Israeli Air Force Light Aircraft
In the 1930s the Polish firm of Drzewiecki Rogalski and Wigura was a world leader in high performance high wing monoplanes. First flown in
1935, the three seat R.W.D 13 was an excellent short takeoff and landing aircraft with folding wings. Among its operators were the Romanian,
Yugoslav and Spanish Nationalist air forces. The first R.W.D 13 in Palestine was actually a visiting Polish aircraft which landed in Tel Aviv
on June 15th 1936, a notable occasion because it was the first aircraft to land at the first Hebrew city in Palestine.
Two R.W.D 13s were purchased by the first Jewish airline in Palestine, "Aviron", in 1938 and were operated out of Lod Airport. The two
aircraft (British mandatory registrations VQ-PAL & VQ-PAM) were employed by the airline until January 1947 when they were sold to two private
operators. On November 2nd 1947 the Jewish leadership in Palestine decided to form the "Shirut Avir" (Air Service), the IAF's predecessor,
and an agreement with the two owners allowed the "Shirut Avir" to operate the two aircraft. Less than a month later the U.N. voted to
partition Palestine into two separate Jewish and Arab states and the Israeli War of Independence broke out. On December 13th the aircraft
were smuggled from Lod airport to an airstrip in Northern Tel-Aviv after repeated attacks by local Arabs against the airport and its Jewish
work force. Within a month the field was renamed Sde-Dov and became the first Jewish air base, home to the R.W.Ds for the rest of the war.
Throughout the War of Independence the R.W.Ds were employed in the transport, observation and liaison role, delievering supplies to besieged
Israeli settlements, providing Israeli forces with equippment and ammunition and evacuating the wounded.
On December 17th 1947 the R.W.D became the first Israeli aircraft to fly combat action. Piloted by Pinhas Ben-Porat the aircraft left for a
Jewish settlement in the Negev with a doctor on board to treat the wounded from an Arab attack against a Jewish convoy. Once on location they
discovered that the wounded had already been evacuated and were about to return to Tel Aviv when they were informed of an ongoing attack
against the nearby settlement of Nevatim (home to an IAF airbase a few decades later). The pilot then removed the two doors and installed a
machine gun on board the aircraft, in a way that made sure bullets would not hit any part of the airframe. Leaving the doctor behind, the
pilot and a gun operator then left for Nevatim. The R.W.D overflew the attacking Arabs, straffing and dropping hand grenades. The Arabs,
totally unprepared for the sudden attack from the air, fled from the scene. Ben-Porat then landed at Nevatim and evacuated one of the wounded.
The first combat action by an aircraft in the War of Independence had such an impact that the British, still in control of Palestine at the
time, declared that any Jewish aircraft operating weapons would be shot down without warning. (Pinhas Ben-Porat was the pilot of an El-Al
Constellation brought down over Bulgaria in 1955)
Throughout January 1948 the R.W.Ds flew the majority of airdrops over the besieged Gush Ezion, dropping medical supplies and ammunition while
in March they were active in Northern Israel. February 5th saw the R.W.D employed as a makeshift gunship once again, this time in pursuit of
a Palmach armoured vehicle captured by Arab forces in the south. On March 25th one R.W.D 13 crash landed in Gush Ezion but was quickly
returned to service. The aircraft would see additional service around the beleagured region prior to its surrender in mid-May, with at least
one additional occasion on which it was used as a gunship on May 12th.
On April 20th the "Shirut Avir" was re-organized and various squadrons were set up. One R.W.D 13 (VQ-PAL) went to the No. 4 "Arie" (Lion)
photo reconnaissance squadron while the other (VQ-PAM) went to the No 1 "Namer" (Leopard) squadron. An R.W.D 13 was temporarily taken out of
service in early May after shots were fired at it while on the ground at Tel Aviv.
VQ-PAL suffered extensive damage when Royal Egyptian Air Force Spitfires struck Sde Dov on May 15th 1948, a day after the Israeli declaration
of independence. When VQ-PAM crash landed two days later the R.W.Ds were temporarily out of service. Although neither was in airworthy
condition in late May, when the entire IAF fleet was re-serialled following the official formation of the IAF, the two aircraft received the
serials A-33 (PAM?) and A-34. A-33 was flying again by June and reportedly soldiered on until Janury 1949 despite several periods of
incapacity, yet A-34 apparently never flew again. When IAF serials were changed once again
in late November 1948 the two R.W.Ds received the serials 80301 (A-33) and 80302 (A-34). Both were still officialy in service in February 1949,
though neither was flying. They were finally retired sometime in 1949.
