The Israeli Air Force is universally recognized to be among the world’s most powerful aerial fighting forces. One third of the IDF’s manpower is in the IAF. IAF’s elite flight academy creates competition between thousands of candidates (one of them is my friend “E”), and complete three years of grueling training in order to become pilots.
Forerunners of the Israeli Air Force – Aviron
The first Jewish civil aviation company was formed in Palestine in 1939. It was called simply Aviron, which in Hebrew means ‘airplane’. Behind the scenes it was also supported by the Haganah. Aviron’s stated goals were to conduct a flying school for Jewish aviators and to develop internal commercial flights between Tel Aviv and Haifa and the Jordan Valley. There was a third secret goal—to serve the Haganah in reconnaissance and defense missions. Aviron conducted its training in the relatively remote Jezreel Valley.
Forerunners of the Israeli Air Force – Katz Palestine Flying Service
The Palestine Flying Service established in 1937 with the open approval of the British Mandate authorities. Moshe Chaim Katz, who teamed up with Edwin (Leibowitz) Lyons, an American who arrived in Palestine in a Taylorcraft, fleeing from Spain where he had flown for the Spanish Republican forces, and Avraham Schechterman, a leader of the Jewish underground movement – Etzel. The Palestine Flying Service operated under the very nose of the British Mandate authorities in Lydda. World War II brought the courses of the Palestine Flying Service to a close.
In 1945, the Palavir was developed as Palmach’s air division. The Palavir fell under the command of the unofficial Jewish defense force Haganah and operated prior to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Forerunners of the Israeli Air Force – Sherut Avir
A secret Jewish air arm called Sherut Avir (Air Service) was formed in 1947, the air wing of the Haganah, the Israeli Air Force was officially formed on May 28, 1948, shortly after Israel declared statehood. Sherut Avir airlifted supplies to the beleaguered settlements until the British withdrawal in May 1948, and helped defend the new State of Israel immediately thereafter. Aviron, the only commercial air service in Palestine, collaborated with the Sherut Ha’avir.
- The first planes were assembled from a collection of civilian aircraft commandeered or donated and converted to military use.
- Obsolete and surplus ex-World War II combat aircraft were quickly sourced by legal and illegal means to supplement this fleet.
- The backbone of the IAF consisted of 25 Avia S-199s (purchased from Czechoslovakia, essentially Czechoslovak-built Messerschmitt Bf 109s).
- In addition 60 Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXEs, the first of which, “Israel 1” was locally assembled from British abandoned spare parts and a salvaged engine from an Egyptian Spitfire with most of the rest purchased from Czechoslovakia.
- Some spitfires were ferried from Žatec base code-named “Zebra” where pilots also received preliminary flight training, while others were transported by sea.
Clear Skies: The Story of the Israel Air Force
The following description of the Israeli Air Force relies on the most “inside” military and media footage available to the public.
The majority, 15 out of the first 18 pilots in 101 Squadron (Israel), of the IAF’s first military-grade pilots in 1948 were foreign volunteers (both Jewish and non-Jewish), mainly World War II veterans who wanted to collaborate with Israel’s struggle for independence, with the rest of the military-grade pilots being Israeli WWII veterans, whereas pilots from Sherut Avir were mainly locals who flew light civilian aircraft for supply, reconnaissance, and makeshift ground attack with hand-thrown light bombs and hand fired light machine guns.
Mahal – The Untold Story of U.S. Pilots Who Flew for Israel in 1948
When Israel became independent the Jewish population in Palestine was supported by volunteer pilots, supplies, and aircraft from the United States, Canada, England, South Africa, Sweden, Holland known as Mahal, the Hebrew acronym for Mitnaddevei Hutz la-Aretz (‘Foreign Volunteers’).
American volunteer pilots who left home to fly barely airworthy Nazi Messerschmitt Bf 109s—“Messer-shits,” as they called their planes while flying dozen’s of IAF missions, in early engagements against Egyptian and Iraqi forces.
One of the principal allies for the Jewish cause was Al Schwimmer, in the USA. In 1947, with the backing of the Haganah, he formed Schwimmer Aviation in Burbank, California, to purchase and recondition war-surplus transport aircraft. Al Schwimmer, a TWA employee who bought a surplus C-46 for $5,000. He eventually smuggled that and about 30 other aircraft to Israel when the nation was under an embargo that prevented it from purchasing weapons. Convicted of violating the U.S. Neutrality Act, Schwimmer lost his U.S. citizenship and remained in Israel. President Clinton pardoned him in 2001
Israel Air Force Museum
This is a film about a visit to the fabulous Israeli Air Force Museum. The Israeli Air Force Museum is located some 6kms west of Be’er Sheva in the Negev Desert adjacent to the Hatzerim Airbase and the Kibbutz Hatzerim. The Israeli Air Force Museum is found in the open expanse of desert at the Hatzerim Air Force Base, with the warplanes and training planes occasionally flying above the museum providing all round great experience. — Table of Contents — 0:08 location of Israeli Air Force Museum 0:33 AH-64 Apache flying overhead 0:46 Overview of main display area 2:19 F-16 flying overhead 2:29 Soviet warplanes in Arab service 3:04 A-4 Skyhawks in revetment 3:36 Egyptian P-12 radar and SA-2 SAM missile 3:51 ZSU self-propelled AA guns 4:12 Kfirs in revetment 4:20 F-4 Phantom IIs in revetment 5:00 Mil Mi-24D Hind helicopter 5:11 Aermacchi flying overhead 5:39 Dassault Mystere IVA 6:05 Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion flying overhead 6:47 Anti-aircraft guns and prime movers 7:28 Nord Noratlas cargo plane 8:00 WWII-era propeller-driven fighters