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The best pilot

Giora Even (Epstein) The best pilot, determined by the number of (jet) aircrafts shot down, is Col. (Res.) Giora Even (Epstein), who holds the world record of downing aircrafts with 17 aircraft kills. During his service for the Israeli Air Force, he fought three wars, achieved air superiority, performed bombing missions and even won a nearly impossible fight while facing alone 10 Egyptian fighters at the same time! Below are the details of the missions he completed.

From his diary (from www.iaf.org.il):

The Six Day War, 6.6.67

Location: El Arish, Downed Plane: an Egyptian Sukhoi-7 Time: 04:30 at 6.6.1967 Formation: Lapidot - Epstein. Plane ID: Shahak (Mirage) no. 56. Location: El Arish. Result: a Sukhoi-7 is shot down with cannon fire.

At first light, we were sitting in readiness as the second pair in the squadron. I sat on plane no. 56 in the underground hangar. At 4:15 we were scrambled as the second pair, after Barzilai and Richter. Initial direction: westward, no explanation what for. During the climb, I overheard the first pair being 'intercepted' [by the controllers] to [attack] targets in the El Arish area. I noticed that Amos [Lapidot] was ignoring this, and still flying towards the sea. I told him about the 'interception' I heard on the radio. I kept asking him about this, until he finally spoke to the controller and we received instructions to [fly to] El Arish. We arrived and began flying over the city when we were instructed to to carry out a pass over the [air] field area, where enemy planes were supposedly carrying out an attack. The city was already in our possesion at the time, and there was a tank battle going on in the airfield area. We carried out a pass over the airfield. There was heavy AA fire but we saw no planes, and we pulled upwards, north and to high altitude.

We saw a pair of Mirages coming in behind us. We waved to them and saw them diving towards the city. I looked toward the city and discovered a trio of Sukhoi-7 coming in from the south in a left turn over the city, towards the west. We saw another pair of Mirages coming down on them, and were now in a situation where the Sukhoi leading the column [of Sukhois] had a Mirage on its tail, another Sukhoi was [sitting] on this Mirage, and this Sukhoi also had a Mirage [sitting] on it. The third Sukhoi was off to one side, and a Mirage was chasing him, too. Happily, we saw the two Sukhois getting hit, and the Mirage, flown by Sagi from [Atalef Squadron], was unhurt. The second victor was Barzilai. The third Sukhoi kept running away to the west with a Mirage in pursuit.

Since there were no more targets left, I dove downward - after notifying Amos - and joined the chase after the fleeing Sukhoi. The pursuing Mirage ,[flown by] Richter, was unable to close the gap between them. [He] tried to shoot a heat [seeking] missile but it hit the ground, shot off all the shells and missed because of the long range, and then announced he had depleted his ammunition and was returning home. After he had left, I moved in behind the Sukhoi and kept on chasing it. I saw that I was slowly narrowing the distance between us. We are flying at very low altitude, about 50 feet at a speed of about 700 knots, over the dunes south of Bardawil, going west. When I had made it to a range of about 400 meters I raised the trigger and tried a short burst. Nothing came out. I checked the switches and found the cannon button in 'off' position. I pressed the button back on. The range had closed down to about 200 meters, meanwhile, and I shot a short burst, right in the middle of the range. Immediately, there was a tremendous explosion in the tail, and his entire tail unit disappeared. The Sukhoi seemed to stop [in mid-air], tilted its nose up sharply, turned over and crashed into the ground, without a bail-out. There was a huge explosion. I pulled upward immediately in order to avoid the blast and turned back home. I was already near the end of the [Sea of] Bardawil, near Rumani.

I climbed back up and found Amos circling around El Arish at high altitude, wondering where I was. I informed him and joined him on the way to the landing. Sarah, who reported back to work at the squadron at 8:00, was very happy, of course. To my surprise, I did not feel any tremendous joy or anything like that, unlike some other pilots I had seen after they had shot down planes.

The War of Attrition, 20.7.69

Location: Ismailia, Downed Plane: an Egyptian MiG-17 Time: 12:15 at 20.7.1969 Formation: Epstein - Bnaya. Plane: Shahak (Mirage) no. 82. Location: Ismailia. Result: MiG-17 shot down with cannon.

