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F-4 Kurnas

F-4 Phantom Kurnas

McDonnell Douglas

The model

Brand: Tamiya
Title: McDonnell F-4C/D Phantom II
Number: 60305
Scale: 1:32
Released: 1995 | Initial release – new tool
Type: Full kit

Squadron

Knights of the Orange Tail

Squadron 69 – The Hammers

Hetzerim airbase

Squadron 105 – Scorpion

Ramat David airbase

Squadron 201 – The One

Ramon airbase

Squadron 107 – The knights of the orange tail

Hetzerim airbase

The real jet

Type Two seat multi-task fighter
Manufacturing Country USA
Dimensions Wingspan: 11.68 m, Length: 19.20 m, Height: 5.00 m, Wing area: 49.24 sq. m
Performance Maximum speed: exceeds Mach 2, Attack radius: 492 km, Ceiling: over 18 km
Weight Empty: 13,760 kg, Max. loaded: 28,030 kg
Engine Two General Electric J79-GE-17 engines, with a thrust of 5,385 kg. each
Armaments A Vulcan six-barrelled 20 mm. cannon with 640 rounds, air-to-air Sparrow, Sidewinder or Python missiles. Air-to-ground armaments weighing 7,257 kg., including guided bombs and iron bombs

 

For almost 20 years, from 1960 to 1980, the Phantom II was the top fighter of the world, against which all other combat aircraft were measured. By the time production of the type ended in 1979, over 5,000 Phantom IIs had been built around the world. Planned from 1953, the prototype XF4H-1 was first flown on May 27th 1958, having been developed as a carrier based interceptor for the U.S. Navy. Delievered for service from February 1960, the first versions were the F-4A and F-4B for the Navy, followed by the C,D and E for the U.S. Air Force. The F-4E was the main export version and the first true multi-role variant, with an internal 20mm chin mounted cannon absent on previous versions. The Phantom was the main U.S. fighter in the Vietnam war and served in numerous other air forces around the world, including those of Britain (RAF and Navy, built in Britain), Germany, Japan, Turkey, Egypt and Iran.
Israel had first expressed an interest in acquiring the Phatom in 1965, but the U.S. was not yet willing to sell the fighter to Israel and agreed to provide A-4 Skyhawks instead. After the 1967 Six Days War Israel watched with growing alarm the rapid rearmament of Arab air forces with frontline Soviet fighters and sought to renew its own fighter fleet. France, its major arms supplier until then, had embargoed all sales to Israel after a 1968 commando raid on Beirut’s airport. Israel therefore once again turned to the U.S. in hope of acquiring the F-4 and in a meeting with Israeli prime minister Levy Eshkol in January 1968, president Lyndon Johnson finally agreed to look favorably on a Phantom sale to Israel. In December 1968 the “Peace Echo” deal was signed for the provision of 44 F-4Es and 6 RF-4Es to the IAF and on March 25th 1969 Israeli crews begun training on the new fighters. Although the War of Attrition was still going on at the time, the IAF sent its best pilots and navigators to the U.S., headed by the two future F-4 squadron commanders : Avihu Ben-Nun and Shmuel Hetz. The Israeli delegation returned to Israel during August and on Friday, September 5th, the first Israel Phantoms landed at Hazor AFB. The four planes, wearing an IAF color scheme but still carrying their American markings, joined the new 201st “Ha’ahat” (The One) squadron, commanded by Shmuel Hetz. Delieveries continued at a rate of 4 a month and on October 23rd the 69th “Patishim” (Hammers) squadron was reformed at Ramat-David, headed by Avihu Ben-Nun. The type entered service as the “Kurnass” (Sledgehammer), the last aircraft arriving in May 1971.
With the War of Attrition raging along the Suez Canal, the new Phantoms and their crews were only given a short adjustment period before being thrown into the fighting. The first operational Phantom sortie took place on October 5th 1969, a combat air patrol in the southern Sinai lead by the 201 squadron commander Shmuel Hetz. The Phantoms were a technological and operational leap for the IAF and with their unparalleled load capacity, long range and missile weaponry, were rapidly introduced into the IAF’s day to day operations. On October 22nd, only 8 weeks after their arrival, the Phantoms flew their first ground attack mission, against an Egyptian SA-2 battery near Abu-Sweir. In November 1969 the IAF initiated operation “Helem” (Shock), in which Phantoms routinely conducted low level supersonic passes over Cairo in order to demonstrate the IAF’s ability to operate unhampered over Egypt. The first such sortie took place on November 4th and these flights continued until January 1970. On January 29th 1970, after a lone Syrian MiG-21 managed to infiltrate Israeli airspace and conduct one such flight over Haifa, Israel responded by sending Phantoms on similar missions over 5 major Syrian cities. On Nomvember 11th 1969 the Phantom scored its first kill, an Egyptian MiG-21 downed by Ehud Hankin and Eyal Ahikar from 69 squadron, flying a 201 squadron aircraft. The War of Attrition saw the first major introduction of Soviet SAMs into the fighting between Israel and its Arab neighbors and a large part of IAF operations at the time were directed against these missiles and their batteries. The Phantoms were the spearhead of the IAF’s attempt to destroy these SAMs, an attempt that lasted right up to the end of the war in August 1970. Large scale attacks took place during late November and on December 25th 1969, both resulting in the destruction of the entire Egyptian missile array. These losses were however, rapidly made good by Soviet assistance and the SAMs soon returned to pose a threat to the IAF. Such was the routine of IAF Vs. SAM operations throughout 1970. On November 17th 1969 F-4s attacked a pair of Jordanian radar stations which had provided radar coverage of Israel to the Egyptians and Syrians. Both stationed were destroyed for the loss of a single Phantom, once again flown by Ehud Hankin.
By the end of 1969, the War of Attrition had reached a stalemate, with mutual exchanges of fire taking place across the Suez Canal. In a bid to break the stalemeate, the IDF had decided to commence deep penetration strikes against the heart of Egypt, further demonstrating Egyptian vulnerability and pushing the Egyptian leadership towards a ceasefire. On January 7th 1970 Israel launched operation “Priha” (Bloom) with attacks by Phantoms against army bases around Cairo. IAF F-4s returned on more strikes on January 13th, 18th and 23rd and on February 8th the IAF begun attacking Egyptian Air Force bases. During this last attack a 69th squadron F-4 flown by Aviam Sela and Shabtay Ben-Shua scored the squadron’s first kill by downing an Egyptian MiG. As Soviet assistance continued to pour into Egypt, the Egyptians attempted to disrupt these strikes by positioning their SAMs along the IAF’s penetration routes. Israeli F-4s, along with their Dassault Mirage escorts, nonetheless continued their attacks against both the SAM sites and against other Egyptian military targets, such attacks taking place on average once every ten days. On February 26th F-4s attacked two SA-2 sites when Egyptian MiGs attempted to intercept them. In the onsueing dogfight, three MiGs were downed by the Phantoms’ Mirage escort. The strikes continued during March, 13 MiGs downed throughout the month.

