A star ace of the Israeli Air Force is finally being put out to pasture. F-16A 'Netz' (Hawk) tail number 107, one of the first delivered to the IAF, has no less than 6.5 confirmed air-to-air victories, as well as a partial kill on one Iraqi nuclear reactor as part of the daring and historic Operation Opera. Its air-to-air record remains unmatched by any F-16 ever built.
Israel's love affair with the F-16 started upon the type's initial deliveries in 1980. Israel's Block 5 and Block 10 F-16A/Bs were originally destined for Iran, but after the Shah fell and in light of the Camp David agreement with Egypt, Israel was able to accept the jets under the Peace Marble One foreign military sales program.
The F-16A/B fleet ushered in a whole new era of multi-role fighter capability for the Israeli Air Force, one that continues today with close to 300 of the type in IAF service. These range from the original and replenishment stocks of F-16A/Bs 'Netz,' to the higher performance and night attack capable F-16C/D 'Barak,' to the bulging F-16I 'Sufa,' one of the most advanced F-16s ever created and one of the most capable fighters in the world.
The F-16I, with its bulging conformal fuel tanks, electronic countermeasures gear, targeting and navigation pods and enlarged spine, is one of the most capable fighters in the world.
Of all these F-16s, one remains the most famous. According to Israel's Ynetnews.com 107's fabled history goes something like this:
"The Fighting Falcon No. 107 F-16 jet began its history of successful missions on April 21, 1982 when it over threw a Syrian MiG-23... On June 9, 1982, during the First Lebanon War, the famed F-16 shot down two Syrian MiG-23 planes [one was a shared kill as missiles from two IAF jets impacted the same MiG-23]... On June 11, 1982, the No. 107 F-16 jet had its historical day after it shot down two MiG-23 Syrian jets, a Soviet made Sukhoi Su-17, and a Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopter...
Yet one of the biggest capabilities that the F-16 gave the IAF upon their delivery was the ability to preemptively strike at the heart of Saddam Hussein's (then an American ally) nuclear program. Iraq's French-built Osiris reactor was located almost 1,000 miles away from Israeli borders. The F-16s ability to hit targets at relatively long ranges via aerial refueling, high accuracy of its constantly computed impact point bombing system, its ability to sling 2,000lb class weapons, and the fact that it could defend itself against marauding fighters made the long-range mission a risk worth taking. The attack commenced on June 7th, 1981, and Netz #107 was at the center of this historic raid. Till this day, Operation Opera remains one of the most daring demonstrations of air power in history.
After a long and historic career spanning almost 35 years, split between daring combat, front line service and training new F-16 pilots, the most deadly Viper in air-to-air combat ever and one whose logs include Operation Opera, now rests on display at the IAF Museum in Hatzerim after being retired at the end of 2014.
Top and second shot via Wikicommons/Zachi Evanor, museum shot and flying shot is via IAF.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com