The Flying Tiger

Hatzerim Airbase

• Skyhawk (known in Hebrew as the “Ayit”, meaning “Eagle”)

In April 1966, the day before Israeli Independence Day, the agreement for the US to provide Israel with the Skyhawk was signed. It was decided that the first Skyhawks would be placed in two squadrons: the “Valley” Squadron, which at that point was flying the Mystère and a new squadron, “Flying Tiger”. The new, American aircraft were particularly useful in light of the aircraft lost during the Six Day War and the French arms embargo against Israel.

On 29th December 1967 a boat holding Israel's four first A-4 Skyhawks  reached Haifa port, and earned the Hebrew name “Ayit”, meaning “Eagle”. This represented the end of the era of French aircraft and began the American era which continues to this day.

The new squadron opened on 29th December 1967. At first the team was responsible for setting up the new squadron worked within the framework of the “Valley” Squadron. The squadron's first aircraft were received on 13th June 1968. Flights began a few days later and the first retraining flights began the same month.

The first operational sortie was a strike in Jordan. Six Skyhawks launched five 250kg bombs. On 17th June 1969 the squadron transferred to Hatzerim airbase and became the first combat squadron to operate out of a base that was not attached to the flight school. During the War of Attrition the squadron flew on all four fronts (Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon). On 3rd September 1970 the squadron moved to its new building, where it remains until this day.

On the first day of the Yom Kippur War the squadron assisted ground forces operating near the Suez Canal. During the following days the squadron struck armored forces and missile sites on both the Syrian and Egyptian fronts. During the war the squadron flew close to 1000 flights and suffered difficult losses: 7 pilots were killed, 5 were taken hostage and 17 aircraft were lost. During the skirmishes following the Yom Kippur War the squadron struck Syrian targets on the Hermon, in Lebanon and along the Syrian border.

In May 1976 the squadron began to receive the A-4 Skyhawk E, outfitted with advanced electronics systems, from the “Golden Eagle” squadron. In March 1978 South Lebanon was invaded as part of Operation Litani. The squadron's aircraft took place in the assault and provided assistance to the ground forces. In October 1981 the “Golden Eagle” Squadron stopped running Advanced Operational Training Course during their transfer to the Ramon Airbase in the Negev, and the “Flying Tiger” squadron temporarily took over until “Golden Eagle” had settled into their new home.

During the First Lebanon War the squadron focused on sorties to assist the ground forces and Electronic Warfare, as a result of the Skyhawk's ability to stay in the air for extended periods. During the Lebanon War the squadron flew 177 sorties. On 16th March 1986 the squadron switched to the A-4 Skyhawk N, and the older A-4 Skyhawk E ended their military service. The squadron flies the A-4 Skyhawk N until today.

The Flying Tiger
The Flying Tiger