Specification: R.W.D 13
Type: light utility & liaison aircraft.
Powerplant: one de Havilland Walter Gypsy Major.
Performance: max speed - 210km/h, range - 900km.
Weights: empty - 800kg, max takeoff - 930kg.
Dimensions: length - 7.85m, height - 2.05m, span - 11.5m.
Designed in R.W.D's Warsaw plant between 1935 and 1936, the R.W.D 15 was a 5 seat touring airplane.
In 1939, One R.W.D 15 was contributed to the Jewish population of Palestine by Polish Jewry and was operated by "Aviron", one of the first airlines in Palestine. The R.W.D 15 was the largest single engined aircraft operated by "Aviron" and carried the registration VQ-PAE. "Aviron" employed the aircraft on both its local and international routes, local routes included daily flights between Lod and Haifa while international routes included flights to Egypt. In 1941 it was even suggested that the type would fly to the Iraqi city of Basra, but this was rejected by British authorities.
The beginning of the Israeli War of Independence in late 1947 brought about Arab attacks against the Jewish workforce of Lod Airport, home to the "Aviron" fleet. On December 13th 1947, the entire "Aviron" fleet left Lod for Tel-Aviv airport, later renamed Sde-Dov. The R.W.D 15 however, was scheduled to be recertified in February 1948 and was undergoing repairs in an airport hangar. On April 13 1948 local Arabs infiltrated the airport and set the R.W.D 15 on fire.
Specification: R.W.D 15
Type: 5 seat light transport and touring monoplane.
Powerplant: one de Havilland Walter Gipsy 6.
Performance: max speed - 240km/h, min speed - 75km/h, rate of climb 4.8m/s, range - 1000km.
Weights: empty - 875kg, max takeoff - 1360kg.
Dimensions: span - 12.40m, length - 9.00m, height - 2.50m.
Avro 625A Anson Mk. I
The Avro Anson first flew in March 1935 and exactly a year later entered service as the RAF's first monoplane with a retractable landing gear. Ansons were the mainstay of Britain's Coastal Command during the early years of World War II, equipping 21 squadrons, and also saw some combat before being replaced by Lockheed Hudsons. The type was limited in its range and fire power and is best known for its training and light transport roles. The Anson was the standard twin engined trainer for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and over 11,000 examples were built, Mk. I production reaching 6,704.
The first Ansons in Palestine were actually RAF examples. During the 1940s the RAF took part in British attempts to block Jewish immigration to Palestine. In a coordinated attack on February 25th 1946, the Jewish underground movements attacked a number of RAF bases, destroying 20 aircraft. Among the aircraft lost were a number of Ansons stationed at Lod airport.
In late 1947 detailed plans were drawn up for the formation of an independent Jewish air force. As the British were still in control of Palestine, the plans initially called for the acquisition of civilian aircraft which could be armed when it was required. Among the aircraft named were Avro Ansons. By February 1948 5 Ansons were purchased in Britain, funded by Dutch millionaire Bernard Van Lear (who also donated the IAF's two Grumman Widgeons), although the British would not yet allow them to leave for Palestine. The aircraft were therefore registered under a fake Australian company and flown to Paris. Carrying an Australian flag and reporting Australia as their destination, the 5 Ansons left for Palestine on April 10th 1948. On the way to a refuelling stop in Italy one aircraft ran out of fuel and crash landed outside Milan. While the other aircraft were on their way to their next refuelling stop at Rhodes, British intelligence had learned of the crashed aircraft which also happened to carry arms and munitions for the Israeli War of Independence. By the time the Ansons had arrived at Rhodes, Britain had already alerted the Greek authorities and the aircraft were confiscated upon their arrival.
One Avro Anson however, did make it to Israel in time to participate in the War of Independence. An Anson acquired in South Africe arrived at Tel Aviv on July 9th 1948, after a long flight through Nigeria, Morocco and southern Europe. The confiscated Ansons finally arrived in Israel during the second half of 1949, released after the end of the war. Much like their colleagues abroad, IAF Ansons were employed training pilots to fly multi engined transports. There were 7 Ansons in service during July 1950 and although reported to be on the way to retirement, there were still some active during March 1956.
The "Australian" Anson which crashed in Italy
Specification: Avro 625A Anson Mk.I
Type: light transport and utility aircraft.
Powerplant: 2 * Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX or XIX.
Performance: max speed - 306km/h, service ceiling - 6,260m.
