|Part of the Six-Day War|
Israeli Air Force officers next to a destroyed Egyptian MiG-21 at Bir Gifgafa.
|Operational scope||Preemptive strike|
|Objective||Destroy Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian aircraft|
|Date||June 5, 1967|
|Executed by||Israeli Air Force|
|Outcome||Israeli air supremacy over Egypt, Syria and Jordan|
Operation Focus (Hebrew: מבצע מוקד, Mivtza Moked) was the opening airstrike by Israel at the start of the Six-Day War in 1967. It is sometimes referred to as "Sinai Air Strike". At 07:45 on June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) under Maj. Gen. Mordechai Hod launched a massive airstrike that destroyed the majority of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. By noon, the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian Air Forces, with about 450 aircraft, were destroyed. It was also very successful in disabling 18 airfields in Egypt, hindering Egyptian Air Force operations for the duration of the war, and remains one of the most successful air attack campaigns in military history.
Summary of the operation[edit | edit source]
In three main waves of aerial attacks, and several smaller waves in the days following the operation, a total of 452 aircraft were destroyed, most of them on the ground. This left the IAF in almost complete control of the skies, and able to effectively assist the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ground units.
The operational success was achieved by concentrating on the initial destruction of the runways with a new rocket assisted bomb that would come to be known as the Durandal anti-runway warhead. As designed, after release of the bomb, a parachute is deployed to point the warhead directly toward the runway being attacked; at a set altitude, the rocket ignites and drives the warhead through the pavement of the runway before it detonates. The explosion creates a small crater over a large new sinkhole, meaning the damaged runway must be removed before the hole can be filled. Once the runways were disabled, entire air bases' complements of aircraft were effectively grounded and fell victim to subsequent attack waves, resulting in near-total Israeli air supremacy.
June 5, 1967[edit | edit source]
Operation Moked was launched at 7:45 am Israeli time (8:45 Egyptian time). Nearly all of Israel's 196 combat aircraft (mostly French/Dassault Aviation) were committed to the airstrike, with only twelve being held back to patrol Israeli airspace.
Egyptian defensive infrastructure was extremely poor, and no airfields were yet equipped with hardened aircraft shelters capable of protecting Egypt's warplanes in the event of an attack. The Israeli warplanes headed out over the Mediterranean before turning toward Egypt. Meanwhile, the Egyptians hindered their own defense by effectively shutting down their entire air defense system: they were worried that rebel Egyptian forces would shoot down the plane carrying Field Marshal Amer and Lt-Gen. Sidqi Mahmoud, who were en route from al Maza to Bir Tamada in the Sinai to meet the commanders of the troops stationed there. In this event it did not make a great deal of difference as the Israeli pilots came in below Egyptian radar cover and well below the lowest point at which Egypt's SA-2 surface-to-air missile batteries could bring down an aircraft.
The first Israeli wave attacked 11 bases, catching much of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground and destroying them before they got airborne. The Israeli jets then returned to Israel, were "quick-turned" (refueled and re-armed) in 7 minutes 45 seconds, and left in a second wave that attacked 14 Egyptian bases and returned with only minor losses. They "quick-turned" again and departed in a third wave.
The opening stages of Operation Moked were a complete success: Egypt's air force of nearly 500 combat aircraft was destroyed in the space of three hours, with only minor losses to the Israeli Air Force. When Syria, Jordan, and Iraq attacked Israeli targets in retaliation for the airstrike on Egypt, their attacks were mainly directed at civilian targets and were largely ineffectual. In response many of the IAF planes headed for a third strike on Egypt were diverted en route to Syrian and Jordanian targets, and other IAF aircraft were sent against Arab ground forces in support of Israeli ground forces. By the end of the first day of the Six-day War, Israel had complete air superiority over Israel, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the entire Sinai desert.
June 6–10, 1967[edit | edit source]
On the second day of the war (June 6) the IAF was used against Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi ground forces.
On the third day (June 7) the IAF destroyed hundreds of Egyptian vehicles trying to flee across the Sinai in convoys and trapped thousands more in narrow Sinai passes. By the end of the third day Jordan's air force of 34 combat aircraft had essentially ceased to exist and the Jordanian military was no longer in the fight.
By the sixth and final day (June 10) Syria had lost approximately 100 combat aircraft and the fighting was over.
Aftermath[edit | edit source]
During the Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force, with 196 combat aircraft at its disposal had prevailed over a coalition with approximately 600 combat aircraft. The IAF destroyed 452 enemy aircraft, including 79 in air combat, while losing 46 of its own. 24 Israeli pilots and hundreds of Arab pilots were killed.
Number of aircraft destroyed by aircraft type[edit | edit source]
- Combat aircraft
- 148 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 'Fishbeds' (104 from Egypt; 32 from Syria; 12 from Iraq)
- 29 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 'Farmers' (all from Egypt)
- 112 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 'Frescos' (94 from Egypt; 16 from Syria; two from Iraq)
- 14 Sukhoi Su-7 'Fitters' (all from Egypt)
- 27 Hawker Hunters (21 from Jordan; five from Iraq; one from Lebanon)
- Bomber aircraft
- Transport aircraft
- Transport helicopters
Number of aircraft destroyed by country[edit | edit source]
- Egypt: 338 aircraft
- Syria: 61 aircraft
- Jordan: 29 aircraft
- Iraq: 23 aircraft
- Lebanon: 1 aircraft
- Israel lost 19 aircraft in the operation.
Totals by waves[edit | edit source]
- First wave (7:45 am): 101 flights; 11 airfields were attacked by 183 IAF aircraft; 197 Egyptian aircraft and 8 radar stations were destroyed. Five IAF pilots were killed and five more fell captive.
- Second wave (9:30 am): 164 flights; 16 airfields were attacked; 107 Egyptian aircraft destroyed; 2 Syrian planes destroyed in dogfights
- Third Wave (12:15 pm): 85 flights against Egypt, 48 against Jordan, 67 against Syria and one against H-3 airbase in Iraq.
- Other waves (afternoon & evening): 2 more attacks against H-3; several additional attacks on Egyptian airfields.
References[edit | edit source]
- Bowen, 2003, pp. 114–115 (author interview with General Salahadeen Hadidi who presided over the first court martial of the heads of the air force and the air defence system after the war).
- "Six Days of War" by Michael Oren (chapter 3)
- Oren 2002, p. 172
- Eric Hammel (October 2002). "Sinai air strike: June 5, 1967". pp. 68–73.
- Danni Shalom, Like A Bolt Out of the Blue: How the Arab Airforces were destroyed in the Six-Day War, BAVIR – Aviation Publications, 2002, 650 pages, hardcover.
- Oren, Michael B. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Samuel M. Katz Israel's Air Force; The Power Series. Motorbooks International Publishers & Wholesalers, Osceola, WI. 1991.
[edit | edit source]
- IAF official website – Six Day War
- Operation Focus: The Winning Air Strike
- (Al-Jazeera documentary in English, Part 1)
- (Al-Jazeera documentary in English, Part 2)
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