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TA-4H serial 730 streams it's braking parachute on landing. (photo, Israeli Air Force)

Unit History

Flight School

Role: Primary/Basic Flying Training

Following the end of the War of Independence, and the return of peace, many of the highly experienced foreign volunteer aircrews went back to their own countries. In order to replace these losses and to continue the expansion of the air force, young Israelis needed to be trained to fly IDF/AF aircraft.

Accordingly, in early 1949, a Flight School was set up at Kfar Sirkin, an ex-RAF base just east of Tel Aviv. (Reportedly designated '12 Flying School'). Initial equipment comprised Boeing-Stearman PT-17 Kaydets for primary flying training, and AT-6 Harvards for basic flying training. The first course of four pilots graduated on 15 March 1949.

In late 1949, the PT-17s were supplemented by a substantial number of Fokker S.11 Instructors. But this type didn't prove very popular, and most examples had been passed to the Light Transport Squadron by the middle of 1953. Small numbers of DHC-1 Chipmunks and Temco TE-1 Buckaroos were also evaluated in the early 1950s but proved unsuitable - mainly because of performance restrictions in the 'hot and high' climate of Israel.

In the 1950s pilot training consisted of up to 60 hours of primary flying on the PT-17 or S-11, followed by 160 hours of basic and advanced training on Harvards. Operational training was then conducted on the Spitfires (later Mustangs) of 105 sqn or on Mosquitos. For an increasing number of students, this was rounded off by a jet conversion course on the Meteor T.7 with 117 sqn. Twin engined and navigation training was carried out on the Anson and Consul.

The Sinai campaign saw these aircraft operate in very different capacity. The Flight School organised an operational Harvard squadron, (assigned the temporary identity 140 sqn), manned by flying instructors and ground crews and deployed to an emergency airfield at Sde Teyman. The Harvard unit first saw action in a dive bombing attack on Egyptian artillery on 31 October. However, two aircraft were shot down and a further two damaged by ground fire. Subsequently, the Harvards were engaged in rocket attacks on Egyptian truck and tank columns. In all the Harvards flew 24 combat missions and launched 320 rockets, before returning to regular training duties. Similarly, 147 sqn was temporarily formed to operate the Flight School's PT-17s in the utility/liaison role from an airfield at Ramleh. The PT-17s were soon replaced by Piper Super Cubs in late 1956.

The 1960s brought a much increased emphasis on the quality of the pilots graduated by the school, as part of IDF/AF commander Ezer Weizman's aim to create an air force of the 'best of the best'. One pilot course in 1960 ended with only one graduate receiving his wings - the rest being washed out.

From the middle of 1960, Fouga Magisters began to gradually replace the Harvard in the Basic/Advanced Training role. An initial batch of 3 French-built aircraft being followed by IAI built examples from 1962. The IAI version incorporated many detail design changes from the French version, including larger unpowered ailerons, and strengthened wings to allow provision for an extensive range of weapons.

In late 1962, a new training scheme was introduced. This saw the final retirement of the Harvard from Flight School use. The training sequence now comprised 25 hours of primary training on the Piper Super Cub, then 150 hours on the Fouga Magister, followed by a posting to the Advanced Flying Training School (AFTS) flying Meteors (and later Ouragans) for weapons training. One source states that some Ouragans were recieved direct from France as early as July 1962, although most aircraft probably came from 115 squadron in 1967.

A helicopter stream was introduced in 1965, with helicopter pilots being posted to the Second Helicopter Squadron after completing basic flying training on the Magister.

For the Six Day war, the Magisters were formed into two squadrons, manned largely by reservists. On the first day, 5th June, the Magisters flew numerous close support missions in support of advancing ground forces, most notably at the huge tank battle at Bir Lahfan in Northern Sinai. Four aircraft were lost to ground fire that day. On the 6th, the Magisters again attacked armour concentrations and supply columns in Sinai. On the 7th, the Magisters were redirected to the Jordanian front, attacking armour positions around Nablus. By the end of the war, at least 19 Magisters had been lost, and many more had received damage, during these hazardous low level missions. The AFTS Ouragans were assigned the temporary identity 140 squadron during the war.

