The Yom Kippur War, 20.10.73

Location: Southwest of the Great Bitter Lake, Downed Plane: four Egyptian MiG-21s


Time: 16:30 on 20.10.1973

Formation: Epstein - Edres, Geva - Kal. Plane: Nesher no. 61.

Location: Southwest of the Great Bitter Lake.

Result: four MiG-21s shot down. One with a missile, three with cannon.


My second day at Refidim, and again I was on readiness, while the other pilots were being scrambled into battle and shooting down MiGs. We were sent out on patrol to pass the time until the planes arrived from the north.

 

If we were to go by the previous day's experience, it was clear that if there was an attack, it would come in the afternoon. As the appointed hour neared, Yigal Ziv again came on the phone to bring us glad tidings: he was sending us out to [meet] a big attack that was forming near the [Israeli] bridgehead.

We were scrambled in an orderly quartet towards the lake. We reached the area and saw nothing. The controller told us to continue westward. And then, to our southwest, I saw a pair of MiGs pulling from south to north. We dumped our detachable fuel tanks and took a hard right turn towards them. Then I saw something that looked like a whole field of mushrooms sprouting up before my eyes; the whole area to our northwest was filling up with MiG-21s pulling into battle. The first pair we had seen was meant to lure us into battle.

I immediately came down on the first pair. I fired a missile at the rear [plane] and it blew up. Edres, my Number Two, announced that he was taking on another pair. He fired and then experienced a stalling propellent. I instructed him to go home. I went after the second MiG. As I was chasing him I saw Geva pass me, sitting on the tail of a MiG at about 200 meters. I asked him why he wasn't shooting him down. He said that he was trying, but kept missing him. Later on, he reported that he had gotten a bit farther away from the MiG, launched a missile and hit it. Kal also chased a MiG, fired and hit it. [He] was not sure whether he had brought it down or not, but his fuel was depleted and he also left the battle. I was on my own now, chasing after the crazy MiG with ten other MiGs all around me.

Finally, I succeeded in hitting it with the cannon and it exploded. I turned left and saw a pair of MiGs closing in on me from behind and shooting like mad from a range of about 500 [meters], at a near 90 degree angle. I broke hard to one side and they flew past me like a pair of missiles. I turned after them straight away, intending to shoot them down, and saw flashes of light ahead. I looked and saw a pair launching head-on missiles at me from a range of about 400 meters.

I bent down... there was nothing else I could do at that stage. The missiles passed and so did the planes. I turned right after them, closed in on the rear plane but then discovered another plane from the formation nearing me from the right side. I came in after it and blew it up with a burst from the cannon. I turned backward right away and again discovered a pair of MiGs coming at me from both sides. I broke hard to the left and then to the right, and they flew forward past me. I closed in on them and fired my second missile on the rear plane but for some reason it just dropped straight downward, as if it was a bidon rather than a missile.

The range had widened by now, so I let them go and went back again. I discovered another pair [of MiGs]. I came after the rear MiG and when he was on his back, at the climax of his pull, I shot a small burst into him. He was hit in the cockpit, and I followed him [with my gaze] from an altitude of about 10,000 feet to the ground. It seems the pilot had been hit.

I broke away again and saw no one. The skies were suddenly totally clean: no MiGs, no puffs of smoke, no parachutes, nothing. I was low on fuel, and as for the ammo - I had about 30 shells remaining in each cannon. I decided that four down in a single dogfight was enough. I turned east at low altitude. I crossed the Canal and headed home.

After landing, I was unable to get up from my seat. It turned out that the dogfight - which had been long and accompanied by high G throughout - had tired me out; my legs shook and they refused to stand. The mechanics pounced on me and took me out of the cockpit. I hadn't calmed down before Baharav came and informed me that he had been sent to replace me at Refidim, and that the staff wanted me to return and help them out.

All in all, in the 48 hours I had spent in the area, from 17:00 on 18.10 till 16:30 at 20.10, I had participated in four encounters, and managed to shoot down nine aircraft: an Mi-8, two Sukhoi-7s, two Sukhoi-20s and four MiG-21s.

That same evening, I was back at the staff HQ. Truth be told - I felt much better now. At least I had managed to accomplish something in this war. Benny [Peled, IAF Commander] started hugging and kissing me - how embarrassing...