RAF No 12 Squadron
Egyptian Air Force - القوات الجوية المصرية
In late 1928, the Parliament of Egypt proposed the creation of an Egyptian Air Force. The Egyptian ministry of war announced that it needed volunteers for the new arm to become the first four Egyptian military pilots. Over 200 Egyptian officers volunteered, but in the end only three succeeded in passing strict medical tests and technical examinations.
These three went to British Royal Air Force number 4 Flying Training School at Abu Suwayer near the Suez Canal, where they were trained on a variety of aircraft. After graduation they travelled to the United Kingdom for specialised training.
On November 2, 1930, King of Egypt and Sudan, Fuad I announced the creation of the Egyptian Army Air Force (EAAF) and in September 1931, the British De Havilland aircraft company won a contract to supply Egypt with 10 De Havilland Gipsy Moth trainers.
The first commander of the EAAF was Canadian squadron leader Victor Hubert Tait. Tait selected staff and weapons and built air-bases. In 1934 the British government provided 10 Avro 626 aircraft, which were the first real Egyptian military planes. A further 17 626s together with Hawker Audaxes for army cooperation and close support and Avro Ansons for VIP work followed shortly afterward.
In 1937 the Egyptian Army Air Force was separated from the army command and became an independent branch named the Royal Egyptian Air Force (REAF). New bases were built in the Suez Canal Zone, and the Western Desert.
In 1938, the REAF received 2 squadrons of Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters and a squadron of then modern Westland Lysander reconnaissance aircraft, (Egypt was the last state to use the Lysander in action, during the Palestine War of 1948.
Second World War
As the Egyptian border was threatened by an Italian and German invasion during the Second World War, the British Royal Air Force established more bases in Egypt. The Egyptian Air Force was sometimes treated as a part of the Royal Air Force, at other times a strict policy of neutrality was followed as Egypt maintained its official neutrality until very late in the war. As a result, few additional aircraft were supplied by Britain, however the arm did receive its first modern fighters, Hawker Hurricanes and a small number of Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks. In the immediate post-war period, cheap war surplus aircraft, including a large number of Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXs were acquired. The REAF also bought Macchi C.205 Veltro fighters and trainers from Italy.
Palestine War - 1948 Arab-Israeli War
Following the British withdrawal from Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, Egyptian forces crossed into Palestine as part of a wider Arab League military coalition in support of the Palestinians against the Israelis. The Egyptian Air Force contributed with C-47 Dakotas performing as light bombers and Spitfires and managed to shoot down two Israeli aircraft. On May 22, Egyptian Spitfires attacked the British RAF airfield at Ramat David, believing the base had already been taken over by Israeli forces. The first raid surprised the British, and resulted in the destruction of several RAF aircraft on the ground, and the death of an airman. The British were uncertain whether the attacking Spitfires had come from Arab or Israeli forces. When a second raid followed shortly afterward, it met a well prepared response, and the entire Egyptian force was shot down - the last aircraft being baited for some time as the RAF pilots attempted to get a close look at its markings.
Relations with Britain were soon restored, although the continuing official state of war with Israel ensured that arms purchases continued. New Mk22 Spitfires were purchased to replace the earlier models. In late 1949, Egypt received its first jet fighter, a British Gloster Meteor F4, and shortly after De Havilland Vampire FB5s.
After the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, the Egyptian Government was determined to move away from reliance on British armaments. In 1955, under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt began acquiring weaponry, including aircraft, from the Soviet Union. Initial Soviet deliveries included MiG-15 fighters, Ilyushin Il-28 bombers, Il-14 transports, and Yak-11 trainers. Instructors from Czechoslovakia accompanied these aircraft. This period in the Egyptian Air Force's history also yielded the first indigenous aircraft production as the country began manufacturing its own Czech-designed Gomhouria Bü 181 Bestmann primary trainers.
The Suez Crisis
After the Egyptian Government's nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956, Egypt was attacked by Israel, France, and the United Kingdom in what came to be known as the Suez Crisis. Heavy losses were sustained by the Egyptian side. The conflict, though devastating militarily, turned out to be a political victory for Egypt, and resulted in the total withdrawal of the aggressor forces from the country. It also forced the EAF to begin rebuilding with non-British help.
In 1958, Egypt merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, and the previously separate Egyptian, and Syrian forces were combined as the United Arab Republic Air Force. Though Syria left the union in 1961, Egypt continued to use the union's official name until 1971, including for its air force.
