The War of Independence broke out immediately after the United Nations' decision to partition the Land of Israel, on November 29th 1947.
Irregular Palestinian Arab bands blocked the roads of approach to Jewish settlements, thus cutting them off and isolating them. 'Sherut Ha'avir' - created just before the UN decision - was the only aerial force resisting the Arab assaults. The core of Sherut Ha'avir was made up of a handful of pilots - mostly Israeli-born - succoring the Jewish settlements and fighters on the different fronts with just a few light planes.
Meanwhile, Sherut Ha'avir's staff prepared plans for establishing a full-fledged Air Force, and sent representatives to countries in all five continents to recruit volunteers and buy planes and other supplies necessary the operation of such a Force.
On May 14th 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The very next day, the regular armies of the Arab countries invaded Israel. Tel Aviv was bombed by Egyptian planes. This was a dark time for the IAF: the Egyptian Air Force ruled the skies over Israel.
While this was going on, the IAF's first fighter planes were being transported from Czechoslovakia: this was Operation 'Balack', and the fighters were none other than the Avia S-199's, a Czech version of the German Messerschmitts. They were assembled and used against the Egyptian army that was advancing towards Tel Aviv. On May 29th four Messerschmitts attacked the Egyptian column near Ashdod, bringing it to a halt at the bridge which became known as 'Ad Halom' ('No Further'). On June 3rd the IAF achieved its first aerial victory: Moddy Alon, commander of the 'First Fighter' Squadron, shot down two Egyptian Dakotas that had been bombing Tel Aviv. From that day on, the Egyptian Air Force's bombing sorties became fewer and farther between, while the Israeli Air Force gradually grew stronger.
Additional unconventional acquisition operations brought warplanes, transports and bombers into Israel: B-17s, Spitfires, Beaufighters, Skymasters, Mustangs and others. These were quickly made operational and thrown into action. Also pouring in from abroad were the Volunteers from Abroad (known by the acronym Mahal) who contributed their experience and assisted considerably in the task of creating a national air force from scratch. Their role was critical: without them, the IAF would not have been able to defend Israel's skies.
The IAF did not confine itself to defensive activities, though. It carried out strategic bombings, attacking the Arab capitals of Cairo, Damascus and Amman.
In Operation 'Avak', the IAF airlifted fighters from 'Yiftah' Regiment into the Negev Desert to replace the battle-worn 'Hanegev' Regiment. IAF transports brought supplies to the beleaguered Negev settlements.
In Operations 'Yoav' and 'Hiram', the IAF assisted in the liberation of the Negev and Galilee in bombing and interception sorties, and by interdiction missions against enemy armor.
Operation 'Horev', for the removal of the Egyptian threat to Jewish settlements in the southern and western Negev, brought the IAF face to face with the British Royal Air Force. On January 7th 1949, the IAF shot down five British planes, in dogfights and with AA fire from the ground.
With the cessation of fighting, most Mahal volunteers left the country, and the IAF began to base its strength mostly on native Israelis and olim - new Jewish immigrants. IAF bases were rearranged, professional squadrons were created, and new planes were brought in.
19 Egyptian and Syrian planes were shot down during the war. 33 IAF pilots and air crew lost their lives.