Giora Even (Epstein) Around June, when the War of Attrition was at its peak and the armor and infantry were pressed to their limits, the IDF decided to involve the IAF. In preparation for air-to-surface attacks, several battles were initiated around Jebel Jalala, in order to make our aerial superiority known to the Egyptians. Then, after a large number of enemy planes had been shot down - with the 'First Combat' Squadron still playing a minor role in all this - the IAF was given the challenge of paralyzing Egypt's artillery. The first operation began on July 20th, and began with the destruction of the few SA-2 sites in the area, followed by massive attacks on all of the enemy artillery, armor and infantry forces in the Canal zone.

At the time, the 'First Combat' Squadron was in Refidim with a sextet in readiness: Yoeli - Shohat, Epstein - Bnaya, Spector - Gordon. In the noon hours, in the break between our attacks, the Egyptians put a few formations into the air, for attacks. Yoeli - Shohat were scrambled first, towards Ismailia, and we were scrambled right after them. We were directed straight to a rendezvous east of the Canal.

We accelerated and threw off the detachable fuel tanks. In the Canal zone, we found a MiG-17 quartet returning west, with Yoeli and Shohat taking on the rear pair. Yoeli shot one of them and immediately hit his wing and shot him down. Shohat sat on the other one and started fighting him, while the front pair broke away and disappeared westward. The MiG passed the Canal westward, and from this moment onward the dogfight was between us four and him, with everything happening right over the city. Shohat fought him for about three or four minutes, during which he was behind him at good range but a very high G. He kept missing him, until he ran out of ammunition. Yoeli then announced he was going in, but he came in too fast and overflew the MiG.

I went in, latched on to him at a range of 250-350 and started trying to hit him. The speed was about 400 plus, the G was very high throughout, the sights were low. I tried a few bursts, but despite the good tracking, there were no hits. I kept chasing him until he switched his tilt once. Then I gave a long burst that hit the tail between the altitude rudder and the directional flap. That part [of the plane] appeared to be crushed, and the MiG immediately ceased to maneuver. There was no fire and it didn't blow up. I left him and told Bnaya to go in. Yoeli went in, but he was out of bullets. Bnaya went in, but that same second the MiG turned over and, from an altitude of about 1000 feet, dove into the ground at a 90 degree angle and exploded. The pilot did not bail out. I followed him [with my gaze] all the way down to the ground and I saw the pilot sitting inside. Apparently he had been hit, or his controls had completely gone.

The War of Attrition, 11.9.69

Location: southeast of Bilbis, Downed Plane: an Egyptian Sukhoi-7 Time: 13:00 at 11.9.1969 Formation: Epstein - Gonen. Plane: Shahak (Mirage) no. 59. Location: southeast of Bilbis. Result: Sukhoi-7 shot down with cannon.

Giora Even (Epstein) That morning I was scheduled to go on leave. The period: the peak of the War of Attrition. The IAF is constantly attacking - the Egyptians respond sometimes. That day we were planning some serious attacks, so I postponed my vacation. At noon I went out with Gonen on a regular Western Sinai patrol. We roamed around for about half an hour, and then - when we were in the vicinity of the Mitleh - we were informed by the controller that there was an enemy attack near Ras Sudar. We started flying south at 20,000 feet. When we were above Suez I discovered what looked like four planes to the west, about 24 miles away from us. I informed the controller [of establishing] eye contact, we dumped the large bidons and gave chase. We accelerated to 700 knots in a dive and galloped side by side. I saw them going into a wadi to the northwest and flying at low altitude, fast, in two pairs, in a column.

We passed the Suez-Cairo road under the high voltage wires. Gradually, the distance between us and the rear pair grew shorter. I closed in on the last plane, to a range of 250 meters, and with a good burst I blew him up. He crashed into the ground and spilled flat on his back, with no bail-out. Apparently, the pilot had been hit or he hadn't had time to eject. [The Egyptian] Number One, who was about 100 meters ahead, apparently had not seen what happened, and kept on flying. I told Gonen he was his for the taking.