By the mid-1960s, British aircraft had been replaced completely by Soviet hardware. The Soviet Union became the principal supplier of the EAF, and many other Arab states. This allowed the EAF to greatly modernise and boost its combat effectiveness. The MiG-21 Fishbed arrived in the early 1960s, bringing with it a Mach 2 capability. The MiG-21 would remain Egypt's primary fighter for the next two decades. In 1967, Egypt had 200 MiG-21s. The EAF also began flying the Sukhoi Su-7 fighter/bomber in the mid-1960s.
The Yemen War
The Yemeni Royalist side received support from Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, while the Yemeni Republicans were supported by Egypt. The fighting was fierce, featuring heavy urban combat as well as battles in the countryside. Both foreign irregular and conventional forces were also involved.
Strategically, the Yemen War was an opportunity for Israel. It stagnated Egyptian military plans for the reinforcement of the Sinai by shifting the Egyptian military focus to another theater of operation. Egyptian historian Mohammed Heikal writes that Israel provided arms shipments and also cultivated relationships with hundreds of European mercenaries fighting for the Royalists in Yemen. Israel established a covert air-supply bridge from Djibouti to North Yemen. The war also gave Israelis the opportunity to assess Egyptian combat tactics and adaptability.
Egyptian air and naval forces began bombing and shelling raids in the Saudi southwestern city of Najran and the coastal town of Jizan, which were staging points for royalist forces. In response, the Saudis purchased a British Thunderbird air defense system and developed their airfield in Khamis Mushayt. Riyadh also attempted to convince the United States to respond on its behalf. President Kennedy sent only a wing of jet fighters and bombers to Dhahran Airbase, demonstrating to Egypt the seriousness of his commitment to defending U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia.
The Six-Day War
In the 1967 Six-Day War the EAF's combat capacity was severely damaged after the Israeli Air Force destroyed its airbases in a sudden attack (Operation Focus). Despite significant losses, individual EAF pilots nevertheless took off to challenge the attackers and blunt their attack, achieving a number of air to air kills. During the last four days the EAF also managed to undertake 150 sorties against Israeli units throughout the Sinai. After the war, the Soviet Union replenished EAF stocks, sending large numbers of aircraft and trainers to Egypt in order to help revitalize the EAF.
The War of Attrition
The years between 1967 and 1970 were not a period of peace for the EAF, but rather a prolonged campaign of attrition against Israel. The EAF went through a large construction plan to build air bases to increase its survivability and for the first time in its history the EAF planned and executed a lot of aggressive attack missions against the Israelis. It began when Egyptian MiG-17s escorted by MiG-21s fighters flew massive destructive attacks on Israeli positions along the Suez Canal July 14, 1967, only one month after the Six Day War.
During this period Egypt also received replacements for losses it suffered during the Six Day War. The EAF was the first branch of the Egyptian armed forces to return to the war. Flying photoreconnaissance and attack missions all over Sinai, using hit and run tactics, the EAF regained its self-confidence and proved itself as a tough foe for the IAF.
The Battle of Egypt began in early 1969 when the Egyptian Air Defense Forces (EADF) began deploying their SAM batteries along the Suez Canal. Israel launched a campaign to destroy the Egyptian air defense network using its newly supplied F-4E Phantoms. Egyptian fighters engaged the Israelis in devastating air battles where the Egyptian fighters scored a lot of victories including the shooting down of the first F-4E over the north of the Gulf of Suez December 9, 1969. Following this the Israelis began deep strike missions, ending with the electronic summer of 1970 when the EADF succeeded in downing more than 13 Israeli fighters in one week. One of the most important events of the War of Attrition was the Battle of Egypt when combat aircraft were Egypt's only defense against the Israeli deep striking missions. At these times Egyptian fighters engaged in large air battles against attacking Israel aircraft and shot down more than 50 enemy fighters in less than two weeks. Some Soviet fighter pilots were sent to Egypt to support the Egyptians, doing a great job although some were killed in air battles with the Israelis.
Nevertheless, the EAF could not regain its lost capability due to reconstitution following the 1967 debacle. With so many inexperienced pilots having to be exposed to combat, many were shot down while the survivors brought back valuable experience. Several EAF pilots scored victories against the IAF during this period.