The absolute air superiority achieved by the IAF and the success of its deep penetration strikes propelled Egyptian president Nazer to travel to Moscow and request more Soviet assistance. During February and March 1970, 80 MiG-21 fighters made their way to Egypt, along with more surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft-atrillery (AAA) pieces, new radars and even Russian pilots, ground crews and technicians. Among the new weapons supplied to Egypt were new SA-3 batteries which hadn’t even been tried in Vietnam. Lacking an electronic counter measure against these missiles, the IAF conducted pre-emptive strikes against the locations where these were to be deployed. The missiles were nonetheless deployed around major Egyptian cities and airfields and were defended by Soviet pilots and anti aircraft crews. The arrival of the Soviets promted the IDF to discontinue operation “Priha” in order not to aggravate the Russians and to prevent direct clashes between Israeli and Soviet forces. The last deep penetration strike took place on April 13th 1970, bringing the operation’s total to 45 such strikes.
On April 25th two Egyptian air force Ilyushin Il-28s attacked two Israeli strongholds in the Sinai. Three IAF F-4s were scrambled to intercept the intruders and Shmuel Hetz downed one using an AIM-7 Sparrow, the missile’s first IAF kill. The second Il-28 was downed by a Mirage which had also arrived at the scene. On May 18th a dozen F-4s flew a long range strike against an Egyptian seaport in response to the sinking of an Israeli trawler and the mining of another. After two Egyptian ambushes on May 30th led to the deaths of 15 Israeli soldiers, the IAF conducted three days of heavy strikes against artillery positions on the western bank of the Suez Canal. 3 Egyptian MiGs were downed trying to intercept the IAF strike aircraft.
Egypt’s inability to counter Israeli supremacy led to their adoption of new tactics. Under the cover of darkness, the Egyptians and the Soviets would advance their SA-3 batteries eastwards (towards the Suez Canal), to surprise IAF fighters the next day. At the same time, the Soviets begun building up dense missile defences 30km away from the canal. When these were complete, the construction crews would advance even closer to the Canal and would initiate construction under the cover of the line of defense that had just been completed. Furthermore, whereas the missiles were previously deployed in a linear pattern, they were now grouped together, providing increased coverage, mutual defence and increased fire power. The Egyptian air defences begun to pose a serious threat to operations not only over Egypt but also over the Suez Canal and even into the Sinai, then under Israeli control. On June 24th, A pair of Phantoms on a mission against a SAM site at Abu-Sweir were fired upon by a number of batteries, one aircraft was hit but managed to return safely to base. On June 30th the IAF launched a furious attack on Egyptian defences after it had been discovered that dozens of SAM batteries and hundereds of AAA guns had been advanced the previous night. Two Phantoms were downed during these strikes, both falling prey to Egyptian SAMs. Another Phantom was downed on June 5th, once again by a SAM. The IAF broke off its attacks for two weeks in order to rethink its tactics and to come up with new methods to deal with the SAM threat.

