Hatzor Airbase (Hebrew: בָּסִיס חֵיל-הַאֲוִויר חָצוֹר) (ICAO: LLHS), also titled Kanaf 4 (lit. Wing 4) is an Israeli Air Force (IAF) base, located in central Israel near kibbutz Hatzor after which it is named. However, there have been no fighter jets stationed there since 2021, only patrol aircraft, UAVs and defense missiles.

Hatzor Israeli Air Force Base
Air Wing 4
בָּסִיס חֵיל-הַאֲוִויר חָצוֹר
Hatzor, Southern District in Israel
Hatzor Airbase is located in Ashkelon region of Israel
Hatzor Airbase
Hatzor Airbase
Shown within Israel
Hatzor Airbase is located in Israel
Hatzor Airbase
Hatzor Airbase
Hatzor Airbase (Israel)
Coordinates31°45′45.00″N 34°43′38.00″E / 31.7625000°N 34.7272222°E / 31.7625000; 34.7272222
Site information
OwnerIsrael Defense Forces
OperatorIsraeli Air Force
Site history
Built1942 RAF / 1948 IAF
In use1942 – present
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: LLHS
Elevation45 metres (148 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
05/23 2,409 metres (7,904 ft) Asphalt
11R/29L 2,451 metres (8,041 ft) Asphalt
11L/29R 2,440 metres (8,005 ft) Asphalt

History edit

RAF Qastina edit

The airbase was opened as RAF Qastina in 1942 by the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom in the then British Protectorate of Palestine. It was named after the perished Palestinian village Qastina southeast of it.

On the night of 25 February 1946, Irgun militants attacked the airfield and destroyed several parked RAF Handley Page Halifax transport aircraft. Two additional RAF airfields, RAF Lydda (nowadays Ben Gurion International Airport) and RAF Kfar Sirkin, were attacked in what became known as the "Night of the Airplanes". Altogether, the attacks destroyed 20 RAF aircraft and damaged several others. Following these attacks, the RAF closed some of its Palestine bases to Egypt.[1]

RAF Units stationed at RAF Qastina:

On 15 March 1948, as the British Mandate for Palestine drew to a close, the RAF evacuated the airfield and it was taken over by Haganah forces and renamed Hatzor Airbase after the nearby kibbutz Hatzor Ashdod (see map).

Israeli Air Force Base Hatzor edit

The 101 Squadron "First Fighter" was founded in May 1948 as the first military aircraft squadron in Israel and relocated to Hatzor in November – at that time still with Avia S-199 fighter aircraft imported from Czechoslovakia. It was followed by the Supermarine Spitfire together with the North American P-51 Mustang, from 1956 by the Dassault Mystère IV and from 1961 by the Dassault Mirage III Shahak, which was also used during the Yom Kippur War. From 1971 and 1976 respectively, the IAI Nesher (griffon vulture) and the improved IAI Kfir (young lion) – built in Israel and based on the Dassault Mirage 5 – were handed over to the squadron. From 1987 onwards it flew the F-16C/D Barak and had been involved in numerous missions since its inception.[6]

The 105 Squadron "Scorpion" was founded in 1950 at Ramat David Airbase and initially flew the English Spitfire, later the US P-51 Mustang and the French Dassault Mystère IV. In 1958 it moved to Hatzor and flew the Dassault Super Mystère and from 1962 the Dassault Mirage III Shahak. From 1975 the F-4E Phantom II Kurnas was introduced, then also the IAI Kfir and from 1991 finally the F-16C/D Barak. It was also involved in numerous missions.[7]

In 2021 both squadrons (101 and 105) moved to Ramat David Airbase in northern Israel, so there are no longer manned jets stationed at Hatzor.[8]

The 113 Squadron "Hornet" was founded in 1955 at Hatzor as the second jet squadron of the IAF – after the 117 Squadron "First Jet" founded in 1953 at Ramat David. From then until 1973 it flew the Dassault Ouragan, from then on the IAI Nesher and from 1976 the improved IAI Kfir. In 1986 the 113 Squadron at Hatzor was closed and re-established in 1989/90 at Ramon Airbase with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

Deserted pilots edit

  • On 19 January 1964, an Egyptian Air Force Yak-11 trainer deserted to Hatzor with Captain Mahmoud Abbas Hilmi on board. The 26-year-old Egyptian flight instructor asked for political asylum after landing.
  • On the morning of 16 August 1966, an Iraqi Air Force MiG-21 landed at Hatzor, the culmination of Operation Diamond. Munir Redfa, an Iraqi Air Force pilot, had been persuaded by the Mossad to fly the flagship of the Soviet export aircraft industry to Israel. The MiG was the most advanced aircraft in Arab inventories at the time.[10]

