|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
15 - 21 October 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Mock battle marks Air Force Day
The event was held at the air defence force shooting grounds along the Cairo-Alexandria desert highway. After the mock battle, a formation of Mirage-5 warplanes appeared in the sky on a reconnaissance mission. Another formation of F-16 jet fighters followed. Then an early warning E2C plane emerged under the protection of a formation of Mirage-2000 fighters. The Mirage-2000s attempted to engage the F-16s in order to ward off an attack against the E2C.
As the attack against the airbase began, a formation of Phantom F-4s bombed the beginning and end of the runway to prevent "enemy" warplanes from taking off. A formation of Mirage-5s followed, destroying the runway completely. Then came a formation of F-16's that destroyed the air defence command and weaponry. Anti-armour Apache helicopters finished off any remaining resistance, as C-130 heavy transports dropped paratroopers who seized the airbase and its equipment.
The mock battle was followed by a show of individual skills staged by nine warplanes that flew in a circle, then in the shape of an upside-down pyramid, then diverged to left and right before flying in opposite directions at great speed.
Also featured were anti-aircraft missiles, including the Soviet SAM-6, Egyptian-Italian Amoun, American Hawk and Chapparal and Egyptian Hawkeye.
Air Force Day marks the Mansoura battle of 14 October 1973, in which Israel lost 18 warplanes. At the time, former Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. [retired] Ahmed Nasr was commander of the Mansoura airbase. He told Al-Ahram Weekly that Israel's objective was to destroy air squadron 104, stationed at Mansoura, in order to open up Egyptian air space to its air force. After Israel lost 18 warplanes in the battle, the other planes dropped their load into the sea and fled. He said the battle lasted 53 minutes, which is a world record.
Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shafik said at a news conference that the air force has advanced tremendously since the 1973 War, and is now capable of carrying out any mission in any direction.
Efforts to upgrade the air force combat efficiency had begun immediately after the 1967 defeat. New Soviet-made warplanes, including MiG-21 jet fighters, Sukhoi-7 and Sukhoi-20 fighter-bombers and Tu-16 heavy bombers were bought.
Following the 1973 War, the air force diversified its armament sources, buying warplanes from both East and West. The new acquisitions included: British Commando and C-King helicopters, French Mirage-5 and Mirage-2000 warplanes, French Gazelle helicopters, American F-4 and F-16 jet fighters, American C-130 transports and Chinese F-6 and F-7 fighters.