Skyhawk

"I decided to use... the air-to-ground rocket pod"

One result of the French embargo on Israel after the Six Day War was the order of Skyhawks from the US. The first Skyhawks were put into service at the end of 1967, and continue to serve to this day in attack and close air support roles.

The late Col. Ezra Dotan ('Beban'), aka 'Mr. Skyhawk', scored the first Skyhawk kill - and in an original way: he shot a MiG-17 down with antitank rockets, that are not intended for use in air combat.

On May 12th 1970, IDF forces raided the 'Fatahland' area of southern Lebanon, near Har Dov, in an attack on Palestinian terrorists. Ten Skyhawks provided close air support.

Dotan recounted: "We circled at a height of several thousand feet, trying to locate enemy tanks. We descended a bit, and in the very same moment I identified some enemy vehicles, Number Two informed me that he saw MiGs beneath us. I hesitated for a moment, and then we lowered our noses and went after them. I soon identified the planes myself: they were a pair of Syrian MiG-17s. My Number Two opened fire and his shells just missed one of the MiGs' tail.

"I completed the descent to the MiGs' altitude and sat on the tail of one of them. I decided to use the fire power of the air-to-ground rocket pod in order to hit the MiG. I shot off a first salvo from both pods, at a range of 50 meters. The rockets went very low and passed under the MiG without the pilot even noticing them. I raised the sights, shot off another salvo, and the MiG disappeared in a great explosion.

"I immediately turned hard, following a warning from my Number Two. Four more MiGs had appeared to our right. The third MiG was flying at high speed, and passed in front of me. I could see the large flame that emanated from his afterburner. I tried to cut him off at the turn, but I was too slow. I realized that I was diving toward the side of the Hermon mountain, and immediately released the pods. The Skyhawk regained altitude and began climbing rapidly.

"I had come out of the dive at tree level, with the MiG in front of me the whole time. He was alone - all his friends had gone home. This is when I said to myself - 'this guy ain't going home'. However, I had two problems: the MiG had disappeared between the hills in very low flight, and Mirages that had appeared on the scene were asking me where the battle was. I was afraid that they would take the MiG from me, so I told them on the radio: 'guys, this MiG is mine - go find yourself another MiG'.

"We continued northward, and at a certain point I discovered the MiG. I found him exiting one of the wadis with a sharp bank. I was going at about 570 knots, and in order not to pass by him, I turned off everything I could turn off to slow the plane down. I would have spread my ears out to the sides, too, if that could have slowed the plane some more...

"I pulled up so close to him that I couldn't even point the nose down at him. He got some distance between us and we started playing cat and mouse: He banks right, I turn to follow. He banks hard to the left - I do the same. At a certain point I shot a burst at him. The bullets ripped off the left wing and the MiG rolled right and rammed into the ground".

Knowledgeable sources have it that Dotan was not certain about having shot down the second plane until he landed back at base. When the controller announced that two planes had been shot down, Dotan's partner shouted: "that's mine!". The London Daily Express reported later that Israel's attack planes had used a mysterious secret weapon to shoot down the two Syrian planes.

Israel's Mirages were not idle either - they shot down another MiG-17 that day.

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