On July 18th 1970 the IAF resumed its missile suppression strikes, this time with new ECM pods supplied by the USA. American experts had suggested a new method of countering the SAMs, high altitude tight formations that would form an electronic barrier against the missiles. This tactic however, was completely wrong and coupled with the ECM pods’ inefficiency proved disasterous to the attacking aircraft. Shmuel Hetz, commander of the 201st squadron, was killed by a direct SAM hit to his Phantom, his weapons system officer (WSO) parachuting into captivity. Another Phantom was also hit but managed to land at a nearby IAF air base. With Hetz replaced by Ran Peker, Phantom strikes continued. A fifth aircraft was lost to SAMs on August 3rd, while another was flown back to base by its WSO after the pilot suffered severe injuries.
Once again the War of Attrition had reached a statelment, with Israel unable to effectively deal with the Egyptian SAMs, and Egypt suffering severe damage and unable to initiate any action of its own. The success of their air defence systems in hampering IAF operations inspired the Soviets present in Egypt to become more envolved in the fighting. This eventualy led to a direct clash between Israel and the USSR which took place on July 30th 1970 and resulted in the downing of 5 Russian MiG-21s, two at the hands of Israeli Phantoms. Subsequent fears of Soviet and American involvement in the fighting propelled both sides to reach an agreement and on August 7th 1970 Israel and Egypt signed an armistice agreement, bringing an end to the War of Attrition. The ceasefire agreement had called for Egyptian SAMs to be positioned no closer than 30km from the Suez Canal, but flagrantly violating the agreement, Egypt nonetheless advanced dozens of its SAM batteries and hundereds of its AAA guns into the Canal zone, setting the stage for the next Israeli-Egyptian conflict, three years later.

