From the beginning, the IAF has demonstrated daring not only in the battle field but also in its creativity, manifested in the creative illustrations IAF personnel drew on their aircraft. For the Jewish Holiday of Purim, on which it is customary to wear costumes and hold festivities – here is a peek into the flying art the IAF used to exhibit in its first years

Vered Talala | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida | Photos: Raanan Weiss Photo Archive

It isn’t difficult to find beautifully painted aircraft around the world, but such aircraft in the IAF – are scarce. IAF aircraft are usually painted in camouflage colors suited to their missions, with the goal of making the aircraft look solid. On the other hand, from the beginning, the IAF has demonstrated daring not only in the battle field but also in its creativity, manifested in the creative illustrations IAF personnel drew on their aircraft. For Purim, we decided to share the stories behind the special aircraft with you.

Flying Micky Mouse and Donald Duck
In the “War of Independence”, between the first strikes the IAF ever executed, the likeness of Donald Duck was painted on an IAF P-51 “Mustang”. The illustration was drawn on a David’s Star in order to express the freedom and disorder that characterized the IAF and Israel’s early days.

For Purim: Flying Art

“It was customary in air forces around the world to draw animated characters on the aircraft and throughout the years, IAF personnel followed the trend and did the same”, shares Raanan Weiss, a graphic designer who has been working with the IAF for many years. “The faces of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were painted on the doors and nose of the Mosquito aircraft in the early fifties, inspired by the aircraft with the creative illustrations from WWII”.

“Drawing characters or symbols on aircraft is a process which stems from a cultural, social and human connection”, explains Avi Moshe Segal, the Curator of the IAF Museum. “Adding a symbol or illustration to your aircraft is a human need which competes with the operational need and as long as isn’t compromised, there is no problem, on the contrary. Painting on aircraft was customary in the past, in a time when there wasn’t any order or discipline, it was an expression of pioneering and first days”.

For Purim: Flying Art

Shark Teeth
In the IAF Museum in Beersheba, between dozens of past and present IAF fighter jets, the single-seated Dassault Ouragan stands proudly. But this Ouragon is like no other – on the planes front, shark teeth are painted on a black and red background. The story of the shark toothed Ouragon begins in Operation “Kadesh” (1956) in the Sinai peninsula. In order to distinguish friendly and unfriendly aircraft, IAF aircraft were marked with yellow and black identification stripes. Simultaneously, the French and British aircraft who took part in the operation were similarly marked.

After the operation, the markings were gradually erased. The Ouragan aircraft were silver so it was easy to remove the operation’s markings. The shark teeth were painted later on the Ouragoa aircraft from the “Hornet” Squadron, on the front part of the aircraft, in order to differentiate the squadron’s aircraft from the IAF’s Mystere aircraft. The squadron’s technical division personnel painted the aircraft in 1957 and thereafter, the Ouragan aircraft left for operational activity with the painting which contributed to their pilot’s combative air in the 50’s.

On Ouragan number 70, an illustration of Mickey Mouse piloting an Ouragan and flying out of a cloud was drawn. “It was a technical division tradition from WWII”, continues Avi Moshe Segal. “When the aircraft were operational and active, they painted artistic symbols and illustrations on them. They were very fearful for their lives, they were very far from home and they felt like they were living their final days, so they painted on the aircraft”.

For Purim: Flying Art

The Big Brother
In the 60’s, commanded by Brig. Gen (Res.) Yaakov Turner, the Vautuor Squadron, which is known as the “Knights of the North” Squadron today, began a new tradition in the IAF of naming each aircraft according to its characteristics and painting the name on the aircraft in red paint with black shadow.
“I had the idea of naming every Vautuor”, shares Turner. “The squadron members drew the names on the top part of the aircraft. Every name given to an aircraft portrayed its unique characteristics. Vautour 33 which was designated for photography missions was named ‘The Big Brother’, because it saw everything. ‘The Big Brother’ was responsible for recon and it photographed the whole Middle East and it is in the IAF Museum to this day. We started the tradition and the other squadrons followed suit”.

About three years ago, for the “Knights of the North” Squadron’s 60 birthday, the squadron’s “Barak” F-16 C/D jets were given the names the Vautours received in the 60s. “I suggested the idea to the squadron commander and he was very enthusiastic”, said Raanan Weiss. “Today, every ‘Barak’ in the squadron has a name on its nose, like the Vautours use to have. One of the Vautours was called ‘The Panther’ because it downed an enemy aircraft and today there is a ‘Barak’ jet in the squadron that shot down an enemy UAV, so we called it ‘Panther'”.