The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Sunday 13 December said good bye to the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk after 48 years of service. A formation flight flew over all IAF bases on Sunday morning. The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master takes over the A-4’s training duties.
The Skyhawks flew for the final time from Hatzerim airbase, witnessed by many active and former IAF-personnel. Virtually every pilot in the IAF flew the A-4 at one time or another, as the type was reponsible for pilot training over the last decades. It was applauded for its reliability during the farewell ceremony.
The first Skyhawk – called Ayit ( Eagle) in Hebrew – arrived in Israel on 29 December 1967 when the first four were unloaded from a ship in Haifa harbour. The type saw combat during various conflicts between Israel and its neighbouring states from 1967 until 1970. During the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Skyhawks flew 1,000 operational sorties.
In the nineties, 102 The Flying Tigers squadron, a long time Skyhawk user, was transformed into a flight school for future pilots and weapons operators. A large number of Skyhawks was sold to new users, among them various companies providing training assets to Western air forces.
On 9 July 2014, the first Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Masters arrived in Israel. Just months later, a new Flight Training Center for the new, Italian made trainer jet was ready for use, marking the beginning of the end for the A-4.
Close to 20 of 30 M-346 trainer jets ordered, have been delivered so far. Last June, the first student pilots earned their wings on the Skyhawk’s replacement.
The A-4 now only remains in use in Argentina and Brazil. The first of 12 Skyhawks was re-delivered to the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) earlier this year after being upgraded.
© 2015 Airheadfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A set of Skyhawks awaits take off clearance. (Image © IAF