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|F-4E serial 127 takes off from Tel Nof.|
(photo, Israeli Air Force)
(119 Tayeset "Ha'Atalef" - The Bat Squadron)
Role: All-Weather Fighter
119 squadron was first formed in September 1956 at Tel Nof (Ekron) under the command of Yoash Tsidon, (founder of the All-Weather combat doctrine for the IDF/AF). Two pilots had been sent to Britain to train on the RAF's Meteor NF.11s, and the new fighter squadron was formed on their return. The first two of a batch of six Meteor NF.13s were delivered the next month. Delivery registrations were 4X-FNA to FNF.
Having only two aircraft and one operational crew, squadron operations in the Suez Campaign were necessarily limited. A number of attempted interceptions of intruding aircraft were made, but with no result. However, the most important mission for the squadron took place a full day
before the outbreak of hostilities. On the night of 28 October 1956, a lone Meteor NF.13 (No. 52) intercepted an Egyptian AF Il-14 flying from Damascus to Cairo. The Il-14 carried sixteen high ranking Egyptian Army officers who had just concluded a defence treaty with Syria and Jordan. The
interception took place some 200km south of Cyprus, and ended with the Il-14 diving in flames into the Mediterranean. This was 119 squadrons only Meteor NF.13 kill. The Egyptian Army Supreme Commander was in a second following Il-14 and thus not killed. Four scrambles were made against
intruding Il-28s on the night of 30/31 October 1956, but no intercepts were achieved.
The balance of the Meteor order was embargoed by the British following the 1956 war. In order to fill the gap, the IDF/AF turned to France. A batch of seven Vautour IIN two seat night fighters was ordered in May 1957, and commenced delivery in March 1958. This action resulted in the
embargoed Meteors being released and delivery followed in April. One aircraft crashed in France on delivery and was subsequently used only for spares.
The Vautours remained in service until August 1963, when they were due to be replaced by the Mirage IIICJ. The Vautour N aircraft were transferred to 110 squadron at Ramat David. The radars had by then been replaced by ballast as the unit had converted to the attack/formation leader role. The Meteors were also withdrawn from service at this time.
119 Squadron was the third unit to equip with Mirages, commencing conversion in March 1964 at Tel Nof, and quickly working up to operational capability. This unit was also the recipient of the two Mirage IIICJ(R) reconnaissance versions supplied from France. Although not designated to lead any of the initial attacking waves at the start of the Six Day War, the unit came into its own with the
third and fourth wave attacks on Jordan and Syria respectively. Targets hit included the airbases at Amman (Jordan) and T4 (Syria). From the second day, Mirages assumed the air superiority and fighter escort role - with 119 squadron operating principally over the Syrian and Jordanian fronts.
119 Squadron emerged from the 1967 war as the top scoring IDF/AF unit,
with 19 kills in air combat, and also the leading air-to-air 'ace': Lt.
Giora Rom with five confirmed victories. They also had the lowest casualty
rate, with only two Mirages lost and both pilots recovered.
The War Of Attrition (1969-1971) saw 119 sqn involved in a seemingly
endless series of skirmishes and dogfights. During one of these, on 11th
September 1969, the IDF/AF's top scorer from the Six Day War, Capt. Giora
Rom, was shot down and taken prisoner. Claims by 119 sqn for this period
have not been identified, but must account for a substantial portion of the
101 enemy aircraft claimed shot down in this period.
It is believed that at least two more Mirage IIICJ's were converted to the reconaissance role, with extended noses housing camera equipment. In 1970 these specialist aircraft and the two IIICJ(R) examples were transferred to 101 sqn.
In late 1970 the squadron re-equipped with the F-4E Phantom II at Ramat David airbase - again becoming the third unit to operate the type. In early 1971 the squadron received a pair of RF-4E reconnaissance variants, from the first batch of six delivered February-April 1971, but
these were later passed to a pooled recconnaisance unit.
Unfortunately, details of F-4 operations in the Yom Kippur War have
not been published, and thus the contribution of 119 sqn cannot receive its
due. For general comments see 69, 105 and 107 squadron entries. Just
after the October 1973 war, the squadron is believed to have returned to
its traditional base at Tel Nof. The units involvement in the Lebanon
conflict is also unknown.
The squadron's F-4s have been updated to Kurnass 2000 standard by IAI,
with revised avionics and strengthened structure. The emphasis being on
improved (possibly nuclear) attack capability. The prototype Kurnass 2000,
serial 001, first flew 15 July 1987 in 119 sqn colours, but production
Kurnass 2000s were not delivered to the sqn until early 1989. The unit
completed conversion in early 1992.
|Kurnass 2000 serial 611 in the evening sky over Hatzerim. (photo, Israel Air Force)|
|Tel Nof (Ekron)
|Meteor NF.13||3||8 Sept 1956 - 1963||2||38,51,52
|Meteor NF.13||3||18 Apr 1958 - 1963||2||55,56,57,
|Vautour IIN||7||Mar 1958 - Aug 1963||2||70
|Mirage IIICJ||24||Mar 1964 - late 1970||1,2||720,732,
|Mirage IIICJ(R)||2 (+2?)||1964 - late 1970 ||1||
|Mirage IIIBJ||2||Mar 1964 - late 1970||1,2||787
|F-4E||30||late 1970 - early 1992||1,2||114,119,
|RF-4E||2||late 1970 - Present? ||1,2||198
|Kurnass 2000||25||1991 - Present ||1,2||198
Figure 1 courtesy of Amos Dor
||to be added