Gonen informed me he was shooting. Suddenly I saw bursts beneath us, like AA fire. I warned Gonen, but he said those were his bullets. I looked back and saw Gonen shooting from far behind us. I told him to stop and get closer, but he said he had depleted his ammunition and was going out to the side. I went right in after the Sukhoi, and just when I lifted the trigger and was about to shoot he apparently realized what was happening - finally - and bailed out of the plane, at very high speed and low altitude. I pulled and saw him spilling on the ground, with the chute only partially open. It's unlikely he survived.

The War of Attrition, 25.3.70

Location: north of Ismailia, Downed Plane: two Egyptian MiG-21s Time: 25.3.1970. Formation: Epstein - Tzuk with Marom - Baharav. Plane: Shahak (Mirage) No. 77. Location: north of Ismailia. Result: two MiG-21s shot down with cannon.

On March 16th, ten days before the dogfight, there was a decision about initiating a combined Kurnas [Phantom] - Shahak aerial battle and shooting down MiGs. A quartet was named: Hetz - Ben Eliyahu from 'The One' Squadron and Sharon - Epstein. Following a joint briefing, we went out on the mission. We approached the Canal at very low altitude, then pulled upward - and were immediately directed to face a MiG patrol. I was the first to establish eye contact and reported this to Hetz. They also established eye contact and pulled to a high altitude; me and Sharon went in [to confront] the MiGs.

There was a quartet [of MiGs] which split up into two pairs, and each of us took on a pair. Sharon gave chase but did not close in, and I went straight to missile range, shot an excellent missile from 800 [meters] behind [the MiG]. It detonated very close to the MiG, which lost an afterburner. I was certain that he was hit - and would eventually fall. I let go of him, closed in on another [plane] and shot cannon fire at him from 400 [meters]. I missed.

I cut westward, saw that I was clean and that the others were still in the dogfight, and went right back. I saw a pair of MiGs, went in after them, closed in to a range of 200 meters and shot off all of the ammunition, well-aimed, but without hitting the target. I announced 'finishing ammunition' and let go of him. Hetz moved in on him but lost him. Meantime, a MiG that Sharon was chasing (probably the one that had been hit by my missile) went into the ground. The controller instructed us to end the confrontation and come home. I went back, frustrated and upset. It turned out that, besides me, no one had done anything. Eitan [Ben Eliyahu] shot at someone but missed, Hetz and Sharon had not fired missiles and had not shot their cannon. Credit for the MiG that rammed into the ground was given to Sharon.

Luckily for me, nine days later we again went out on a patrol in the Canal, Tzuk and me. We were joined to Agmon, who had come back from an attack. He finished his fuel and went home. That's when Marom and Baharav arrived, and we were teamed up with them to form a quartet.

We patrolled a while, and then received instructions to intercept a MiG quartet which was patrolling to the west of us. I discovered them [and informed] Marom. We passed [them] and I went after a MiG. I closed in slowly. Tzuk requested and received my permission to cut in and go after them. He came in and a chase began, with me covering Tzuk. Meanwhile, Marom went after another MiG and after hitting him with his cannon, knocked him out with a direct hit as an encore. The pilot bailed out, and the rest of the battle raged on around him, with us sometimes passing very close to him, and him waving his arms and legs in an apparent attempt to ask us not to shoot him.

Baharav, who was without a target, was in our vicinity. The controller announced that another MiG quartet was joining the battle from the west, and I saw them coming down on us and going for Tzuk. They launched, I shouted to him to turn hard, he turned hard, and the missile passed him. They kept going at him with cannon, he turned hard and threw them forward. I had been off to the side, and I now went right in and came in right behind them. They were a pair, ranged in combat attack formation. I closed in on the rear [plane] in an upward pull, and gave a medium-length burst at a range of 400 meters. [The plane] exploded and lit up immediately. I immediately went after his number one, who had gone into a sharp split. I ran after him. I closed down range, and at 200 meters, exiting the dive, I shot a burst that hit his left wing. The wing fell off, he went into an uncontrollable spin and rammed into the ground. This whole time, Tzuk was escorting me.