Flooding edit

Since Hatzor Airbase is located in a valley between two streams – which are dry most of the year – flooding has occurred repeatedly since its founding, affecting military equipment. This happened in the 1950s, in the winter of 1991/92, in 2013 and most recently in 2020, when fighter aircraft and a battery of defense missiles were so heavily damaged that repairs took five months.[11] This is also a reason why the last two squadrons of manned fighter aircraft at Hatzor were relocated to Ramat David Airbase in northern Israel in 2021.[8] Further expansion of the airbase will also take place mainly in the northern area, which is not affected by flooding (see map).

Fighter aircraft simulator network edit

Since 2010 Hatzor has a network of eight fighter aircraft simulator pods which use satellite footage of countries including Lebanon and Syria to train pilots for deep strike missions.[12]

Defensive missiles edit

On April 2, 2017, the first two batteries of Israel's latest missile defense system – the David's Sling – went operational on the airbase.[13] A battery of the smaller Iron Dome system has been installed there since 2012, but was damaged in a flood in the winter of 2012/13 and had to be repaired.[14]

Current edit

In March 2021, the base's two F-16 squadrons ("First Fighter" & "Scorpion") relocated to Ramat David Airbase to consolidate all remaining F-16C/D Barak jets under one roof.[8] This means there are no longer any manned fighter jets at Hatzor Airbase.

In July 2021, photos appeared showing the construction of a Combined Operations Center for the US military and Israel in the northern area of the base. However, no further information was released. Several new buildings had already been built there in recent years.[15]

In January 2023, the 200 Squadron "First UAV" moved here from Palmachim Airbase with Heron 1 Shoval UAVs.[16]

In September 2023, as part of the "Storm Clouds" project, a squadron at Hatzor that reopened in August 2022 was equipped with new UAVs, and the 144 Squadron "Phoenix" with missiles of the newly developed Spark Nitsot (Orbiter 4) type. These are manufactured by Rafael and Aeronautics as a relatively small and flexible UAV that is also capable of vertical takeoff and landing.[17][18][19]

Units edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "The Night of the Airplanes". WayBack-Machine: IAF-Website. Retrieved 2024-03-16.
  2. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 95.
  3. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 101.
  4. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 40.
  5. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 102.
  6. ^ "The First Fighter Squadron". WayBack-Machine: IAF-Website. 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2024-02-28.
  7. ^ "The Scorpion Squadron". WayBack-Machine: IAF-Website. 2019-06-14. Retrieved 2024-02-28.
  8. ^ a b c "Israel Set To Move Two F-16 Units To Ramat David". key.aero. 2021-03-19. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  9. ^ "Operation Shacharit". he-Wikipedia (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2024-03-16.
  10. ^ Weiss, Reuven (2007-05-29). "The Blue Bird Legend". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  11. ^ "Flooding at Israeli Airbase Caused $9 Million in Damage, Probe Finds". Haaretz. 2020-02-05. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  12. ^ a b "IAF's newest squadron will never leave the ground". The Jerusalem Post. 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  13. ^ a b "With a storm on the horizon, Israel turns on its latest missile defense system". The Times of Israel. 2017-04-02. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  14. ^ "Major malfunction: Iron Dome battery shut down due to flooding". Israel Defense (in Hebrew). 2013-02-26. Retrieved 2023-11-11.
  15. ^ "US-Israeli combined operations center being built at IAF's Hatzor base". Israel Defense. 2021-07-18. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  16. ^ "Here we live in fun: No. 200 Squadron passes base". WayBack-Machine: IAF-Website (in Hebrew). 2023-01-29. Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  17. ^ a b "Israel Air Force Welcomes New UAV, Dubbed "Spark"". Israel Defense. 2023-09-12. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  18. ^ a b "Photo and description of the Spark Nitsot UAV". Hebrew Wikipedia (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2024-02-29.
  19. ^ a b "Orbiter 4 UAV". Aeronautics Homepage. 2023-01-01. Retrieved 2024-02-29.
  20. ^ "One on One with an Air Patroller". IAF-Website. 2020-05-31. Retrieved 2023-09-30.
  21. ^ "The First UAV Squadron". WayBack-Machine: IAF-Website. Retrieved 2024-03-16.
  • Jefford, C. G. (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.