Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Welcome to Texas!

After the dust settled on the Six-Day War of 1967 the situation was resolved with Israeli controlling the entirety of the Sinai Desert. This had been a stinging defeat for the Egyptians, and despite the signing of a ceasefire they soon began what was known as the War of Attrition, just twenty days after the end of Six-Day war. This war was less about large armoured formations battering each other, and more about small scale skirmishes and cross border artillery bombardments. This period of conflict would last until 1970. Due to the nature of the fighting the Israeli's began to call the Canal Zone 'Texas', making a reference to the Wild West.

Towards the end of the conflict Israeli had obtained total air superiority, which meant that she was able to strike at Egyptian positions at will. To counter this Egypt turned to her ally, Russia for help. As well as modern equipment Russia also supplied personnel to man these weapons deploying a SAM division and fighter regiment. At first the Soviets limited themselves to their operational scope, and the Israeli’s took pains to avoid a shooting war. However, the demon of mission creep soon caused the Soviets to move closer and closer to a direct confrontation. Eventually the Israeli's judged that the Soviets were determined to force an incident and so decided to conduct an ambush on the Soviet forces. Earlier similar ambushes, aimed at the Egyptians, had been codenamed 'Rimon'. The attempt to entrap the Soviets was codenamed Rimon 20.
The day for the operation would start with a strike package of A-4 Skyhawks attacking a radar station near Suez city, meanwhile a pair of Mirages would fly at a higher altitude on a reconnaissance strike. It was expected the Soviets in MIG-21's would launch to intercept the pair of Mirages.

This was when things would go awry for the Soviets. The reconnaissance flight was four Mirages loaded for air to air work and flying in such close formation their radar returns showed only one or two planes. These Mirages would draw the Soviets over the flight following a normal A-4 strike's flight profile, which were in fact the Israeli's new F-4 Phantoms.
The Phantoms were armed with AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, which would allow long range shots against the pursuing Soviets. Then as the Phantoms passed below the Soviet formation the Mirages would turn and engage, backed up by another flight of four Mirages that had been loitering at very low level out of sight of radar over the Sinai Desert.
Due to the nature of the fight, the Israeli's collected their best air crews, between them the pilots had over sixty air to air kills.

The battle began at 1400 on the 30th of July, and the plan was carried out perfectly. The Soviets launched some 16 planes from three airbases to chase the Mirage 'reconnaissance' flight. At 20km the Mirages turned to draw the Soviets over the Phantoms, however the Mirages turned to tightly, and instead found themselves on a collision course.
This left the Phantoms with a confused radar picture, from which they couldn't launch their Sparrows into with any degree of telling friend from foe. For that reason, they powered into the fight earlier than planned with the four Mirages also joining in the fray. The third part of the ambush, the four low level Mirages moved to engage, but one pair were forced to abort when one suffered an engine malfunction.

A swirling dogfight erupted that was to last just three minutes.

At first a pair of MIG's got behind a pair of Phantoms, one of the Mirages dropped in on the MIG's tail and killed one with an AIM-9D Sidewinder. Another Mirage found itself in amongst several MIGs and hit one with another Sidewinder. However, seconds later this Mirage was hit by an AA-2 Atoll fired from one of the MIGs. The missile struck the engine exhaust and depending on which source you read either failed to detonate or did detonate but did not cause the Mirage to be shot down. Either way the Mirage was damaged and unable to continue fighting, the pilot managed to fly his wounded plane back to the nearest airfield and conduct an emergency landing.

The Mirages, like their Soviet counterparts split up into lone combatants. The Phantoms however had stayed in pairs with their wingmen, and at this point had not scored any kills. Realising the MIG pilots were very inexperienced the Phantom's agreed to go solo as well. One of the Phantoms was jockeying for position when the MIG he was chasing pulled a tight turn towards him, the Phantom pulled an Immelmann which left him above and behind the Soviet plane. The MIG pilot decided to power dive down to 700ft, and entirely silly thing to do when pursed by a Phantom. It was the easiest thing for the Phantom to follow, lock a Sidewinder onto the fleeing MIG and knock it from the sky. 
One of the MIGs attempted to depart the battle due to fuel, a Phantom fired a short-range missile at him, but it ran out of fuel, so a Mirage moved in to fire, only finding that when entering battle, the pilot had mistakenly dumped his missiles along with his drop tanks. The Mirage pilot closed in to try and get a kill with his cannon, however before he could reach the MIG it was struck by a Sparrow from a Phantom, the MIG was at a height of about 1000ft. This shot became the lowest altitude launch with a Sparrow up until that date, previously the Sparrow had not been thought to be able to function at low height.

Another MIG was exiting the area, it had already been hit by two missiles that had failed to knock it from the sky, when a final Mirage arrived on scene. This plane had been part of a two-ship flight that had been on standby. When the low altitude Mirage's suffered an engine failure and aborted the standby package had been launched. One of the planes had gotten lost, and the remaining pilot ordered the lost plane to return to base, while he carried on alone. He was now chasing the fleeing MIG, eventually he caught up with it and opened fire with his cannon. Now out of ammo he aborted without seeing the MIG crash. It was only later discovered that the MIG had finally succumbed to the barrage of fire that it had received.
This was the last act of the battle. In those three minutes five Soviet planes had been knocked out of the sky, for one damaged Israeli one. The biggest casualty was to Soviet pride, ever since they had arrived they had been of the opinion that the failures to defeat the Israeli Air Force were down to the qualities of their Arab hosts. The Egyptians were well aware of the tactics involved in the ambushes that he Russians had fallen for. The mocking from Egyptian sources aimed at the Russians became so bad that the Egyptian president, Gamal Nassar had to issue an order to cease the laughing and ridiculing of Russian personnel. 

Just a few months later the War of Attrition would come to an end with a peace deal. However, it would set up the background for the Yom Kippur War a few years later.

Image Credits:
www.iaf.org.il and www.aerospaceweb.org