Squadrons

The First Fighter Squadron

Hatzor Airbase

Aircraft:

• Messerschmitt
• Spitfire
• Mustang
• Mystère A-4
• Dassault Mirage III (known in Hebrew as the “Shahak”, a biblical term of unclear meaning)
• IAI Nesher (Hebrew for “Vulture”)
• IAI Kfir (Hebrew for “Fox Cub”)
• F-16C (known in Hebrew as the “Barak”, or “Lightning” single-seater)
• F-16D (known in Hebrew as the “Barak”, “Lightning” double-seater)

The “First Fighter” Squadron was established on Ekron Airbase in May 1948 and initially flew Messerschmitt aircraft that had been imported from Czechoslovakia. The first operational sortie took place on 29th May, the same day that the squadron is considered to have been established: Four aircraft took off from Ekron Airbase under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Modi Alon, the squadron's first commander, to strike the Egyptian forces next to Ashdod. The sortie stopped the Egyptian column advancing towards Tel Aviv. During this mission the squadron suffered its first loss.

In November 1948 the Squadron moved to Hatzor, where it remained until June 1949. The squadron downed 12 enemy aircraft during the War of Independence. The other roles carried out by the squadron during this war including combat assistance, photography and the training of graduates from the Air Force's first two pilots' courses. In March 1949 the graduates of the first course received their wings. With the completion of the first course the Squadron that it was decided that it would also run an Operational Training Course.

In June 1949 the squadron moved to Ramat David Airbase, which had become the main airbase for the IAF's combat squadrons. In this period the squadron operated the Spitfire and the Mustang. In August 1950 the operational training course was moved to a separate unit under the command of Major Menachem Bar. The unit, with Bar still in command, later became the “Scorpion” Squadron.

In April 1956 the “First Fighter” Squadron, having been briefly dissolved, was re-established as a Mystère A-4 squadron. During the Sinai Campaign the squadron downed seven Egyptian combat aircraft, and focused primarily on interception, patrol and combat assistance missions. In June 1961 a Dassault Mirage III re-training course began in France. For the first time the Air Force had aircraft to defend Israel's skies both during the day and at night. The Mirage was also Israel's first aircraft armed with missiles.

During the Six Day War the squadron was one of the IAF's three intercept squadrons. However, as with the other squadrons, its first mission was to achieve aerial supremacy by attacking Egyptian airfields, rather than through aerial combat. On the first day of fighting the squadron's main activity was in Operation Focus, and during the rest of the war it carried out sorties to assist the ground forces and participated in air-to-air combat. It carried out 337 sorties in all, 3 pilots were shot down, 1 pilot was rescued and four aircraft were lost. The squad commander was Major General (reserve) Amos Lapidot.

The squadron's participation in the War of Attrition began on 7th July 1967, with a patrol and intercept mission during an incident above the Suez Canal. The squadron also carried out air-to-ground missions and brought down 27 enemy aircraft during the war.  One pilot was taken prisoner and three aircraft were lost in aerial combat.

During the Yom Kippur War the squadron carried out aerial photography missions and participated in air-to-air combat. When the war broke out the commander of the squadron was Lieutenant Colonel Avi Lanir. On 13th October 1973 his plane was hit above the Golan Heights. Lanir ejected and was taken prisoner in Syria, where he passed away. During the war three more aircraft were lost, but their pilots were rescued.

The squadron became the first to receive the Israeli-produced Kfir. In 1976 the squadron received the first improved Kfir. On 9th November 1977 the squadron participated in the first attack using this aircraft. During the First Lebanon War, the squadron focused primarily on assisting the ground forces and secondarily on air-to-air sorties. It also carried out a number of photography flights. During the acquisition of the F-16 the squadron received 30 double-seater aircraft. During the Gulf War it played a role in the interception team base on Nevatim. During the war the squadron flew 59 interception patrols.

In recent years the squadron has targeted weapons and ammunition stores in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. During the Second Lebanon War the squadron struck missile launchers, access routes, Lebanese radio and television broadcast stations, Beirut International Airport, buildings housing Hizballah senior staff and dozens of armed fighters, using various kinds of smart bomb.

The First Fighter Squadron
The First Fighter Squadron