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An F-16 peels off from F-16C serial 315.
(photo, Israeli Air Force)
(117 Tayeset "Ha'Silon Ha'Rishona" - The First Jet Squadron)
Role: Fighter-Reconnaissance/Interceptor Fighter
117 squadron was first established on 7 June 1953 at Ramat David AB (the
home of No.1 Wing IDF/AF), and "officially inaugurated" on 23 June. The first
two examples of the T.7 variant arrived two weeks later, making 117 sqn the
first jet operator in the IDF/AF. The first two Meteor F.8 fighters arrived in
August. The initial aircrew complement comprised a handful of experienced
Mustang pilots transferred from 101 sqn. One or two pairs of Meteors were often detached to Hatzor for QRA duties during 1954 amd 1955.
More aircraft arrived in early 1955, in the shape of seven ex-RAF Meteor
FR.9s. In fact only two of the seven were used for photo-reconnaissance, the
other five were virtually to F.8 standard and used for air superiority missions.
On 1 September 1955, a pair of Meteors from the squadron detachment at
Hatzor shot down two Egyptian Vampires which had been strafing a Kibbutz in the Negev. These two kills being the first since the end of War of Independence 1948/49. From the summer of 1956, 117 sqn became an advanced training unit for the Flight School, being staffed largely by QFIs. Ground attack became the units secondary mission. Students came from the basic flying stage at Flight School and completed some 50-60 hours of instruction, including 10 hours at night. The Meteors received a coat of camouflage paint, to reflect the change in their role. The unit moved to Tel Nof AB in October 1956 for the duration of the Sinai Campaign. On 29 October 1956, the opening day of the Suez campaign, Meteor F.8/FR.9s were used to escort the C-47s carrying paratroops deep into the Sinai peninsula. The next day and subsequently, the Meteors were used primarily on ground attack missions - being particularly effective against Egyptian armoured vehicles. A total 77 sorties were flown, including a few photo-recce flights, for no loss.
It had been planned to re-equip the squadron with 24 Canadair Sabres in mid
1956, but this was cancelled. During 1957, four Belgian Meteor "T.8"s were
acquired. So-called because of the F.8 style of tail unit fitted on these T.7
airframes. On 11 February 1962 the squadron was officially disbanded. The
Meteor T.7/T.8s were transferred to 110 sqn to assist in the training of Vautour pilots, and the F.8/FR.9s were transferred to another unit.
Two months later, the squadron was reformed to operate the Mirage IIICJ. 117 sqn was the first unit to operate this Mach 2 fighter.
The first day of the Six Day War saw Mirages of 117 sqn leading the first wave attacks on Egyptian air bases at Beni-Suef and Faid. Raids on Syrian and Jordanian positions followed. The Mirages returned to the air superiority mission from the second day, and scored a total of 12 victories in air combat for the loss of three aircraft, (including two to AAA fire).
The War Of Attrition, which followed, saw a large number of increasingly
bitter dogfights with Egyptian, Syrian and Soviet-piloted fighters. In all, the
conflict comprised some 97 air combats during which the Israelis claimed 101
enemy aircraft shot down (mostly by Mirages), for a loss of only five of their own.
From May 1971, IAI Neshers began to supplement the surviving Mirages. The
Yom Kippur War of 1973 again saw intense air activity, with the squadron flying interception and fighter escort missions over the Syrian front. 117 sqn was credited with an amazing 55 kills for only one loss.
After the Yom Kippur War, all the surviving Mirages were put through an
update programme. This work included: substitution of the Atar 09B engine with the more powerful 09C, re-skinning of the wings, revised weapons pylons and improved avionics. With the introduction of the Kfir C-1 in 1975 and F-15 Eagle in 1976, the Mirages and Neshers were relegated to a secondary role in Israeli air defence.
In July 1980 the squadron began to re-equip with the F-16A, once again
being the first unit to operate the type. Just under a year later, squadron
pilots took part in the raid on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor, with
considerable success. On 7 June 1981, eight F-16As (with crews drawn equally from 110 and 117 sqns), flew a distance of some 625 miles, without air refuelling, on a daring mission to attack the Iraqi 'Osirak' nuclear reactor
near Baghdad. Despite being undertaken without the benefit of laser guided
bombs, the attack was completed successfully and all aircraft returned safely.
Although the resulting setback to the ambitious Iraqi nuclear weapons programme was only temporary, the delay thus incurred was to acquire far greater significance almost ten years later, when United Nations forces faced Iraqi forces on the Kuwaiti border.
The dual-role fighter and attack capability of the F-16 has been widely
exploited by the IDF/AF. The type achieved its first kills, against a pair of
Syrian Mi-8 helicopters, in April 1981; and shot down its first enemy fighter,
a Syrian MiG-21, on 14 July 1981. Both kills taking place over Lebanon.
On 4 June 1982, F-16s took part in a massed attack on a PLO ammunition
store in Beirut. Throughout the invasion of Lebanon, June-August 1982, F-16s
and F-15s flew fighter escort missions and engaged in extensive dogfights with Syrian MiG-21s and MiG-23s. The IDF/AF subsequently claimed to have destroyed some 80 aircraft, for the loss of thirteen aircraft of their own - including one F-16.
During 1987 the units F-16A/Bs were replaced by the considerably more
capable F-16C/D variant, probably passing its older aircraft to another unit in
the process. The lightning flash on F-16 fins (Figure 41) is actually silver
|Meteor T.7||4||17 Jun 53 - 11 Feb 1962||-||13,15,17
|Meteor F.8||11||21 Aug 53 - 11 Feb 1962||1 ||01,04,05,09,
|Meteor FR.9||7||Early 1955 - 11 Feb 1962|| ||31,33,37
|Meteor "T.8"||5||Early Dec 57 - 11 Feb 62|| ||21,23
|Mirage IIICJ||20||April 62 - 1980||2||725,776
|Mirage IIIBJ||1||1966 - 1980||2||287
|Mirage IIIBJ||1||1968 - 1980||2||789
|Nesher||6||May 71 - 1980||2? ||
|F-16A||22||2 July 80 - 1987||2||111,112,126,138
|F-16B||3||Late 80 - 1987||2||001
|F-16C||23||1987 - Present||2,3||304,307,310,
|F-16D||1||1987 - Present||2,3||077
Figure 2 courtesy of Amos Dor
|to be added
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