egypt. The attack was performed by a seven aircraft formation from the “Defenders of the South” Squadron. “First sortie, first battle, I wasn’t caught up in the war atmosphere yet. Mentally, it felt like another training sortie and nothing more, then when Danny ejected it put me in a combat mindset and I understood how serious it was, like a powerful shot in the right place. Then, the feeling that I had to do everything to fill the places of those who jumped came in”, shared the fifth “Mystere” pilot in the formation.
The second wave of attacks began at 09:34 and focused on Egyptian Air Force bases that did not absorb the required amount of fire in order to destroy them according to the original plans. Some of the formations attacked Egyptian targets in Sinai after there were no more targets left in the airfields. By the end of the wave, all of the Egyptian Air Force bases in Sinai and their aircraft were neutralized.
Alone Above Syria
At 11:30 Syrian attack aircraft were launched against targets in northern Israel in response to the attack on Egypt. In light of the successful attacks on Egyptian airfields, then IAF Commander, the late Maj. Gen. (Res’) Mordechai (Motti) Hod, decided to redirect formations that were supposed to perform additional strikes in Egypt to Syrian airfields. “The war was no longer a surprise”, said Col. (Res’) Levi Tzur, then Commander of the “Knights of the North” Squadron, and the formation leader. “We may have been the first formation that attacked ‘Dmayer” airfield, but apparently, they were notified in advance”. The flight to the airfield went smoothly and there was a strong feeling of victory in the air, but in that same attack, the pilot Avraham Vilan was captured by the Syrians. “I felt frozen. From the feeling of victory I had, I found myself alone above Syria”.
Following the attack, Jordan decided to intervene and coordinated mutual aerial activity against Israel with Iraq. At 11:50, 16 “Hunter” aircraft were launched to attack targets in Israel. In response, the IAF Commander decided to integrate Jordan’s airfields in the attack and destroy them. In two hours the Israeli Air Force had attacked Jordanian airfields and their aircraft.