Meanwhile, Baharav had gone after the pair we had let go of, and with a typical burst - firing without using his sights - managed to shoot one of them down. We went back for landing at Refidim. The IDF Chief of General Staff was in Refidim with his entire staff, and he asked to talk to us. The paratroopers on the staff exuded joy and pride - you'd think I was still one of them.

The Yom Kippur War, 18.10.73

Location: Dwer Suer, Downed Plane: Egyptian Mi-8 helicopter Time: 17:00 on 18.10.73. Formation: Epstein - Geva. Plane: Shahak Mirage No. 11. Location: Dwer Suer. Result: an Mi-8 helicopter shot down with cannon.

For me, the Yom Kippur War began with a miscalculation, four months earlier. My thinking was, I was better off going for a position with IAF Staff rather than opting for the Flight School - where I could wind up as an instructor and be transferred from Hatzor. I figured there was no danger of a war breaking out during the period I was to spend in the Staff.

On the Friday before the war I went down to Refidim for Saturday readiness duty. Early Friday evening, 'Cheetah' came in and informed us that he had been placed in command of Refidim. He said there was a very high state of alert and a possibilty of war breaking out the next day. I gathered all of the young guys in, carried out a war briefing and explained the importance of taking the planes out before finding shelter, the dangers of an attack against Refidim, etc.

In the evening we saw films and played cards and went to sleep late, as usual, but there was a feeling that all of it was just exaggerated panic. At first light on Saturday there were already phone calls coming in that said war was a certainty. Furman called me and ordered me to come to the staff HQ immediately. The squadron arranged for Tzuk to come and pick me up at 09:00 - and for Tzuk to take my place at Nevatim.

Feeling heavy hearted and shamed, I galloped home, passing over the kibbutz, waving hello to Sarah and the kids, who were there, and went on toward the HQ, which I reached at 11:00. I only got to fly about seven days during the war - and they wouldn't have given me that, either, if I hadn't fought them desperately and threatened to go AWOL.

On the 16th of the month, after having flown twice before (on the 8th and 11th, but without anything special occurring), I came to the squadron again - and this time I was staying. On the 18th, in the afternoon hours, I was on readiness duty with Geva. I asked him to lead, because on all of my previous sorties, I failed to see a single [enemy] plane - while the rest of the guys - even Marom, who had only been there for two days - were dropping MiGs like flies.

Geva was against the idea, and when we were scrambled for patrol it was I who flew lead. After about half an hour of patrolling and just before dusk we were directed to the area of the [Israeli] bridge [across the Suez], to defend against an attack by enemy planes. We arrived, executed a pass and saw nothing. Suddenly, on a turn, I saw a napalm blast on the ground which lit up one of our APCs. By the light from the blast, I could see a helicopter. I informed the controller and he told me that it wasn't ours, and that I should shoot it down. I turned sharply, decreased speed, went into a pass on him and shot from 1,100 meters. I reaimed a bit further forward and it went up in flames immediately, and crashed onto the Great Lake.

Since I was supposed to go down to Refidim that evening anyways, I landed at Refidim and stayed there for readiness duty. To be honest: the feeling was one of relief. At long last I had a victory in this war, even if it was only a helicopter. After the war, I visited the place. I found the pilots' graves and the remains of the helicopter, and took some of the pieces as souvenirs.

The Yom Kippur War, 19.10.73 (13:15)

Location: Dwer Suer, Downed Plane: two Egyptian Sukhoi-7s Time: 13:15 on 19.10.1973. Formation: Epstein - Dror. Plane: Nesher No. 61. Location: Dwer Suer. Result: two Sukhoi-7s shot down. One with a missile, the other with cannon.

After staying in Refidim for two days of readiness duty, I was assigned to the readiness pairs, along with the rest of the guys. At about 10:00, two pairs were scrambled towards the Canal for an attack. [They] met some Sukhois and MiG-17s and shot down a few of them. We were scrambled to patrol after their dogfight was over, and held the skies until other formations came in from the north to replace us. At noon we were again in readiness duty. We were scrambled to head off an Egyptian attack in the Dwer Suer area, above the bridge.

We ran very fast and reached the lake before the aggressors did. The speed was great, and when we saw [the enemy planes] turning in from the west, there was no way we could come in on them. I had to execute a 270 [degree turn] to the left, while pulling above the lake, in order to place myself behind them. They were four pairs in a column, all of them rocket-armed Sukhoi-7s.

