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The story of the F-Four Kurnass escort missions for USAF C-5 and C-141 airlifters concerned in Operation Nickel Grass, the US air bridge to Israel through the Yom Kippur Struggle

“At the time, I thought I had put extra strain on the Kurnass squadrons who were filming the escort mission, but then I heard something else and realized that this was the best recovery for many crews,” said Oded Erez, former head of the IAF Secret Service Directorate.

In the years leading up to the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, Israel invested heavily in creating a heavy attack force of four F-4 Phantom / Kurnass squadrons. You would fly more than 3,000 sorties, claim more than 80 kills, and suffer more than 30 casualties in the nineteen days of one of the most intense, ferocious wars in modern military history.

Israel Air Force (IAF) The Kurnass Force also conducted escort missions for US Air Force (USAF) transport aircraft involved in Operation Nickel Grass.

Israel asked the US for emergency aid on the first day of the Yom Kippur War, and the USSR Airlift to Egypt and Syria began on the fifth day, but US aid to Israel has been suspended. It was the Israeli agreement of October 12, 1973 on an armistice as it is and the rejection by Egypt on the night of October 12th to 13th, 1973, that triggered the approval of the Airlift to Israel by the United States. Operation Nickel Grass was launched on October 13, 1973, and the first USAF airlift arrived on October 14, 1973 at 6:30 p.m.

Oded Erez, former head of the IAF Secret Service Directorate, recalled Israeli F-4 phantom operations during the Yom Kippur War in Shlomo Aloni’s book Ghost of Atonement:

One day I was called to the IAFHQ command post and [IAF Intelligence Department Chief] Rafi Harlev said to me, “Oded, meet the US Air Attaché and discuss the matter of escorting your airlift with him. You will not arrive unaccompanied. ”

“I didn’t feel like we would lose without the airlift, and I kept an eye on the cost I was willing to pay for this airlift. So I met this Colonel and he asked for an escort from Gibraltar. I replied, “There will be no escort from Gibraltar under any circumstances. We don’t fly that far, we won’t fly that far. “So he said they would arrive at night, in which case they would need an escort from Rhodes. My answer was, “You know exactly how many Kurnass we have. They know they fly an average of two or three missions a day. They know that these missions are not rides or milk runs, that this is hard work; They know that crews who fly missions during the day have to escort at night. The importance of the Rhodes escort is that the entire Kurnass troop must fly at night. I will not do it.”

“He understood my position – he was a pilot – and asked me,” What can you do? “I said,” At most Cyprus and not an escort from Kurnass per airlift, but a kind of shepherd, a convoy leader who flies back and forth. “That is how we solved this problem.

At the time I thought I had added extra stress to the Kurnass squadrons who were filming the escort mission, but then I heard something else and realized that this was the best respite for many crews. We were all under the psychological stress we only experienced during the war when you entered the cockpit, flew a mission and when you left the cockpit you had lost two friends and witnessed their loss. From that moment on, any entry into the cockpit was like entering a death machine; no one said it, but so it was for many. Suddenly there was an interlude, a mission without such stress; a mission at night, so crews were ordered to rest the previous evening; a mission at night so the crews were flying alone and it was kind of nice to fly at night without a wingman; a mission at night to escort an American plane and there was absolutely no danger of the enemy intercepting at night. It wasn’t supposed to be, but for many it was the best rest, a real relaxation. ‘

Ghost of Atonement, Israeli F-4 phantom operations during the Yom Kippur War is published by Schiffer Publishing and can be ordered here.

This print is available in different sizes at AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-4E Phantom II 32nd TFS, CR 68-446

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