The Yom Kippur War, 24.10.73

Location: west of the Great Bitter Lake, Downed Plane: three Egyptian MiG-21s

Time: 17:00 on 24.10.1973

Formation: Epstein - Sever, Shalmon - Tzuk

Location: west of the Great Bitter Lake.

Result: three MiG-21s shot down, two with missiles, one with cannon.

On the 20th [of October 1973], after I came back from Refidim, they were already talking about a ceasefire, and I felt that, as far as I was concerned, [the war] was over. Although I'd had the opportunity to fight and shoot down planes, I hadn't gotten to experience the real war experience, of life in the squadron, and everything that went along with that. I felt frustrated.

On the 22nd [of October], in the afternoon, I was on readiness duty at the squadron again. This was after two days of resultless 'ironing' [patrolling], during which the guys at Refidim kept shooting down planes steadfastedly. Just before the appointed takeoff time, another pair was added to our patrol. The team that resulted from this was the best anyone could have assembled. All four of us were readiness-quartet leaders, all seasoned and experienced, and the [combined] total of MiGs we had shot down was about 35.

In accordance with the controller's instructions, we took off and flew fuel-thrifty to the Canal, to take over for a quartet from the 'Guardians of the Arava' Squadron. It was clear that we were expected to 'turn off the sun' [i.e., patrol until nightfall].

When we arrived in the area we were put on the 'Guardians of the Arava' radio channel, and they were instructed to go home. As they were preparing to leave, and we prepared to go in, the controller started shouting to them [to head] for an encounter at 220 degrees. I immediately asked him - what about us? He was cruelly indifferent: "you guys clear the channel and keep patrolling". I immediately turned towards what seemed like the direction of the impending battle, and I informed him that we were heading towards the battle and were not clearing the channel.

Again, I asked for coordinates and did not receive any. We accelerated, threw off wing bidons and trotted southwest, towards Jebel Ubeid. In front of the lake, we saw a pair flying in an easterly climb. We weren't sure who these guys were, but they looked like Mirages. We turned west some more and saw two midair explosions at a distance, and a bit further on, three big explosions on the ground. It was obvious this was the scene of the dogfight.

We turned and got near. Straight off, we saw a large number of MiGs and four to six Mirages in a dogfight. I made out a pair and sprinted towards them immediately. I fired a missile which reached the target and exploded, but failed to light up the MiG, which continued flying, trailing a plume of white smoke and a stream of fuel. I regretted having to waste my time on a stricken MiG. I cut him off and closed in for cannon attack. When I was 500 meters away from him, the pilot seemed to understand he was wasting his time - and would be wasting his life - and ejected. I said 'thank you' to him on the radio, and immediately turned towards another MiG that was passing in the vicinity.

I closed on him in a turn, and after a few maneuvers reached a good position for a dive and missile launch. I launched, the missile veered, passed in front of me and caused me to experience a stalling propllent. I shut my engine and reported on the radio. I heard Menahem next to me, reporting he had eye contact with [the MiG]. I gave him the okay and pulled straight upward, towards a MiG that was passing from left to right. I saw a Mirage shooting at him and then leaving him alone, though the MiG was still whole and flying. I asked him why, and he said the MiG was pilotless. I got closer and saw that the MiG, though intact and flying smoothly with no sign of fire or smoke, indeed had nobody in the cockpit. It may have been my MiG, whose pilot had ditched at high altitude earlier.

I discovered yet another MiG, and after a few sharp up-and-down maneuvers I closed in on him and hit him with cannon.

Suddenly it was quiet again. No planes, no nothing. Just me, alone in the skies. I had plenty of fuel - about 2,000 liters, around 90 shells in each cannon and I hadn't tossed off my belly bidon. I asked the controller for additional targets but he reported there were none.