The Pilots of the Six-Day War

Formation of Israeli Mirage III fighters.

Almost 60 years ago Egypt had closed the strait of Tiran, essentially backing Israel into a corner. Following these escalations, Israel had to hit back.

Operation Focus

On the early morning of the 5th of June 1967, at around 07:45am, Israeli fighter pilots carried out Operation Focus, a series of bombing strikes against the Egyptian Air Force.

It resulted in the Egyptian Air Force suffering devastating losses, by noon the Egyptian Air Force and its allies Jordan and Syria were almost completely immobilized. Some losses were estimated to be around 18 airfields and up to 450 aircraft.

Three waves of attacks

Map of Operation Focus. Source: BBC.
Operation Focus was made up of three waves. The first of which carried out attacks on 11 bases, catching the majority of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground.

The second wave was very similar, as the fighters returned from the first bombing runs, they were quickly re-fueled, re-armed and were once again sent to attack.

The second wave consisted of attacking 14 Egyptian air bases, this resulted in very minor losses for the Israelis. The third wave was almost exactly the same as the first two, the only difference was that this time Israeli fighters had to engage in dog fights.

Causes of success

The success partially came from the lack of organization of the Arab Coalition Forces. As on the day of the attack the Egyptian Air Force shut down their entire air defense system, as they were worried that Rebel Forces would attempt to shoot down a plane carrying Field Marshall Amer and Lieutenant General Sedky Mahmoud, who were headed to Bir Thamada.

However, the success also came from the introduction of a new weapon, used by Israel. The weapon was a French/Israeli prototype of an anti-runway warhead. As the name may suggest, the missiles’s goal was to destroy the runway of enemy forces, effectively leaving them immobilized.

500 aircraft destroyed

Egyptian aircraft destroyed on the ground
The opening stages of the war were a complete success for the Israelis. Operation Focus was a complete success, 500 aircraft of the Egyptian Air Force were destroyed in the first 3 hours of war, with minor losses for Israel. Air strikes carried out by Syria, Jordan and Iraq were mainly ineffective as they targeted civilian targets.

Because of this, many Israeli fighters which were headed for Egypt were redirected to Syria and Jordan where they carried out more successful air strikes, also immobilizing the Syrian and Jordanian Air Forces.

Following the heavy fighting on the first day Israel had achieved complete air superiority over Egypt, Jordan, Syria, The West Bank and the Sinai.

Decisive victory

The next 5 days of war did not see much combat and engagement from the Israeli Air Force. The IAF was only used against Arab Coalition ground forces. On the sixth and last day of the war the Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian air forces were completely destroyed with zero combat aircraft remaining.

During the Six-Day War, the IAF with 250 combat aircraft achieved a decisive victory against a coalition of 600 combat aircraft. 24 Israeli pilots died in combat and a couple of hundred Arab Coalition pilots were killed.

Jan Marczewski, DP1

Sources:
https://www.defencetalk.com/military/photos/egyptian-mig-19.24666/
http://fotarmas.blogspot.com/2012/08/mikoyan-gurevich-mig-17-fresco-egipto.html
https://www.dstorm.eu/pages/en/oman/hunter.html
http://www.oocities.org/capecanaveral/hangar/2848/mirage.htm