We saw them coming in from south to north along the Canal, near the bridge. The huge concentration of our vehicles and tanks stood there, in lines. I saw a bus go up in flames after being hit by a rocket. I moved in against the third pair in the column and immediately fired a missile on the rear plane. It was hit, blew up and fell into the Canal. His Number Four cut hard to the left and got away without releasing his munitions. I let him go and continued to chase after the second pair, which had just come out of the attack run. We were going west. I still had the detachable belly fuel tank on me, and was going too fast to let go of it now. I kept up the chase, and closed in slowly, until the range was down to 300 meters. The pilot carried out sharp turns to the sides at very low altitude and at high speed. Because of the speed and the plane I was flying I couldn't really aim well. I tried a few small bursts and missed.

I decided to continue the chase up to the Egyptian AA defense's front line. I kept going after him, like that, until we were 10 - 15 miles from the Canal, and then, when he was carrying out one of his sharp turns, I put a bead on his line of flight, shot a long burst and broke sharply eastward, homeward. I didn't know if I had hit [the plane], and then, during the turn, I 'dropped' my right wing and saw him spill and explode on the ground in a huge [explosion] of napalm. I returned to the Canal and met Dror, who had also been chasing after a pair, but they were clever enough not to turn to the sides, and he was unable to close in on them.

The Yom Kippur War, 19.10.73 (16:30)

Location: Dwer Suer, Downed Plane: two Egyptian Sukhoi-20s Time: 16:30 on 19.10.1973. Formation: Epstein - Dror, Harish - Edres. Plane: Nesher No. 61. Location: Dwer Suer. Result: two Sukhoi-20s shot down, one with a missile, the other with cannon.

In the afternoon I was on readiness again. Just before 16:30 Yigal Ziv came on the phone and announced that he was sending us in a quartet to head off an attack that was approaching the bridge. We were scrambled in a quartet. After we finished the flight westward, we were told that we were to join forces with a patrol from 'The One' squadron, which had been circling at low altitude over the lake. I had learned my lesson in the afternoon, and this time I approached at lower speed.

When we reached the lake, we saw the Phantoms. We began joining them, when we suddenly discovered a pair of unidentified planes pulling in from the south, in a leftward turn to the west, to an altitude of about 8,000 [feet]. I reported this immediately and we pulled towards them. They looked like MiG-21s to me. I went in right after them and fired a missile on the right-hand [plane]. The missile struck the plane and it exploded.

I started to go for the second one, when I saw the entire row of attackers - about eight to twelve planes - to my south, pulling into attack in a leftward turn near the lake's shore. We immediately let go of the lone [plane] that escaped westward, and turned towards the attackers, while reporting to the Phantoms. I got set to go for a Sukhoi, when Number Two requested permission to go in ahead of me. I gave my okay, but it turned out he was referring to a different pair, and he dove in after them. This pair was going after a pair of Kurnas Phantoms from 'The One' Squadron. The Sukhois began closing in on them, and all of our shouting on the radio did not help - but in the end, my Number Two hit one of them, and the second one escaped.

I went after my [Sukhoi] and at a range of about 400 [meters], when we were about to open fire, Number Three suddenly butted in and announced that he was taking him. I didn't have any choice and gave the okay. He fired a missile from very close range, which missed, of course, and went on past the Sukhoi. I went on after the Sukhoi, which swerved hard to the right and pulled upward. At about 250 - 300 meters, I shot a burst at it, which immediately hit it. It exploded, turned over and fell into the lake.

I turned to search for more targets and discovered a quartet of Sukhois escaping westward. A pair of Phantoms was chasing the northern pair [of Sukhois]. I went in after the southern pair and began closing in on them, when the rear one suddenly spilled on the ground. The second one was far away from me, and disappeared off to the west. I joined the Kurnas Phantoms and saw Zohar shooting down a Sukhoi-7 with a missile. Huldai fired a missile at another Sukhoi; it missed, but the Sukhoi turned too hard and slammed into the ground. We reorganized ourselves into formation on the eastern side of the Canal, and returned for landing.

