Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Review: Israeli Air Force Tayeset 119: Ha'Atalef - The Bat Squadron

Shlomo Aloni
Israeli Air Force Tayeset 119: Ha'Atalef - The Bat Squadron
Erlangen, Germany: AirDOC, 2007
Category: Israel Air Force - History

Rating: 4-Stars

This thin, unusual volume is focused on the history of "Tayeset 119", Israel's 119th Fighter Squadron: the Bats.  The Bat squadron was Israel's premier night fighter squadron, beginning with its formation in 1956 with the delivery of radar-equipped Meteor NF.13 fighters.  These were augmented later by the Vautour IIN.

Where the Bat squadron came into its own, however, was with the delivery of the Mirage III in the 1960s.  In 1964 the Bat squadron was re-commissioned as Israel's third Mirage fighter squadron.  Most importantly, however, it was also designated as Israel's Mirage reconnaissance squadron.  In the ensuing years, the pilots of the 119 would fly countless photo reconnaissance flights across hostile air space, penetrating at low altitude, and collecting the intelligence that would prove crucial to the successful execution of the opening attack on Egyptian air bases during the 1967 Six Day War.

It was during this period, under the leadership of legendary squadron commander Ran Ronen, that the Bat squadron became Israel's preeminent fighter squadron: the only squadron to survive the Six Day War without a single air combat loss.  It is this historical context that makes the story of the 119 squadron so unique, and worthy of retelling.

This unusual book happens to be published in both English and German.  A slim volume at only 64 pages long, it nonetheless packs an impressive collection of photographs, together with the kind of first-hand accounts and interviews that author Shlomo Aloni has been known for.  It concludes with appendices detailing the aerial victories and losses ascribed to the squadron.

The 119 would go on to fly the F-4 Phantom beginning in 1970, and was eventually reformed to fly the F-16I at the turn of the century.  The long history of the men of this squadron, their bravery, and their determination, has made this one of Israel's most famous combat units.

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