Despite the ability of the American manufactured F-4 to perform both the air-to-ground and air-to-air roles with equal success the Israeli Air Force (IAF) reliance on the Mirage III and Nesher delta fighters meant that the Phantom II was used most regularly in its air-to-ground role.
Nevertheless, during the Yom Kippur War the IAF F-4 were used also as fighters.
The Arab initial objective during the Yom Kippur War was to push back Israel Defense Force (IDF) regular forces some 20 kilometers (12 miles) to east of the Suez Canal and west of the IDF fortifications line at the Golan heights. This modest objective was dictated by the range of protective SAM batteries and by the concept of infantry divisions for breaching and crossing with armor divisions for a follow up offensive. As explained by Shlomo Aloni in his book Ghosts of Atonement, Israeli F-4 Phantom Operations during the Yom Kippur War, success of this first phase of Arab offense depended upon accomplishment of objectives prior to the arrival of IDF reserves at the fronts in order to fully exploit the initial numerical superiority of the Arab armies. Full mobilization of IDF for completion within 24 to 72 hours, but a core of IDF reserve “quick call” units were expected to be mobilized and deployed within less than 24 hours.
In order to disrupt arrival at the fronts of IDF reserve forces, as well as to seed chaos among IDF rear echelons, both Egypt and Syria planned commando assaults. The targets of Egyptian and Syrian commandos were outside the protective envelope of Egyptian and Syrian SAM batteries, so the helicopters planned to penetrate Israeli air space at low altitude to avoid radar detection; assault was set for dusk in the hope that descending darkness would shield slow helicopters and enhance their survivability.
Ras Sudar—on the east coast of the Gulf of Suez, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Suez City and, therefore, less than 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from the south-bound Egyptian invasion into Sinai—was thinly defended at dusk on Oct. 6,1973 (Day 1 of the Yom Kippur War); among IDF-deployed forces at Ras Sudar was an Israel Air Force (IAF) MIM-23 Homing All the Way Killer (HAWK) SAM battery that defended Ras Sudar oil fields and facilities.
IDF postwar analysis of the Egyptian helicopter assault concluded that two helicopter forces operated over Ras Sudar sector: a force of 18 Mil Mi-8 helicopters tasked to insert commandos for blockade of roads and a force of nine helicopters tasked to land commandos for a raid against Ras Sudar. Apparently, the HAWK battery at Ras Sudar engaged the second force, while a pair of F-4 Kurnass from Squadron 107 (CLOSET 1 Egozy/Manoff in Kurnass 151 and CLOSET 2 Yoffe/Pereg in Kurnass 230) was vectored to intercept the first force.
CLOSET 1 was credited with five kills; at first launching a Deker (IAF name for AIM-9D Sidewinder, pronounced de-ker, translation Pick) that missed, then switching to gun, and all five kills were claimed with gun bursts, while during the fourth kill, a blow of slipstream was added to a certain kill. CLOSET 1 hit the helicopter with a gun burst and then, as it flew overhead the doomed helicopter, the Kurnass afterburners were switched on and the nose was pulled up, smashing the helicopter underneath to the ground.
CLOSET 2 was credited with one kill and then had to disengage. Another sign of confusion and disorder during the start of the war was the fact that CLOSET 1 and CLOSET 2 were launched in different configurations: CLOSET 1 with three fuel tanks and CLOSET 2 with two fuel tanks. Due to lower fuel state, CLOSET 2 was forced to disengage, while CLOSET 1 remained to engage the helicopters.
A Nesher pair was also vectored to Ras Sudar and was credited with two kills for a total claim of eight helicopters. The remaining helicopters scattered and probably landed the commandos at dispersed landing zones of opportunity, rather than in the original concentrated landing zone. CLOSET certainly frustrated this effort of the Egyptian commando offensive.
Ghosts of Atonement, Israeli F-4 Phantom Operations during the Yom Kippur War is published by Schiffer Publishing and is available to order here.
Photo credit: IDF, Bukvoed via Wikipedia and SSGT CHERIE A. THURLBY / U.S. Air Force
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