With the end of the War of Attrition the IAF got back to strengthening its Phantoms fleet, in both numbers and tactics. The IAF had expressed an interest in acquiring more Phantoms long before the end of the war, and the first 24 ex-USAF examples were delivered during 1971 under operations “Peace Echo II” and “Peace Echo III”. 12 more ex-USAF were delievered under “Peace Patch”, while 52 more examples were delivered under “Peace Echo IV” beginning in 1972. 24 of these were newly built aircraft. These delieveries enabled the formation of two new Phantom squadrons, the 107th “Abirey Hazanav Hakatom” (Knights of the Orange Tail) squadron and the 119th “Atalef” (Bat) squadron, which formerly operated the Dassault Mirage IIICJ. At the same time, extensive training took place, in both air-to-air and air-to-surface scenarios. Air-to-air training which had been rather neglected before was now stepped up, resulting in a fierce competition with the Mirage squadrons for seniority in the IAF’s interceptor role. Air-to-surface training centered on Suppresion of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) missions, the difficulties encountered during the War of Attrition urging the IAF to look for better tactics and solutions.
The end of the War of Attrition did not bring about an end to IAF operations and although the Phantom squadrons spent most of their time in training, some combat action was flown as well. During September 1970 combat air patrols were flown over Syrian armour pushing into Jordan, in order to dissuade the Syrian Air Force from intervening. On September 18th 1971, following the downing of an Israeli Stratocruiser by Egyptian SAMs on September 17th, IAF Phatoms and Skyhawks attacked SAM batteries along the Suez Canal, enjoying only limited success. On September 9th 1972, following the massacre of Israeli atheletes in the Munich Olympics, the F-4s conducted strikes against terrorist positions in Lebanon and Syria. A Syrian SAM battery was destroyed on November 9th, while 2 Syrian MiG-21s were downed on November 21st, after another raid on Syrian targets. On January 8th 1972 strikes were again conducted against Syrian and Lebanese terrorist camps, and on February 12th an Egyptian MiG-21 was downed attempting to intercept a Phantom reconnaissance flight. Following this last loss, the Egyptian Air Force came under orders not to attempt to intercept Israeli fighters. 1971 also saw the beginning of Soviet and Arab reconnaissance flights over Israeli territory with the arrival of the MiG-25 Foxbat. IAF attempts to intercept these high flyers failed, although Phantoms were routinely launched against the MiGs and missiles were fired on a number of occasions. The MiG-25 overflights would only cease with the arrival of the F-15 in 1976. On February 21th 1973 IAF Phantoms shot down a Lybian Air Airlines Boeing 727 after it infiltrated Israeli airspace and attempted to flee when intercepted by the fighters. In a prelude to the Yom-Kippur war, Phantoms and Mirages engaged Syrian MiGs over northern Syria on September 13th 1973 and managed to down 12 of them for the loss of a single Mirage.