In the debriefing, later that day, after watching the films from the planes' weapon systems, it turned out that the planes I had shot down were Sukhoi-20s. All in all, we shot down 15 planes at Refidim. In the evening, [singers] Yaffa Yarkoni, Arik Lavi and several other artists came by and organized a quite cheerful party. Yaffa had brought some cakes with her from the north.

The Yom Kippur War, 20.10.73

Location: Southwest of the Great Bitter Lake, Downed Plane: four Egyptian MiG-21s Time: 16:30 on 20.10.1973 Formation: Epstein - Edres, Geva - Kal. Plane: Nesher no. 61. Location: Southwest of the Great Bitter Lake. Result: four MiG-21s shot down. One with a missile, three with cannon.

My second day at Refidim, and again I was on readiness, while the other pilots were being scrambled into battle and shooting down MiGs. We were sent out on patrol to pass the time until the planes arrived from the north. If we were to go by the previous day's experience, it was clear that if there was an attack, it would come in the afternoon. As the appointed hour neared, Yigal Ziv again came on the phone to bring us glad tidings: he was sending us out to [meet] a big attack that was forming near the [Israeli] bridgehead.

We were scrambled in an orderly quartet towards the lake. We reached the area and saw nothing. The controller told us to continue westward. And then, to our southwest, I saw a pair of MiGs pulling from south to north. We dumped our detachable fuel tanks and took a hard right turn towards them. Then I saw something that looked like a whole field of mushrooms sprouting up before my eyes; the whole area to our northwest was filling up with MiG-21s pulling into battle. The first pair we had seen was meant to lure us into battle. I immediately came down on the first pair. I fired a missile at the rear [plane] and it blew up. Edres, my Number Two, announced that he was taking on another pair. He fired and then experienced a stalling propellent. I instructed him to go home. I went after the second MiG. As I was chasing him I saw Geva pass me, sitting on the tail of a MiG at about 200 meters. I asked him why he wasn't shooting him down. He said that he was trying, but kept missing him. Later on, he reported that he had gotten a bit farther away from the MiG, launched a missile and hit it. Kal also chased a MiG, fired and hit it. [He] was not sure whether he had brought it down or not, but his fuel was depleted and he also left the battle. I was on my own now, chasing after the crazy MiG with ten other MiGs all around me.

Finally, I succeeded in hitting it with the cannon and it exploded. I turned left and saw a pair of MiGs closing in on me from behind and shooting like mad from a range of about 500 [meters], at a near 90 degree angle. I broke hard to one side and they flew past me like a pair of missiles. I turned after them straight away, intending to shoot them down, and saw flashes of light ahead. I looked and saw a pair launching head-on missiles at me from a range of about 400 meters.

I bent down... there was nothing else I could do at that stage. The missiles passed and so did the planes. I turned right after them, closed in on the rear plane but then discovered another plane from the formation nearing me from the right side. I came in after it and blew it up with a burst from the cannon. I turned backward right away and again discovered a pair of MiGs coming at me from both sides. I broke hard to the left and then to the right, and they flew forward past me. I closed in on them and fired my second missile on the rear plane but for some reason it just dropped straight downward, as if it was a bidon rather than a missile.

The range had widened by now, so I let them go and went back again. I discovered another pair [of MiGs]. I came after the rear MiG and when he was on his back, at the climax of his pull, I shot a small burst into him. He was hit in the cockpit, and I followed him [with my gaze] from an altitude of about 10,000 feet to the ground. It seems the pilot had been hit.

I broke away again and saw no one. The skies were suddenly totally clean: no MiGs, no puffs of smoke, no parachutes, nothing. I was low on fuel, and as for the ammo - I had about 30 shells remaining in each cannon. I decided that four down in a single dogfight was enough. I turned east at low altitude. I crossed the Canal and headed home.

After landing, I was unable to get up from my seat. It turned out that the dogfight - which had been long and accompanied by high G throughout - had tired me out; my legs shook and they refused to stand. The mechanics pounced on me and took me out of the cockpit. I hadn't calmed down before Baharav came and informed me that he had been sent to replace me at Refidim, and that the staff wanted me to return and help them out.