October War 1973 - Yom Kippur War
The EAF was involved in the initial raid with over 220 aircraft (including the MiG-21MF) taking part in the surprise attack. Unlike their Syrian counterparts, EAF aircraft evaded Israeli radars by flying below detection height. Their attacks largely went undetected and the IAF's belated response flew right into the teeth of the Egyptian air defence umbrella.
EAF aircraft were held in reserve after that point, mainly concentrating on airfield defence in conjunction with the SA-3 'Pechora', while the more mobile SA-6 'Gainful' protected Egyptian forces at low and medium level, aided by the ZSU-23-4SP and shoulder-held SA-7 SAMs.
Despite these limitations, the EAF conducted offensive sorties from time to time, with the Tu-16 firing AS-5 'Kelt' stand off weapons causing considerable panic behind Israeli lines. The Su-7BM was used for quick strafe attacks on Israeli columns and the Mirage IIIE (sometimes confused with the Mirage 5), donated by Libya, carried out long-range attacks deep inside Sinai at Bir Gifgafa.
However, when Israeli armoured forces used a gap between the two Egyptian armies to cross the Suez Canal west into Africa (Operation Stouthearted Men), in the process destroying Egyptian SAM sites on the west bank, the EAF was forced into battle against the better equipped IAF. The EAF scored victories and continued to contest IAF operations, while also launching attacks on Israeli ground forces in the East Bank of the Suez Canal. In most of these engagements, Egyptian MiG-21s (of all types) challenged Israeli Mirage IIICJs or Neshers.
The IAF did not operate freely and did not have the air supremacy it enjoyed during the previous conflict, the 1967 war. Egyptian MiGs were used with better maneuverability than most IAF aircraft in that war to conduct new tactics and lessons learned from the 1967 war.
During the war, the EAF flew more than 6815 sorties and lost about 96 airplanes in which only 30 was lost in air combat (about 120 kills were scored by the Israelis during the war on the Egyptian front were the rest was against other Arab fighters that worked along side the EAF). About 30 Egyptian pilots achieved ACE record and the EAF downed more than 40 Israeli fighters as well as more than 100 which were downed by the EADF 44 in the first 36 hour of the war then Israel Air Force commander give orders to not engage 15 KM east to the canal for the IAF & 25-32 IAF plane was shot down over portsaid & about 29 was shot down after Battle of mansora as some of IAF planes tried to get back to their bases over the Egyptian air defense shield. The Egyptian strategy during the October War centered around the highly effective Egyptian air defence network operating in close co-operation with the EAF in order to prevent the Israelis from achieving aerial superiority. This method proved highly successful. For the first time in modern military history, the EAF was able to prove itself, especially following the Six Day War where the majority of the air force was destroyed on the ground.
It was during this war that the EAF applied the lessons it earlier learnt from the Israelis. A 32-year-old deputy MiG-21 regiment commander who has been flying since he was 15 recalls: "During the war of attrition, the Israeli air force had a favorite ambush tactic", he told Aviation Week and Space Technology. "They would penetrate with two aircraft at medium altitude where they would be quickly picked up by radar, We would scramble four or eight to attack them. But they had another dozen fighters trailing at extremely low altitude below radar coverage. As we climbed to the attack they would zoom up behind and surprise us. My regiment lost MiGs to this ambush tactic three times. But we learned the lesson and practiced the same tactics. In the final fights over Deversoir, we ambushed some Mirages the same way, and my own 'finger four' formation shot down four Mirages with the loss of one MiG."
El-Mansourah air battle
During the October War, in the "El-Mansoura air battle", Israel launched a large scale raid with over 100 aircraft – F-4 Phantoms and A-4 Skyhawks – attempting to hit the huge air base at el-Mansourah. It culminated in an almost continuous dogfight lasting no less than 53 minutes. According to Egyptian estimates over 180 aircraft were involved at one time, the majority belonging to the Israelis. At 10 pm local time, Cairo Radio broadcast "Communiqué Number 39", announcing that there had been several air battles that day over a number of Egyptian airfields, that most intensive being over the northern Delta area. It also claimed that 15 enemy aircraft had been downed by Egyptian fighters for the loss of three Egyptian aircraft, while an even greater number of Israelis had been shot down by the Army and the Air Defense Forces over Sinai and the Suez Canal. For its part, Israel Radio claimed, early the following morning, that the IAF had shot down 15 Egyptian aircraft, a figure subsequently reduced to seven.
Later on, the Egyptian Government changed the country’s “Air Force Day” from November 2 to October 14, to commemorate the Mansourah air battle.
Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
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