127 Phantoms were in service with the IAF at the outbreak of the Yom-Kippur War on October 6th 1973. In the 18 days that had become known as the “Phantom’s War”, the four F-4 squadrons bore the brunt of IAF operations, flying numerous SEAD, anti-runway, interdiction and strike missions,as well as close air support, interception, reconnaissance and combat air patrol missions.
On the morning of October 6th, IAF F-4s were fully armed to carry out a pre-emptive strike against Egyptian SAM batteries, but were prevented from doing so by political reasons, as well as by adverse weather conditions. When the war broke out these aircraft were the first to take off and face the aggressors. The war had begun at 14:00 with a combined assault by Egypt and Syria against Israeli forces in the Sinai Desert and the Golan Heights. The Egyptian advance into the Sinai was accompanied by 200 Egyptian Air Force aircraft sent to attack IAF installations throughout the peninsula. The first aerial victory of the war came soon after the beginning of the attack, by a pair of “Orange Tail” Phantoms. The two F-4s had managed to scramble from Ofir AFB in the midst of an attack by 28 MiG-21s and MiG-17s and shot down 7 of the attackers. “Bat” squadron F-4s which took off from Rephidim shot down an AS-5 Kelt missile and a Sukhoi Su-7. Other aircraft which had taken off in the beginning of the war also attacked Syrian and Egyptian armour, losing one aircraft to an Egyptian SAM. The second major Egyptian Air Force action on the first day came at dusk with a commando assault involving dozens of Mi-8 helicopters. Seven helicopter were downed by Phantoms fron the 201st “The One” squadron, including one deliberately driven into the ground by the jetwash from a Phantom’s afterburners.
From the beginning of hostilities the IAF achieved total aerial superiority, with 277 Arab fighters downed for the loss of only a handful of Israeli fighters shot down by Arab fighters. 117 engagements had taken place during the war, the IAF achieving a kill ratio four times highter than the ratio achieved during the Six Days War. The fight against enemy air defences, especially the SAM batteries, proved to be a different matter altogether. The IAF entered the war without a practical solution to the Arab SAM threat. Tactics had not changed much since the War of Attrition and the IAF lacked the proper electronic equipment and munitions to counter the missiles. The problem was further exasperated by the latest addition to the Egyptian and Syrian air defence forces, the new SA-6 Gainful. The technniques used against the stationary radar guided SA-2s and SA-3s were useless against these mobile infrared guided missiles and these were to exact a heavy toll from the IAF. Other new threats were the new shoulder-mounted SA-7 Grail and ZSU-23 AAA. Egypt entered the war with 106 SAM batteries, while Syria had a further 23.
On the morning of Sunday, October 7th, a massive attack was about to be launched against Egyptian air bases but it was called off in view of the desperate situation on the Golan Heights. Under operation “Doogman 5B” (model 5B) the IAF launched dozens of its F-4s and A-4s against the Syrian SAM array on the Heights. Having gone in with insufficient intelligence against a deadly opponent, six Phantoms were lost during that single day. With only a single SAM battery destroyed, October 7th was a resounding defeat and the IAF avoided confronting the Syrian SAMs again. By the end of the war the IAF had destroyed only 3 Syrian batteries, leaving most of the work to IDF ground forces.
The Egyptian air defence array was the most extensive the world had ever seen. Unlike the Syrians, the Egyptians had not advanced their SAM batteries into the Sinai along with their ground forces, providing dense coverage from across the Suez Canal. On October 8th the IAF managed to destroy a number of Egyptian batteries in the northern Canal region. SEAD attacks were stepped up on October 11th, by which the Syrian advance on the Golan Heights had been pushed back. The turning point in the war on the southern front came on October 14th with the failure of an Egyptian armoured offensive and a subsequent Israeli drive across the Suez Canal into mainland Egypt. Abandoning the former tactic of attacking the heart of the Egyptian air defences, the IAF begun attacking the flanks of the air defence array, especially the norhtern flank, while IDF ground forces begun destroying SAM sites on the southern flank. As the war went on the IAF managed to disable large portions of the Egyptian air defence, allowing it more freedom of action as well as punching holes in the Egyptian defences through which it could penetrate deep into Egypt. 32 Egyptian batteries were destroyed by the end of the war on October 24th. This was however achieved with the loss of a great number of aircraft and in order to make good these losses, 36 USAF Phantom were transferred to Israel under “Nickel Grass”, along with A-4 Skyhawks, Shrike and Maverik missiles, Chapparel SAMs and more.

Besides their fight against enemy air defences, the Phantoms also conducted numerous long range strikes against strategic sites deep inside Egypt and Syria. On October 9th, in retaliation to surface-to-surface missile attacks against Israeli civilian targets, the IAF launched strikes against Syrian strategic targets, first and foremost the Syrian HQ in the heart of Damascus. Other targets included Syrian power stations, fuel depots, refineries, bridges and more. On one such attack on October 23rd, 10 Phantoms and 4 Neshersengaged 20 Syrian MiG-21s and shot down 9 of them, 4 falling prey to the Phantoms. IAF Phantoms also routinely visited Arab air bases in a bid to disable the Egyptian and Syrian air forces and to disrupt the Soviet airlift assisting the Arab offensive. Hulhul, Saykal and Haleb AFBs in Syria were attacked on October 8th, 11th and 12th, for instance. On October 12th the “One” squadron attaked Damascus International airport while the “Bat” squadron attacked a Syrian Air Force bunker. Large scale attacks took place on October 14th and 15th to prevent the Egyptian air force from supporting the Egyptian ground offensive. Mansura, Tanata and Tsalchiya were amongst the Egyptian air bases routinely targeted.

The Phantoms were the backbone of the IAF during the Yom-Kippur War, as many as six sorties per plane flown every day while carrying out virtually any mission assigned to them. Nearly 100% of IAF stategic strikes were conducted by the F-4s, with such success that Syria continued to suffer power shortages long after the end of the war. Responsible for 30% of all IAF aerial kills, 27 Phantoms were lost by the war’s end, the majority of them to enemy air defences. Different Phantom squadrons fared differently, the “Orange Tail” squadron suffering no fatalities, while the “One” squadron lost a number of pilots but was the top scoring F-4 squadron of the war.
Despite the hardships encountered during October 1973, the IAF’s Phantom fleet emerged strengthened from the Yom-Kippur War. Battle-hardened and combat-proven, the experience gained in the fight against the Arab air defence forces proved invaluable in the next Arab-Israeli war, operation “Peace for Galilee”.

