The Knights of the Orange Tail

Hatzerim Airbase

• Spitfire
• Mustang
• Meteor
• Ouragan
• Phantom ("Kurnas", Hebrew for “Sledgehammer”)
• F-16I (“Sufa”, Hebrew for “Storm”)

On 25th January 1953, the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron was established as a fighter-bomber squadron flying the Spitfire from Ramat David Airbase. The squadron's main goal was running Operational Training Courses. In December 1953 the squadron's goal changed, and it became a reservist squadron.

In the wake of the acquisition of huge numbers of Mustang aircraft from Sweden, Italy and the United States throughout 1953, the squadron switched to the Mustang in April 1954. In June 1956 the newly acquired aircraft were transferred to the “Scorpion” Squadron, and it was decided that in an emergency the “Knights of the Orange Tail” would operate the Spitfires that had been flown by “Scorpion” Squadron until that point. In September 1956 the Spitfire was taken out of service and the squadron was closed.

In February 1962 the squadron was reopened on Ramat David Airbase. It flew Meteors that had been flown by the “First Fighter” Squadron until it received the Mirage.  The squadron was manned by reservist pilots. For a brief period of time, until August 1962, it also served as the flight school's advanced squadron.

In August 1964 the Squadron was dissolved for a second time. The Meteor F 8 and FR-9 were taken out of service, and the two-seater T-7s were transferred to the “Knights of the North”, where they were used to train pilots to fly two-seater combat craft.

On 15th September 1965 the squadron was reopened on Ramat David Airbase, following the acquisition of additional Ouragans between late 1964 and early 1965. It was intended to carry out combat and bombing missions, and to run Operational Training Courses. During the Six Day War the squadron took part in the attacks on airfields and radar installations in Egypt and Jordan, and also took part in attacks on ground forces, missiles batteries, canons and antiaircraft positions, and in air interdictions against convoys on all fronts. July 1967 saw the squadron closed for the third time, and its remaining aircraft transferred to a veteran Ouragan squadron, the “Wasp” Squadron.

On 1st December 1971 the squadron was reopened, this time flying the Phantom out of Hatzerim Airbase. The first aircraft arrived on 10th December.

On 2nd January 1973 the squadron brought down its first enemy aircraft. Four Phantoms were carrying out an interception patrol on the Syrian border. Syria sent six MiG-21s over Northern Lebanon to intercept the Israeli jets. The four Israel aircraft turned towards the MiGs and aerial combat began. During the battle the Israeli team pursued one of the six MiGs and forced it into a downwards spiral until it hit the ground. On 13th September 1973 IAF craft took part in a number of aerial battles during which 12 MiGs were brought down, 3 of them by the “Knights of the Orange Tail”.

During the Yom Kippur War the squadron operated out of Hatzerim Airbase, carrying out strikes on ground-to-air missiles, aerial combat, assistance to the ground forces and aerial interdictions on both the Syrian and Egyptian fronts. During the war the squadron brought down 28 enemy craft, and lost only 4 of its own. During the First Lebanon war the squadron took part in attacks on ground-to-air missile installations, assistance to the ground forces, interceptions and aerial photography missions.

In July 2006 the squadron received the F-16I, Israel's most advanced aircraft. Currently the squadron is inducting more air crew as it receives a number of new F-16Is.

The Knights of the Orange Tail
The Knights of the Orange Tail