David Weinrich
David Weinrich

Momentum for change gathers pace

101 Squadron move home

Formed in 1948 with Avia S-199s, 101 Squadron Israel Air Force (IAF) aka the “First Fighter Squadron” left Hatzor Air Force Base (AFB) Monday morning June 21st to begin a new life at Ramat David AFB. Continuing their tradition of single-engine single-seater fighter aircraft the squadron currently flies Block 40 Lockheed Martin F-16C fighter-bombers known as “Barak” in IAF service, 30 of which were delivered under “Peace Marble III” in the early 1990s.

F-16C from 101 squadron on static display at Hatzor AFB (all pictures by Author)

After the Avias — which were only operated for just a few months – the squadron received  Supermarine Spitfires and North American P-51 Mustangs when 101 spent some time-based at Ramat David, before entering the jet age at Hatzor with Dassault Mystere IVs in 1956, followed by Mirage IIIs and Mirage Vs (aka IAI Nesher). From 1948 until the arrival in 1975 of the first Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir the unit scored over 100 air-to-air victories. The Kfir however was a hybrid Mirage V airframe with an American J-79 engine (which also powered the IAFs F-4E Phantom aircraft) and was initially unpopular with the squadron. Although later Kfirs were modified to improve maneuverability, they were soon replaced in the IAF air-superiority role by American-made F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

An F-16 taxis for take-off negotiating the typical rush-hour traffic

The units markings have remained basically stable since inception; I remember a conversation with the late Lou Lenart, the American-Israeli pioneer pilot and squadron leader where he talked about an evening spent at a Tel Aviv café with Modi Alon and some other early squadron members and their discussion about a squadron badge. This was a new concept for the Israelis so Lenart sketched the skull symbol more usually associated with pirates, which is what he said they all basically were, on a napkin, a design which is still in use and adorns the aircraft tails incorporated into a more modern “low visibility” design.

F-16C tail feathers showing the old and new skull design and traditional red/white flashes

Eight aircraft flew directly to Ramat David including the squadron commander, “sgan aluf” or Lieutenant Colonel whose name was as always withheld for security reasons, whilst other formations using range-extending underwing fuel tanks passed over historic squadron landmarks, including Ad Halom, site of the Avias first mission on 29th May 1948, when they straffed Egyptian ground forces, halting their march on Tel Aviv and “saving the city”.

Fully fueled F-16 takes off ready for the flypast over Ad Halon en-route to Ramat David

101 are due to be joined at Ramat David later this summer by sister squadron 105 (flying two-seat  F-16Ds) thus consolidating all “Barak” units at that base, together with the sole F-16D Block 30 unit, 109 squadron, scheduled to continue in service for a short while, whilst Hazor is readied for an influx of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as part of the IAFs “Momentum for Change” plan. One further change may well involve the infamous aircraft shelters or “submarine pens”, flooded last winter in a highly embarrassing affair for the IAF. The disaster was blamed on a shortage of young Dutch volunteers to put their fingers in the dykes as there were no responsible base personnel on duty at the time.

29,500 pounds of thrust from the afterburning Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 looks like this!

Many thanks of course to the IDF Spokespersons office and Dovrut Heyl ha’Avir for arranging base access for this blogger, and excellent photo facilities as can be seen from the attached images by the author!

About the Author
David Weinrich has dedicated his life to chasing military aircraft for fun, in Europe, the Americas, the Far East and for the past 27 years, at home in Israel. He photographs them, underlines them in his books (quill & parchment, please), escorts foreign "plane spotters" to the farthest corners of Israel and now writes a Blog about them for the Times of Israel.
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