The American F-4s transferred to Israel under “Nickel Grass” quickly brought the depleted Phantom squadrons back to full strength, and under “Peace Echo V” a further 48 Phantoms were supplied to the IAF. The new aircraft allowed the formation of a fifth Phantom squadron and in July 1974 the 105th “Akrav” (Scorpion) squadron replaced its aging Sa’ars with the newly supplied F-4s.
Only a month after the end of the war, IAF Phantoms were once again flying against Egyptian MiGs. In a unique engagement which took place during late November 1973, Israeli Phantoms engaged MiG-21s flown by North Korean pilots which had arrived to assist Egypt. The four planes, two of them from the 107th “Orange Tail” squadron, managed to down a single MiG, while another MiG was brought down by an Egyptian SAM. Despite the formal end of the war, Syria would not tolerate Israel’s continued control of Mount Hermon and waged a war of attrition against Israeli forces on the Golan. Exchanges of fire regularly took place across the border throughout late 1973 and early 1974. Only after an extensive bombing campaign during April and May, carried out by IAF Phantoms and Skyhawks, did the shelling of Israeli forces cease.
The years after the Yom-Kippur War saw a gradual shift of IAF attention from the Egyptian and Syrian fronts to Lebanon and Palestinian terrorists based there. After their expulsion from Jordan in 1970, the Palestinian organizations settled in Lebanon and made it their base for anti-Israeli operations around the world. IAF Phantoms were in the forefront of Israeli operations against Lebanon-based terrorists, striking at strongholds located throughout the war-torn country. By 1977 however, the new F-15 Eagles supplied to the IAF had replaced the Phantom as the IAF’s premier interceptor and the type was seldom employed as a fighter, playing mainly an attack role. On March 14th 1978 Israel launched operation “Litany” in retaliation to a terrorist attack which killed 35 Israelis. The operation, an armoured incursion into southern Lebanon in order to cleanse the region from terrorists, begun with an IAF pounding of Palestinian strongholds. The Phantoms took an important part in these attacks, striking at Palestinian positions, armour, anti aircraft artillery and even seaports and other naval targets. More Phantom strikes took place during June,July and August 1979, as well as during August and December 1980. After Syrian MiGs attempted to intervene in a December 31st 1980 attack, a pair of MiG-21s were downed by the F-4s’ F-15 Eagle escorts. 1981 saw a further increase in fighting between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon, resulting in an increase in Phantom strikes. On an April 26th strike one Phantom was damaged by ground fire but managed to return to its home base, while on May 28th two SA-9 batteries were destroyed near the city of Sidon. Large scale fighting broke out again in July and for a ten days the IAF conducted an intensive bombing campaign against Palestinian targets. This campaign ended with an American brokered informal ceasefire which lasted until June 1982.