All in all, in the 48 hours I had spent in the area, from 17:00 on 18.10 till 16:30 at 20.10, I had participated in four encounters, and managed to shoot down nine aircraft: an Mi-8, two Sukhoi-7s, two Sukhoi-20s and four MiG-21s. That same evening, I was back at the staff HQ. Truth be told - I felt much better now. At least I had managed to accomplish something in this war. Benny [Peled, IAF Commander] started hugging and kissing me - how embarrassing...

The Yom Kippur War, 24.10.73

Location: west of the Great Bitter Lake, Downed Plane: three Egyptian MiG-21s Time: 17:00 on 24.10.1973 Formation: Epstein - Sever, Shalmon - Tzuk Location: west of the Great Bitter Lake. Result: three MiG-21s shot down, two with missiles, one with cannon.

On the 20th [of October 1973], after I came back from Refidim, they were already talking about a ceasefire, and I felt that, as far as I was concerned, [the war] was over. Although I'd had the opportunity to fight and shoot down planes, I hadn't gotten to experience the real war experience, of life in the squadron, and everything that went along with that. I felt frustrated.

On the 22nd [of October], in the afternoon, I was on readiness duty at the squadron again. This was after two days of resultless 'ironing' [patrolling], during which the guys at Refidim kept shooting down planes steadfastedly. Just before the appointed takeoff time, another pair was added to our patrol. The team that resulted from this was the best anyone could have assembled. All four of us were readiness-quartet leaders, all seasoned and experienced, and the [combined] total of MiGs we had shot down was about 35. In accordance with the controller's instructions, we took off and flew fuel-thrifty to the Canal, to take over for a quartet from the 'Guardians of the Arava' Squadron. It was clear that we were expected to 'turn off the sun' [i.e., patrol until nightfall].

When we arrived in the area we were put on the 'Guardians of the Arava' radio channel, and they were instructed to go home. As they were preparing to leave, and we prepared to go in, the controller started shouting to them [to head] for an encounter at 220 degrees. I immediately asked him - what about us? He was cruelly indifferent: "you guys clear the channel and keep patrolling". I immediately turned towards what seemed like the direction of the impending battle, and I informed him that we were heading towards the battle and were not clearing the channel.

Again, I asked for coordinates and did not receive any. We accelerated, threw off wing bidons and trotted southwest, towards Jebel Ubeid. In front of the lake, we saw a pair flying in an easterly climb. We weren't sure who these guys were, but they looked like Mirages. We turned west some more and saw two midair explosions at a distance, and a bit further on, three big explosions on the ground. It was obvious this was the scene of the dogfight.

We turned and got near. Straight off, we saw a large number of MiGs and four to six Mirages in a dogfight. I made out a pair and sprinted towards them immediately. I fired a missile which reached the target and exploded, but failed to light up the MiG, which continued flying, trailing a plume of white smoke and a stream of fuel. I regretted having to waste my time on a stricken MiG. I cut him off and closed in for cannon attack. When I was 500 meters away from him, the pilot seemed to understand he was wasting his time - and would be wasting his life - and ejected. I said 'thank you' to him on the radio, and immediately turned towards another MiG that was passing in the vicinity.

I closed on him in a turn, and after a few maneuvers reached a good position for a dive and missile launch. I launched, the missile veered, passed in front of me and caused me to experience a stalling propllent. I shut my engine and reported on the radio. I heard Menahem next to me, reporting he had eye contact with [the MiG]. I gave him the okay and pulled straight upward, towards a MiG that was passing from left to right. I saw a Mirage shooting at him and then leaving him alone, though the MiG was still whole and flying. I asked him why, and he said the MiG was pilotless. I got closer and saw that the MiG, though intact and flying smoothly with no sign of fire or smoke, indeed had nobody in the cockpit. It may have been my MiG, whose pilot had ditched at high altitude earlier. I discovered yet another MiG, and after a few sharp up-and-down maneuvers I closed in on him and hit him with cannon.

Suddenly it was quiet again. No planes, no nothing. Just me, alone in the skies. I had plenty of fuel - about 2,000 liters, around 90 shells in each cannon and I hadn't tossed off my belly bidon. I asked the controller for additional targets but he reported there were none.