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The Gulf War broke out on January 17th 1991. It was the first war in which the IAF's planes did not play an active attack role. The jets patrolled the country's skies 24 hours a day for the purpose of defense, intelligence and early warning. On January 19th, Patriot missile batteries were offloaded at Ben Gurion Airport: they were the only defense against ground-to-ground missiles at the time. Numerous Patriots were launched at the 39 Scud missiles Iraq fired on Israel in the course of the war.

About three months after the war's end, on May 24th 1991, IAF transports took off for Africa, in Operation 'Shlomo' ('Solomon'). It was the largest-scale airlift in Israel's history: 14 thousand Jews were brought into the country from Ethiopia.

Israel's northern border and southern Lebanon continued to be the scene of daily fighting between the IDF and terrorist forces, which now included the Hizbullah. The IAF participated in two large scale operations against the terrorist in Lebanon: Operation 'Accountability' in July of 1993, and Operation 'Grapes of Wrath' in April of 1996.

On February 4th 1997, the war in Lebanon took another heavy toll of young Israeli lives: near 19:00, two Yas'ur helicopters collided in midair over Shear-Yashuv, in the upper Galilee. 73 warriors who were on their way to Lebanon were killed. It was the greatest disaster in the IAF's history, and the entire nation was shocked and grief stricken. A commision of inquiry appointed to investigate the accident was unable to say what precisely had caused the crash, but determined that it was most likely human error, and not a mechanical failure of any sort. Following the commission's report, the IAF made organizational changes and revised some of the orders regarding the operation of helicopters.

Throughout the 1990's, the IAF continued to upgrade itself with the most modern, state of the art technology. The AA array was equipped with Patriot and Stinger missiles, and at the decade's end would also receive the 'Arrow' ('Hetz') missile, developed specifically for interception of ground-to-ground missiles. The helicopter array was reinforced with the Apache, Black Hawk and Atalef, and the transport array received the Pashosh and Tzufit planes.

On January 19th 1998 the first F-15Is ('Ra'am') jets arrived in Israel. The F-15I attack planes (the 'I' stands for Israel) are the best of their kind in the Middle East, and are the IAF's spearhead at the turn of the millennium.

January: the Ra'am F-15I's arrive


To all news in-1998