On June 3rd 1982 Palestinian terrorists shot and criticly wounded the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Shlomo Argov. Israel retaliated on June 4th by sending 8 Phantoms from the “Orange Tail” squadron at Ramat David to attack Beirut’s football stadium which had been used as a ammunitions and explosives dump by the Palestinian organizations. Soon fighting erupted along the Israeli-Lebanese border and on June 6th Israel invaded Lebanon in an attempt to destroy the entire terrorist infrastructure throughout southern Lebanon. Operation “Peace For Galilee” which had initially been planned as a two day, 40km incursion into Lebanon nonetheless evolved into a full scale war which took the IDF as far north as Beirut and which brought about heavy fighting with Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon.
Although by now surpassed by both the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Phantoms nonetheless played a decisive role in operation “Peace for Galilee”. The first three days of the operation saw Israeli forces pushing north into Lebanon, sweeping any Palestinian resistance aside. The IAF’s chief concern during this period was the support of the land offensive, attacking ahead of the advancing ground forces, striking artillery positions, ammunition dumps, training camps and enemy armour. Among the many targets attacked by Phantoms during the first days of the war was Beaufort. A Crusader fortress controlled by the PLO and overlooking much of northern Israel, it had become a symbol of the terrorist threat.
The defeats suffered by the Palestinian forces and the continued advance of the IDF north towards areas under Syrian control forced Syria into the conflict. The first days of the operation saw only a limited attempt by the Syrian Air Force to intervene in IAF opeartions but by June 9th it became clear that the Syrians would have to be prevented from interfering with the anti-terrorist operations taking place. IAF freedom of action was hampered by the huge Syrian SAM array contructed in the Bekaa valley east of Beirut, and as more missiles were brought in and installed every day, the IAF soon decided to attack and disable this threat. During two hours on June 9th, IAF fighter bombers destroyed 14 of the 19 SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6 batteries in the valley, disabling a further 3. Great success was also achieved in the skies above the valley, with dozens of Syrian MiGs downed by the F-15s and F-16s flying top cover for the attacking aircraft. The IAF did not lose even a single aircraft and one Phantom even crew received a citation for their conduct during the attack. After completing their mission, the crew sighted an SA-6 battery and despite having already dropped their bombload, destroyed it using the F-4’s cannon. Nine years after their defeat by the Syrian SAMs on the Golan Heights, The IAF’s Phantoms exacted their revenge on the SAMs during these two hours of June 9th 1982.
June 9th also saw the last IAF Phantom victory to this day. A pair of Phantoms on patrol with an Eagle pair encounted two Syrian MiG-21s and managed to down one (the other was shot down by an Eagle). Phantom strikes against Palestinian and Syrian targets continued a further two days until noon on June 11th when a ceasefire came into effect. The end of the war however, did not end the fighting between Israel and local guerillas and Israeli Phantoms have since continued to attack terrorist positions in Lebanon. On July 24th 1982, only a few weeks after the end of the war, the IAF lost a Phantom during an attack on SA-8 batteries in the Bekka Valley. The aircraft’s weapons system officer was killed and the pilot was captured by the Syrians and later returned to Israel. Another Phantom was lost on October 18th 1986 after a malfunctioning bomb exploded upon release during an attack against terrorist positions near Sidon. The pilot was rescued by an AH-1 Cobra gunship, hanging on to the helicopter’s landing skid, but the WSO Ron Arad was captured and has been held in captivity ever since.

In 1980, with no apparent replacement in sight, the IAF begun looking into ways to upgrade its Phantoms and extend their service life. While the IAF was launching its Kurnass 2000 program, Israel Aircraft Industries offered the IAF an upgrade program of its own design, the Super Phantom. The ambitious Super Phantom would have had its J79 engines replaced by PW1120 turbofans, as well new canard planes and a new avionics suite. On July 30th 1986 Phantom no. 334 took to the air with its right engine replaced by a PW1120 and on April 24th 1987 the same aircraft took off with both engines replaced. Budget constraints however, forced the IAF to adopt the more modest Kurnass 2000. Phantoms refitted to Kurnass 2000 standard underwent many changes and had their wiring, fuel tanks and hydraulic systems replaced. The Norden APG-76 Synthetic Aperature radar replaced the former APQ-120 radar and a Kairser wide-angle head up display was added as well. The aircraft’s avionic suite was also greatly updated with a new mission computer, multifunction displays, new communications gear and more. Modifications to the two Phantoms allocated to the program were carried out at the IAF’s Central Maintenance Unit. The first Kurnass 2000 prototype took off on July 15th 1987 and the IAF begun extensive testing of the aircraft on August 11th. On April 9th 1989 the 201st “The One” squadron received the first production Kurnass 2000, the serial upgrading of the IAF’s Phantom fleet having taken place at Israel Aircraft Industries’ facility at Ben Gurion Airport. February 1991 saw the first operational sortie of the Kurnass 2000, striking terrorist positions in Lebanon. The type which now equips a number of squadrons has since regularly participated in IAF strikes on Lebanon, most notably operation “Accountability” in July 1993 and operation “Grapes of Wrath” in April 1996.
Israel has been the Phantom’s largest operator outside the U.S. and after more than 30 years of service, the Kurnass 2000 upgrade promises to keep Israeli Phantoms flying well into the third millenium. In more than 30 years of service, IAF Phantoms have been credited with 116.5 aerial kills.