After 1 year of service in “Sayeret Matkal” (definition can be found below), 32 years of service in the Israeli Air Force, with 4 kills, experience in 3 different aircraft, one ejection (of a malfunctioning F-4 Phantom) and a legendary landing of a one winged F-15, Lieutenant Colonel Y. decided to see how things look from below, and volunteered (at the age of 52) to guard Israel’s borders along with the other “Magav” (translated: border guard) forces. From an interview from the Israel Air Force Magazine, 147th edition in 2002, about his service and his supposedly weird decision:
“I am expected to take some risks. Just being inside a combat aircraft is dangerous. A man who takes off with fuel, bombs and a thousand (Celsius) degrees fire inside his engine has to be a little crazy. Well yes, you can say I am a little bit. However, it’s not the love for Adrenalin which made me do it. I feel that there is no other choice. As a Jew, I cannot accept the idea that in my country stones will be thrown at me. And a person who is not willing to give to his country should take it into account that he may not have a country”.
It was not the first time he chose to “feel reality through his feet”. Back in 1969- almost a year after he started flight course, he decided to leave flight school (because he was not accepted as a fighter pilot) and volunteer to “Sayeret Matkal” (“General Staff Reconnaissance Unit”- the main special forces unit of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), which fills the roles of counter-terrorism, deep reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and hostage rescue- One of the best commando forces in the world). A year later, Israel obtained new fighters, the Phantoms, and he was offered to return to flight school and finish it as a Phantom navigator. He was satisfied with his service in the unit, but one year on the ground did not suffice to make him lose his dream of being a pilot. He agreed and finished the course in July 1971, placed in “The One” Phantom squadron, in which he served during the Yom Kippur War and Lebanon War.
He tells about one of his first fights, just before the Yom Kippur War, which resulted with a kill achieved by another aircraft from his formation: “It was a sensation. I remember it until today: just a few seconds of air-battle, but you fully dedicate yourself, use all your ability, ambitions, education from home… (he explains) You may ask me many questions, which have many answers, but in an aerial fight you don’t have 10 different answers to 10 different questions. There is only one question- did you get hit or not? You are either alive or dead. This question became very realistic at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War”.
He also served the air force during the Lebanon War, but he says that there is no place to compare between them- whereas Yom Kippur War was a huge blow, Lebanon War did not make any impact, and most of the job was done by the F-15s, F-16s and helicopte rs, which did not leave much for the Phantoms.
In 1983, Y. (along with Ziv Nedivi) makes the impossible possible- flying an airplane with only one wing. What made him stay inside? Maybe it was the bitter memory from the Phantom desert in 1975 (in which he lost his friend), or was it because he never knew he lost the whole wing? After all, even he would never try to land an airplane with only one wing- it’s physically impossible!
“It was a regular training day, almost a year after I was converted to F-15 navigation and joined the “Tip of the Sword” squadron. One of the participating Skyhawks went over the allowed altitude, and collided from the plane’s belly. We should have known he would be there. The first thing I thought of was “oh no, we are going to abandon such an expensive airplane”. But than, suddenly, the plane balanced itself. We felt that it is controllable again, partially of course. I could see from the side the spilling fuel vortex and above us flew another airplane which told us how dire the situation was, but somehow we felt confident. We moved the stick and saw that the plane reacts. From that moment we didn’t care how it looked from the outside, we knew we can control it. We checked the fitting controls and speeds for landing and headed towards the base”.