Israeli air force celebrate
their 60th birthday
Hatzerim invites to a spectacular air power demonstration
(PH/AK) Heyl Ha'avir, one of the world's most modern air forces in constant readiness is
Israel's pride and joy. Compared to their present-day high tech the commencement of the Israeli
air and space force was more or less adventurous, but all beginnings are difficult.
So a flight division named Sherut Ha'avir which was founded by the paramilitary organization
Haganah on November 10th 1947 started service with only two deHavilland Tiger Moths. At top
secrecy various aircraft, mostly civil types, found their obscure trails to Palestine. Two days
after the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14th 1948 the Sherut Ha'avir became Heyl
Ha'avir which was later presented as the air force after the official armed forces of young Israel
were established on May 28th. The first fighters - Avia S-199s on basis of the Messerschmitt Bf
109 - were bought in Czechoslovakia and had to be smuggled in the country as agricultural
This led to a change in their independence war, because the Egyptians just 20 miles away from Tel
Aviv when four Avias attacked their troups on a bridge near today's Ashdod were so surprised about
the existence of combat aircraft that they backed out. Since the air forces have a high priority
Therefore it was no surprise that many people went to Hatzerim air base near Beersheba to
celebrate the graduation of the current pilot class and, of course, the 60th anniversary of the
air force in June 2008. For their invited guests women as well as men of the Heyl Ha'avir
performed an extraordinary demonstration of air power. Heyl Ha'avir's high importance is
strengthened by the visit of Defence Secretrary Ehud Barak and President Schimon Perez who
attended the awards cermony of the around 50 new pilots getting their wings.
The Israelis displayed almost their whole range of aircraft and helicopters in Hatzerim/Beersheba.
The newest purchase a Lockheed Martin F-16I is called "Sufa" (Storm) in Israel. In February 2004
the first of totaling 102 ordered machines landed in Ramon whereas the last of four squadrons was
equipped with the novel type not until sumer 2008. Quite impressive that Israel owns the biggest
F-16 fleet outside the US with 362 Fighting Falcons all in all. Second most numerous aircraft
continues to be the F-15 Eagle with around 90 jets in differnt versions. Representing the flagship
of the fleet the F-15I "Ra'am" (Thunder) is optimized for air strikes, but due to high piece
prices merely 25 machines were bought. Since January 1998 they have been flying with the "Hammer"
squadron in Hatzerim. Both F-15I and F-16I exclusively are twin seaters, because the Heyl Ha'avir
prefers two-men crews for the operation of precision weapons.