Sinai Campaign

Attacks by Fedayin infiltrators along the border with the southern neighbor, the closure of the Tiran Straits and Egypt’s growing military might – with Soviet assistance – were the reasons for initiating the war. The operation was coordinated, politically and militarily, with France and Britain, which were launching their own offensive, Operation ‘Musketeer’, aimed at taking control of the Suez Canal – which had been nationalized by Egypt’s president Nasser on July 26th 1956.
At the direction of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ben Gurion, three French squadrons were stationed in Ramat David and Lod airfields, for the defense of Israel’s skies.
The IAF first used jet powered planes in the Sinai War. About 50 jets were deployed, alongside a similar number of piston engines planes.
The war began in the early afternoon, when two pairs of Mustangs cut Egyptian telephone wires in the Sinai, in order to disrupt communication between the Egyptian command in the rear and their front lines. This was immediately followed by the IAF’s dropping of 295 paratroopers from 16 Dakotas in the Mitleh passes, in the largest airdrop of troops in the IDF’s history to date (Operation ‘Steamroller’). The airdrop was planned to provide an excuse for the British and French to launch ‘Musketeer’.
In the days that followed, IAF planes crippled Egyptian reinforcement convoys, intercepted enemy planes and defended the forces on the ground from enemy aerial attack. The lighter planes carried out reconnaissance and evacuated casualties. In one of the more famous operations of ‘Kadesh’, Piper pilot Avraham Grinbaum rescued Benny Peled – who went on to become IAF Commander – from Ras Natzrani, after his Mystere had been shot down.
On October 31st, the French and British bombed Egypt’s airfields, and three days later overran Port Said and Port Fuad in the northern Suez Canal. However, following pressure by the UN member nations and the issuing of an ultimatum by the two superpowers, Britain and France had to put an end to the operation, without its goals being fully achieved.
The campaign brought the IAF the realization that its theory of battle and the priorities it had set for itself were essentially sound. The attitude of the IDF’s General Staff to the IAF changed following the war: it became clear that a strong IAF was one of the IDF’s foremost priorities.
Seven Egyptian jets were shot down in dogfights during the war. The IAF lost 15 planes in the fighting.

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