Squadrons

Nevatim Airbase

Aircraft:

• Mustang
• Mystère
• Skyhawk (known in Hebrew as the “Ayit”, meaning “Eagle”)
• F-16A/B (known in Hebrew as the “Netz”, meaning “Hawk”)

From 1985 to the end of the nineties the “Defenders of the South” squadron was the home of the IAF's Operational Training Course. Later, it instead played host to the next stage of training, the Advanced Operational Training Course. The training flights include practising aerial combat with multiple participants, strikes using live bombs, flying in formations, navigating, low altitude flying and different sorts of air-to-air combat. A new group of pilots begin the Advance Operational Training Course every six months and during the course each pilots flies more than 100 sorties.

The “Defenders of the South” lead the Air Force in planning and rehearsing responses to airborne terrorist threats. Preparing workshops, designing scenarios, drilling the other squadrons and planning study days are just a few of the squadrons activities in this area.

The squadron was established in 1956 as the “Flying Wing” Squadron. At first it was a combat squadron based on Tel Nof. It flew the Mustang, the IAF's last propellor driven plane. The squadron received the aircraft from the “First Fighter” Squadron. Its first pilots were all reservists from the flying school.

After participating in the Sinai campaign and carrying out routine security measures the squadron was retired in 1961. It was reopened as a Mystère squadron nine months later, having again received aircraft from the “First Fighter” squadron. One great source of pride for the squadron in that period was its important role in Operation Focus during the Six Day War. After the war the squadron was left with a reduced number of aircraft. The “Northern Mystère” Squadron (known today as the “Valley” Squadron) transferred its Mystères to the “Flying Wing” squadron, which became the IAF's only remaining squadron flying this aircraft. From the end of the Six Day War through to the ceasefire in August 1970 the Squadron carried out more than 1000 attack sorties.

In Mach 1971 the Mystère gave way to the A-4 Skyhawk, initially type E and later type N. During the eighties IAF Headquarters began to search for a site on which to establish a new airbase. After a comprehensive study, the area of Tel Malhatah was chosen and Nevatim Airbase was built. The “Defenders of the South” (then the “Flying Wing”) was the first squadron to relocate to this new base. During the nineties it participated in Operation Accountability and Operation Grapes of Wrath.

With the decision to acquire the F-16I, it was decided that some changes would be made to the squadrons based in southern Israel: the “Negev” Squadron would receive the F-16I and transfer its aircraft and personnel to the “Defenders of the South”, which in turn would transfer its Skyhawks to Israel's last remaining squadron flying that aircraft, the “Flying Tiger”, which was based on Hatzerim. The “Defenders of the South” gave up flying the Skyhawk in December 2002, after 31 years.

In March 2003 the squadron reopened, this time as an F-16A/B squadron. It was established on Nevatim Airbase, with the help of staff from the “Negev” Squadron and from the IAF's technical division. July 2006 marked a turning point for the squadron. In the light of the fighting in Gaza and the Second Lebanon War, the number of sorties flown by the F-16A/B increased. On 12th July, the first day of the Second Lebanon War, the squadron carried out an attack for the first time in three years. The squadron took part in numerous strikes and took on unique tasks that played an important role in the war. “The Defenders of the South” was amongst the IAF most active squadrons during the conflict.

Defenders of the South
Defenders of the South