Ofira Air Battle - Prelude


In the summer of 1973, Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 accidentally flew over the Sinai. It was intercepted by the IAF and ordered to land but refused and was subsequently shot down. IAF high command feared this might lead to a reprisal against El-Al aircraft en route to South Africa and back and therefore maintained fighter aircraft on quick reaction alert (QRA) at Ofir. These aircraft were also meant to counter the threat posed to the small Israeli Navy Red Sea flotilla and the Hawk missile batteries guarding the Red Sea straits from Egyptian MiGs at Hurghada. Base commander at the time was Ya'acov 'Yak' Nevo.

Two IAF 107 Squadron F-4E Phantoms were present at Ofir on Yom Kippur, October 6, 1973, when war broke out. These were manned by four airmen: pilot Amir Nahumi with navigator Yossi Yavin and pilot Daniel Shaki with navigator David Regev, all relatively inexperienced at the time. At 9:00 AM they were issued a red alert by the controller. At 1:50 PM the sirens were sounded. Several approaching low-flying formations were spotted on radar, yet the controller did not scramble the pair, failing to realise the significance of the attack. No longer waiting for the order to scramble, Nahumi ordered the mechanics to start the up planes and took off. Shaki joined him. Nahumi later described the scene:

I decided to take off, and seconds later the runway was bombed. Had we waited any longer we would have been unable to do so. There were seven four-ship formations of MiG-17s and MiG-21s.

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