July 30th, 1970 - Israel Vs USSR




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July 30th, 1970 - Israel Vs USSR

Egypt had launched the War of Attrition shortly after
the end of the Six Days War (1967), hoping to force
Israel into concessions the Arabs had failed to
extract on the battlefield or in the international
arena. Egyptian intensions were for a limited
conflict, where Egypt's superior artillery force would
barrage Israeli forces on the Suez Canal, inflicting
enough casualties to move Israel towards giving up
some of the land it had captured during the Six Days
War. On the ground however, things went rather
differently. Besides Egypt's failure to inflict the
heavy casualties it had relied upon, Israel had no
intension to sit idly by, waiting for an end to the
Egyptian attacks. Israel retaliated by means of its
own, using its army, navy, and most of all its air
force, to attack and strike at Egypt, sending a clear
indication that it will defend itself against these
attacks. By 1970 Israeli superiority was apparent,
with the IAF operating almost freely above Egyptian
terriory, the local air defences unable to stop the
IAF from attacking ground targets or flying air-to-air
This was not lost upon Egypt's main sponsor, the USSR,
which had armed Egypt with the best Soviet arms it had
to offer. But these were not enough and when Egypt's
president Nazer asked for further assistance, the
Soviet Union responded by actually sending Russian
pilots to help in the defence of Egypt's airspace.
February 1970 saw the arrival of these Russian pilots
along with 80 new Mig-21s, a large number of SAM
batteries and other weapons for the Egyptian arsenal.

At first the Russian pilots were confined to defending
their own air bases as well as to the defence of
Cairo's airspace. But as time passed Soviet assistance
to the Egyptian anti aircraft forces begun to bear
fruit and begun to hamper IAF operations, disrupting
IAF deep penetration strikes which had been carried
out rather freely before. This success pushed the
Russians into further envolvement and they begun
taking over missions previously carried out by the
Egyptian Air Force, coming ever closer and closer to
actively confronting the IAF.
Russian pilots began approaching IAF aircraft during
April 1970 but Israeli pilots had orders not to engage
these aircraft, and broke off whenever Russian Migs
appeared, on occurances such as on the 13th, 18th and
29th. Although no confrontation took place, these
events were widely reported in the international
media. The Israeli minister of defence offered to
limit IAF operations to the Suez Canal zone, if the
Russians were to remain over Cairo and the heartland
of Egypt, and for two months no Russian presence was
detected in the Canal zone. On June 25th however, this
"cease-fire" was broken when an Israeli Skyhawk, on an
attack sortie against Egyptian forces on the Canal,
was pursued by a pair of Mig-21s into the Sinai. One
of the Migs launched an air-to-air missile against the
Skyhawk, damaging it and forcing it to land in a
nearby air base. This aggresive act on the part of the
Russians and their intrusion into Israeli air space
canceled any Israeli reservations about confronting
the USSR. A plan began forming for a purely
Soviet-Israeli confrontation where the Russians were
to be taught that they are out of their league. Set to
take place a third of the way between the city of Suez
and Cairo, 12 of Israel's best fighter pilots,
together credited with 59 enemy aircraft kills, were
recruited for this specific mission.

On thurday, April 30th, a pair of F-4 Phantoms
attacked an Egyptian radar station on the west bank of
the Canal, escorted by 4 Mirage IIIs. No Russian
response was sighted and the 4 Mirages begun
penetrating deeper into Egypt. 12 minutes after the
intial penetration 8 Russian Mig-21s were scrambled
against the IAF fighters and first contact was made at
14:20. Coming from the east, the Mirages lured the
Migs westward towards Cairo, when another quartet of
Israeli Mirages appeared behind the Russians. With the
confrontation clearly about to take place, every
available Russian fighter was launched againt the
Mirages and within seconds another 12 Migs were in the
air. The air battle began with 8 Mirages facing 20
Mig-21s, but soon 4 Israeli Phantoms which had entered
the area below radar coverage appeared from below and
joined in the fight. Led by Avihu-Ben-Nun, Israel's
first Phantom squadron commander (and IAF chief of
staff during the Gulf War of 1991), the new addition
to the battle caused the Russians to launch yet
another 4 Migs into the air, bringing the total number
of aircraft participating in the dog fight to 36
The first Russian loss was shot down by the lead of
the first Mirage III quartet, soon followed by an
AIM-7 Sparrow kill from Avihu-Ben-Nun's aircraft, and
a cannon kill by another Mirage III. After a fourth
Mig was shot down by an F-4, the Russian pilots began
breaking off. The Israeli fighters started giving
chase but were ordered to return to Israel, with a
desire by the IAF high command not to see any aircraft
loss on the part of the IAF. Details of the dogfight
were kept a secret, even from the aircraft ground
crews which painted the Egyptian air force emblem as
kill markings on the aircraft. Only after the story
was published two months later in the British "Daily
Express" were these markings changed to the Soviet air
force's Red Star. The story revealed that besides the
4 known kills, another damaged aircraft had crashed
approaching its air base, bringing the final result to
5:0 in favour of the IAF. Three Russian pilots
parachuted to safety and two were killed. The source
of the media report was apparently Egyptian, spurred
by Russian arrogance and claims of Egyptian
incompetence in earlier dealings with the Israeli Air

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