Israeli A-4 Skyhawk Units in Combat
By Shlomo Aloni, illustrated by Jim Laurier
Osprey Combat Aircraft Series Book 81
Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated, 24 color profiles
Published by Osprey Publishing November 2009
Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is one of the classics of aeronautical engineering. It was developed as a carrier-borne light attack aircraft for the U.S. Navy. It was designed by Ed Heinemann and exceeded its design expectations in every respect – it was lighter, smaller, faster, and cheaper than specified. It was also loved by both pilots and ground crews, it was easy to fly, simple to maintain, and could absorb significant punishment. Almost 3,000 were produced.
In addition to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps the Skyhawk was exported to several other air arms, Israel was the largest export customer. The A-4 was intended to replace both the French Mystere and Ourangan in IDF service. This book details the political maneuvering and negotiations which resulted in the initial acquisition of the A-4 in 1965 using first-hand accounts from the participants. I found this process fascinating, and the “What If” crowd will certainly enjoy reading about the multiple aircraft types in consideration for the contract.
The A-4 saw considerable combat while in Israeli service, and these actions are covered well here using pilot interviews and mission summaries. The factors which lead to changes in tactics and adaptations of the aircraft are interesting. There is discussion of the organizational structure of the Israeli Air Force and the evolving mission tasking of the Skyhawk force. It was surprising to see how suddenly the shifts in personnel were conducted, in many cases squadron Commanding Officers were shifted overnight.
The book covers Skyhawk service in the IDF through several major conflicts – the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War, along with more limited actions against the PLA and in Lebanon. This is an interesting narrative which did not get bogged down in dry mission statistics but struck a good balance between first hand accounts and keeping the larger strategic picture in focus. One of the better volumes in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft Series.