Thursday, October 03, 2019

Israel Day 5 - IAF Museum - Israel's First Fighter

The first plane you see on viewing the Museum collection. Take a guess what this plane is:

Think its a Messerschmidt BF-109?

Its not a Messerschmidt, it's a Czech Avia S-199.

Israel's first fighter plane, it was flown by its first fighter squadron, the 101.

The squadron logo was designed by an American volunteer pilot with the unit, and the 101 flies with it to this day.

Formed with both native Israelis and foreign volunteers, including British and American pilots, the 101 Squadron took to the skies in 1948 and on its first mission, with just a few bombs, and with 4 fighter planes, stopped the entire Egyptian Army advance on Tel Aviv cold.

The Avia S-199 used a Messerschmidt air frames built in Czechoslovakia at the Messerschmidt plant built there by the Germans in World War 2. But, as the fighter engine plant had been destroyed in the war, The Czechs used a Junkers Jumo engine normally used for bomber aircraft, which is why it has a huge paddle shaped propeller.

Called either the Messer, meaning knife in Yiddish, or the Mezek, meaning Mule, the Avia wasn't exactly a hit with Israeli and foreign pilots.

Handling wasn't great, and ground loops and other accidents due to the engine mismatch were common.

But still, the Avia S-199 proved its worth in combat, shooting down Egyptian Spitfires and other aircraft and providing ground support ot the beleaguered nascent State of Israel as it was being invaded by seven Arab armies. For more on the Heroic American and other foreign pilots in the War of Independence you can watch Above and Beyond on Amazon for free if you've got Prime. Well worth watching.


Nuke Road Warrior said...

While training as a reactor operator in the '70s one of our instructors flew a Spitfire for the IAF. He told the story about how a fedayeen terrorist saved his life. Seems that maintenance was hit or miss (mostly miss) and it was only a matter of time before the plane packed it in and killed him. Then a terrorist snuck into the airfield one night and blew up the plane. He was given a Mauser and "joined" the infantry immediately after that.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Aaron;

I saw that movie on Amazon and it was a good story. Again thanks for the pics :)

Old NFO said...

Good movie, and those guys clanked when they walked!

Aaron said...

Nuke Road Warrior: Very cool story. It was certainly a rough and tumble air force during the early part of the War of Independence. Some Spitfires they used had been rebuilt from parts of British Spitfires that had been written off and left behind as unflyable.

MrGarabaldi: Yep, its a really good movie. More pics to come.

Old NFO: That they did. No idea how they fit into those cramped cockpits with those big brass ones. Just imagine having your first mission taking off into combat with a plane that had just been uncrated 4 days before.