Weights: empty - 3,035kg, max takeoff - 4,207kg.
Dimensions: length - 12.90m, height - 4.00m, span 17.22m.
Armament: 2 * 7.7 machine guns plus provision for up to 163kg of bombs under the wings.
Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza
One of the most popular light aircraft of all time, Beechcraft's Bonanza was first flown on December 22nd 1945. This amazingly successful aircraft has been in continuous production since 1947 and is one of the few light aircraft still manufactured in the USA. A large number of versions are available, varying in accomodation, performance and even tail design, some equipped with a conventional tail instead of the distinctive V-tail design. The Model 35 was the earliest version of the Bonanza, 1,500 produced during 1947 and 1948.
With the outbreak of the War of Independence in late 1947, the "Haganah" movement formed its own air arm, the "Shirut Avir" (air service). The service initially consisted of a small number of light aircraft, but the increasing needs of the war prompted the "Haganah" to search for more aircraft throughtout the world.
In February 1948 Boris Senior, a former South Africa Air Force pilot recruited by the "Haganah", returned to his homeland to procure aircraft for the "Shirut Avir". South Africa was home to a large and sympathetic Jewish population which had already begun assiting the war effort and was now willing to put up funding to
assist Senior. The money collected allowed Senior to purchase a number of aircraft, including a pair of de Havilland Dragon Rapides, three Fairchild Arguses and 5 DC-3s, as well as a pair of Beechcraft Bonanzas.
On April 3rd the two aircraft left South Africa on the long route to Palestine, flown by Senior and Cyril Katz, another former SAAF pilot. Bad weather over Rhodesia caused the pilots to loose contact with each other and both landed at separate airfields. Katz's Bonanza was damaged upon landing and when Senior
arrived the following day with a mechanic, his Bonanza was damaged as well. After a few days in Rhodesia, one Bonanza was fixed and flown back to South Africa where Senior replaced it with another example. By that
time however, the South African police had begun showing an
interest in Senior's actions and the aircraft was smuggled out of the country by another pilot. Senior received the aircraft in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, and took it from there to Egypt. Hiding his eventual destination, Senior took off for Beirut but headed for the Negev desert instead, where he
refuelled his aircraft before finally arriving at Sde-Dov on May 5th 1948. The second Bonanza arrived the following day, after another harrowing, malfunction-ridden flight.
The two Bonanzas were quickly pressed into service. For lack of more suitable aircraft, the IAF employed many of its light aircraft as bombers and the two Bonanzas, light utility and liaison aircraft, were fitted with 2 underbody hardpoints for 50kg bombs. The aircraft subsequently saw combat on the various fronts of
the War of Independence. During early May 1948, shortly after their arrival, the pair participated in operation "Macabbi" along the road to Jerusalem, while in mid May the Bonanzas flew bombing missions against Palestinians besieging Gush Ezion.
On May 14th Israel declared its independence and was subsequently invaded by the regular armies of its Arab neighbors, in a bid to destroy the new born state. For the first time Israeli forces were not only confronting regular armies but also regular air forces, equipped with fighter aircraft which Israel and the IAF could do nothing against. On the morning of May 15th Egyptian Air Force Spitfires attacked Sde-Dov and managed to destroy a number of aircraft including one of the Bonanzas. On another attack later in the day one of the attacking Spirfires was hit and forced to land on a beach north of Tel-Aviv. The surviving Bonanza took off to find the fighter, and the two men on board, including Boris Senior, captured the downed pilot and his aircraft. The Arab supremacy in the air was so absolute and the distress of the IAF so great that a desperate idea was formulated to counter Arab fighters. As the IAF's fastest aircraft upon the formation of Israel, a machine gun was fitted to the Bonanza's cargo hold and a number of missions were flown to intercept Arab fighters, although these failed completely. The remaining Bonanza also participted in the attack on the Egyptian flotilla barraging Tel-Aviv on June 4th, but with the arrival of fighters in IAF inventory, the Bonanza returned to its original liaison role. Augmented by another example in the beginning of 1949, the Bonanzas continued to play this role for the remainder of the war. They were still in service during December 1952, on the way to retirement.
Specification: Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza
Type: light utility & liaison aircraft.
Powerplant: one Continental E-185-1.
Performance: max speed - 295km/h, service ceiling - 5,200m, range - 1,200km.
Weights: empty - 720kg, max takeoff - 1,200kg.
Dimensions: span - 10.20m, length - 7.65m, height - 1.99m.
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