How Israeli F-15s and F-16s Decimated the Syrian Air Force 88-13

How Israeli F-15s and F-16s Decimated the Syrian Air Force 88-13

Dario Leone



Fighting was heavy and in spite of Israeli pleas for the Syrians to stand aside, the two sides clashed in a series of engagements and Israeli fighters shot down seven Syrian MiGs in the first three days of the campaign.

By June 1982, the Lebanese Civil War had been going on — off and on — for seven years. It began as a conflict between Christian Planange Party militia and various Muslim factions, including, the PLO (which had been in Lebanon since 1970, following its ousting from Jordan). As explained by Steve Davies and Doug Dildy in their book F-15 Eagle Engaged,  in May 1976 the Syrians added their troops, tanks and aircraft to the mix, ostensibly to stabilize the situation but ultimately to support the Muslim factions and PLO, securing the Damascus—Beirut highway that stretches across central Lebanon. To provide coverage for its south flank — facing Israel — the Syrian 10th Armored Division later deployed across the Bekaa Valley. To protect it from Israeli air raids the Syrians deployed three brigades — totaling 19 batteries — of SAMs. These included two batteries of SA-2s, two of SA-3s and 15 of the new and highly effective SA-6 “Gainful.”

Believing a Christian government in Lebanon was in its interests, Israel supported it while attempting to “punish” the PLO for its occasional bombardments and terrorist attacks against Israeli coastal and northern border settlements. Knowing that it might eventually have to push the PLO, and their Syrian “protectors” out of southern Lebanon, the IAF kept up a pattern of reconnaissance missions that kept watch over PLO bases and movements as well as photographing Syrian SAM battery positions, and collected “electronic order of battle” (i.e. radar frequencies, reaction times, etc.) information. Since overflight of the SAM sites was extremely risky, the Israelis resorted to using their Ryan Teledyne Firebee II reconnaissance drones.

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