Magister deliveries continued after the war, and increased the Flight School strength to the equivalent of three squadrons, with some 45 aircraft. During the 1960's the Flight School also recieved a substantial number of Magisters from the German Air Force as they were progressively retired. In 1972 the Flight School Cubs And Magisters relinquished any operational roles assigned to them, and thus took no part in the Yom Kippur War.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Flight School operated a Magister Aerobatic Demonstration Team in the national colours of Israel : blue and white. Subsequently the team's aircraft reverted to the standard Flight School colours of white and red.

In 1980, a programme to update and extend the useful life of the Magister was launched by IAI. Modifications include improved systems reliability, easier maintenance and a completely redesigned cockpit layout. The updated aircraft is known as a Tsukit. The first Tsukit was delivered in 1981, and the 86th and last in November 1986.

The current cadet pilot training sequence commences with 15 hours of initial training on the Piper Super Cub, after which the cadets learning ability and aptitude for flying is evaluated. Those who pass at this stage progress on to 9 flights of basic training on the Tsukit. At this point, the cadet is streamed into fast jet, helicopter or transport courses.

Fast jet pilots continue training on the Tsukit and later graduate on to the A-4 Skyhawk for advanced flying and weapons training. Helicopter pilots transfer to the Bell 206 for an initial 10 flights to confirm that they have been streamed correctly. Eventually, attack helicopter pilots will go to the Defender squadron which also serves in the OCU role, and transport helicopter pilots will go on to the Bell 212. (The Flight School now operates a number of 212s itself). Transport pilots initially transfer to the Dornier Do28s of the Light Transport Sqn, followed by the advanced training on the Beech Queen Air.

It should be noted that their are two Hatzerim airbases - Hatzerim North West, which houses the Flight School and has two runways, and South Hatzerim which is the F-4E base with three runways in a triangle.

Figures 1 and 2 show variations in the Basic Flying Training badge, Figure 3 shows the Advanced Flying Training badge, and Figure 4 the Aerobatic Team insignia.

Air Bases:
Base Duration
Kfar Sirkin 1949-19??
Hatzerim 19??-Present

("Piper Squadron") Primary Training

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
PT-17 Kaydet60+Feb 49 - late 1956-22,31,34,13,06,43,2702, 2722
DHC-1 Chipmunk11949 -1954-3001
Temco TE-1A Buckaroo11949 -1954- 
Fokker S.11 Instructor41Dec 49 - Mid 53 33,05,13,14
Piper PA18-150 Super Cub20?1956 - Present 33,05,13,14
Cessna 180/T-41D2/6+1979 - Present Ce180:63

("Tsukit Squadron") Basic/Advanced Training

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
AT-6D Harvard80+Jan 49 - 1963-1112
CM170 Magister100+7 July 1960 - 198667/68242,236,201,203,209,207,212,222,225,283
IAI Tsukit861981 - Present67050,584,557,525,569,623,607

A-4N 346 flies over TA-4H 547, an A-4H and A-4N 345. (photo, Israeli Air Force)

("AFTS") Advanced/Weapons Training

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
Meteor T.7/F.8?1963 - 1967- 
Ouragan151967 - Jan 1973- 
TA-4E/H/J9/151972 - Present69,70544,719,720
A-4N?1974 - Present50,51311,313,332

("Helicopter Squadron") Basic/Advanced Helicopter Training

Aircraft Used:
Type Qty Service Badge Example Serials
Bell 206A10?1975 - Present67123,125,126,138,139
Bell 21210?1990 - Present67 

Unit Insignia:
Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4

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First Created: 9 January 1998 - Last Revised: 25 September 1999
Copyright © 1998 John Hayles.     e-mail: