IAF Magazine Articles

The War begins

Many pages in the books of “The One” squadron contain thoughts and experiences from within the cockpit. The Phantom squadron suffered many losses at the war. Danny Halutz, a young pilot in reserve at the time, wrote about the first day of the war, right from the morning uncertainty until the first deployment in the afternoon.

Maj. Gen. Danny Halutz

It was the eve of Rosh-ha-Shana (New Year's Day) 1973. I returned home and found a note in my mail box. It read: “if you hear on the radio that some terrorist did something, run to your base, it’s about to start...”. signed: Sapush (Barak Paltiel).  Preceding the note was a major event, which took place on September 13th of that year: in a mass air battle, Israeli jets took down 13 Syrian Migs. It was clear that the Syrians are bound to respond to this loss. At that time, I was a young pilot in reserve, having just finished my first contract with the air force. I did not understand this note, since I had no idea of these events. Neither did Barak expect a war on such a large scale to commence. Anyway, I completely forgot about the note.

It was Oct. 6th 1973, Saturday morning of Yom Kippur (the holiest Jewish day of the year, observed with a 25-hours period of fasting and intensive prayer). I awoke to the sound of a jet engine, passing at a very low altitude over my house. Still sleepy, I assumed it was another drill of the Anti-Aircraft unit in Herzliya. Then I realized that it is Yom Kippur, and there can’t be any drills today. Out the window I see a Skyhawk circling Herzliya at a low altitude. “Something is up”, I tell my wife Irit. I dress up and decide to go to the near pay phone to check what’s going on.

A call from the lobby stops me. “Who is it?” I ask. “It’s Shmueli. I came to take you to the base”. Shmueli is a young navigator at the squadron, and he was sent to pick me up. “What happened? Why? For how long?” these questions remain up in the air, as Shmueli does not have any answers. We board the car, drop Irit at her parent’s house in Tel-Aviv, and race to the base. The traffic on the road is sparse, yet I can feel that something is going on. I begin to think that things are much more serious than I thought. We meet “the Rhyno” (Gal Yohar) on the way. He joins the ride, and pleads to go faster, so we don’t miss an interesting sortie. We are all convinced that it is a local incident – a day battle or something of the sort – and if we won’t make it on time, we will miss it altogether.

Everyone gathered up at the squadron. With a little information to go on, everyone gossip, trying to guess what is really going on. Speculations abound at the squadron’s club. It appears we are going to make an advance attack on Syrian airports. Those in the know are telling that the government is making this decision as we speak. We nervously drink coffee and smoke cigarettes.

Ronny Huldai, Deputy Squadron Commander briefs us on the Syrian airports. Half an hour before takeoff we receive a message to abort. The government did not approve. We are back at the club. All of a sudden, the alarm goes off.  It signals the bombardment is on its way. This time it is real. The war begins.

More in this section

A lone Skyhawk

Three days before the “Yom Kippur” war, Maj. Gen. Giora Rom assumed command of Skyhawk squadron, after its previous commander was killed. An hour after the war commenced, he was already airborne, charging towards the enemy in a jet he never flown before.
“Sufa” (Storm F-16I) and “Baz” (Falcon F-15) jets take off the same runway

Knights and Spears

One is big and strong, the other small and nimble. Each has its own unique advantages, which they try and take advantage of in the few minutes when they meet high in the sky. Recently, the F-15 ("Baz", literally falcon) and F-16I ("Sufa", literally storm) flew head to head in an exercise which demonstrated two very different modes of air combat. Do you want to know who won?