Cold War Era

Iraqi Air Force Performed the Only two Tupolev Tu-16 Air Strikes Ever Conducted against Israel

The Israeli Mirages attempted to attack with Shafrir Mk.1 air-to-air missiles, but these missed, and both pilots were then scared away by the Tupolev Tu-16 defensive fire from the tail-installed barbette…

Early on the morning of Jun. 6, 1967 (second day of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War), the High Command of the Iraqi Armed Forces in Baghdad ordered Squadron Leader Farouk at-Tail, commander of the No. 10 Squadron, Iraqi Air Force (IrAF), to launch an air strike on Ramat David AB, in northern Israel.

Tail quickly picked four crews and four Tupolev Tu-16 bomber aircraft standing alert – each armed with six FAB-500 bombs (calibre 500kg) – and decided to send them into this mission as single-ships, with a quarter of an hour between single aircraft.

Tail flew the first Tu-16, with Flt Lt Majid Turki as co-pilot. In order to conserve fuel, they reached Mafraq AB (nowadays Salti AB) in Jordan, at high altitude, then descended very low. Upon entering the Israeli airspace, he accelerated to 900km/h and entered a climb while searching for his target. The crew then reported to have found Ramat David AB and released its bombs without any disturbance, around 0500hrs local time.

According to Israeli reports, the crew actually bombed an unspecified military installation near Ta’amach, 10km (6.2 miles) southeast of Afula, demolishing several buildings, killing two and injuring five Israeli soldiers.

The next two Tu-16s were less lucky: both were forced to abort their mission due to technical difficulties, and return to Habbaniyah early.

The Tupolev Number 4 was piloted by Sqn Ldr Hussein Mohammad ‘Kaka’ Hussein, with Flt Lt Alwan as co-pilot, Flt Lt Rashid and Flt Lt Kargoli as navigator-gunners 1 and 2, and Flt Lt Sabih as tail-gunner.

Hussein penetrated the Israeli airspace undisturbed and entered a similar climb like Tail before him. However, and for unknown reasons, his crew failed to attack their target. Contrary to standing orders not to bomb civilian targets, shortly after 0600hrs it dropped its warload over the centre of Netanya, a coastal town in northern Israel, killing one and injuring 21 civilians.

Meanwhile over the Mediterranean Sea, Hussein and Alwan then turned their bomber around and returned into the Israeli airspace. That was when they came under attack of two Mirage IIICJs of the Israeli Defence Force/Air Force (IDF/AF).

There’s a lot of controversy over what exactly happened as next. Along one version, the Mirages attempted to attack with Shafrir Mk.1 air-to-air missiles, but these missed, and both pilots were then scared away by Sabih’s defensive fire from the tail-installed barbette. After making at least one hard turn, Hussein and Alwan then flew their bomber directly over Ramat David AB – still pursued by two Mirages: they also reported that Sabih and Kargoli have opened fire from their barbettes on the aircraft and installations they saw below.

Shortly after, the lonesome Tu-16 should have received a hit from an Israeli air-to-air missile. Hussein reported via radio that the bomber was still controllable and that he was attempting to escape in an easterly direction. However, while trying to do so, he should have passed directly over a military base in Megiddo, where his bomber was supposedly finished by IDF-operated 40mm Bofors L/70 anti-aircraft gun. The bomber crashed into a military storage complex, demolishing three barracks and two teams of 120mm mortars, and killing not only its own crew, but also between 11 and 14 Israeli soldiers.

As far as is known, these two were the only air strikes against Israel flown by Tu-16s – ever.

Taken in 1965, the photo below is showing one of No. 10 Squadron’s Tu-16s, and most of that unit’s pilots. Along currently available information, I cannot confirm the participation or the death of any ‘Hussein ad-Dahy’ in the air strike on Ramat David from Jun. 6, 1967. But perhaps that was the full name of the pilot of the downed Tupolev bomber?

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in the worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in Middle Eastern, African and Asian air forces. As well as authoring and co-authoring 560 books and over 1,000 articles, he has co-authored the Arab MiGs book series – a six-volume, in-depth analysis of the Arab air forces at war with Israel, in the 1955–73 period. Cooper has been working as editor of the five @War series since 2017.

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