Air War over the Sinai

Air War over the Sinai

The skies over the Sinai Peninsula have seen their fair share of conflict since the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. Following Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948, its Arab neighbors declared war and launched an invasion of the newly formed Jewish state. There was limited action over the Sinai during the period, although the Israelis did launch bombing raids against the Egyptian airfield in El Arish. The first large-scale air campaign over the Sinai occurred in 1956 during the Suez Crisis. When the Israelis launched Operation Kadesh, Israeli Air Force P-51s were used to cut telephones lines in the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli bombers targeted Egyptian positions, and transport aircraft were used to drop paratroopers behind Egyptian lines. Aided by French and British aircraft, the Israelis were able to secure air superiority over the Sinai. Following the conflict, the United Nations established the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) that saw the deployment of peacekeepers to the Sinai.

Conflict erupted again over the Sinai in June 1967. Following the expulsion of the UN peacekeepers from the Sinai, war appeared eminent. The Israelis launched Operation Focus, a surprise attack on its Arab neighbors. The surprise attack caught the Egyptians off guard, and within hours hundreds of Egyptian planes had been destroyed. With the Israelis securing the air space over the Sinai, ground forces were able to overwhelm Egyptian troops. The war came to an end on 10 June, six days after the outbreak of hostilities, with the Israelis having gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. Following the Six Day War, the Israelis and their Arab neighbors fought a low-intensity conflict known as the War of Attrition.

On 6 October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel commencing the Yom Kippur War. After rebuilding their air fleet and acquiring advanced surface-to-air missiles, the Egyptian air force was able to counter the Israelis. While the Israelis were able to achieve a higher kill-ratio than their Egyptian counterparts, losses were significantly higher than previous engagements. The Israelis officially declared the loss of 102 aircraft (from both fronts) during the war, while the Egyptians lost over 230 aircraft.

The Yom Kippur War was the last conflict between Israel and Egypt. Following the Camp David Accords, a peace treaty was signed between Israel and Egypt in 1979. The peace treaty proved valuable for both the Israelis and Egyptians. While Israel had been receiving significant military aid from the United States following the Six Day War, Egypt too began to receive military aid. The Egyptian air force currently possesses over 220 F-16s (American-made fighter jet) as well as a number of other modern fighters and multirole aircraft. The Israelis also have a number of American-made fighters (F-16s, F-15s, and in the future F-35s). While peace remains steadfast between these two nations, given the current state of affairs in the Middle East, there is always a possibility conflict will again erupt over skies of the Sinai.

Look for more information regarding the Yom Kippur War in the future Modern War issue #25 with the article “October War” and join the conversation on Facebook!

About The Author

Kyle is a Military Historian and Managing Editor at Strategy & Tactics Press. A fourth-generation combat Veteran, Kyle retired from the United States Army in 2010. He specializes in military operations from 1945-Present and has written extensively regarding the future of asymmetrical warfare.

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1 Comment

  1. wjc

    There may be peace between Egypt and Israel, but the skies of the Sinai have not been peaceful in recent years. Egyptian Air Force F-16s and helicopters have struck the terrorists first calling themselves Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and now the Islamic State’s Sinai branch. And, if some press reports are true, Israeli armed UAVs have also targeted them too. Ironically, after fighting each other for decades, Egypt and Israel may now be working together against a common enemy.


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