I.A.F. MIRAGE III ‘159’

The world’s most famous Mirage III, number 159 attained its 13th kill on the first day of the 1973 Israel/Egyptian Yom Kippur War. The following day while taking off, it blew a tire and veered off the runway, trapping its pilot Israel Baharav in the cockpit.

Baharav managed to escape by punching his way through the melting plastic canopy, and after several days of recovery, returned to the fight against Egyptian MiGs.

In the Israeli Air Force, the Mirage III was known as the ‘Shachak’.

 Shachak 159 was transferred to the Israel Aircraft Industry to undergo major structural repair. A year later, Mirage 159 was again airworthy and was flown back to its squadron by non other than Israel Baharav.

This aircraft is one of two Mirage IIICJs credited with 13 kills. It was delivered in 1962 to the 101st Tayeset Ha’Krav Ha’Rishona (First Fighter Squadron). On December 14, 1966, flown by Yoram Agmon, the jet was the first to record a kill by a Mirage in the world. Further kills followed quite quickly, so that by 1970, there was a total of eleven. At the time, the plane still flew in a natural metal finish, as delivered by the manufacturer, and there were ten kill marks painted under the cockpit. The identification number was changed to ‘259’, where the ‘2’ identified service with the 101st Tayeset.

A model of Mirage III ‘159″

At the beginning of the seventies, the aircraft received the standard Israeli three-color scheme in use since 1967.

The last two kills came in 1973, one on September 13th, and the other on October 6th on the first day of the Yom Kippur War. On the next day, the plane was severely damaged in an aborted take-off by Israel Baharav, who was injured in the incident. At this time, the aircraft had twelve kill marks painted under the cockpit. While the pilot was able to return to duty on October 13th, the aircraft was damaged such that repairs took almost a full year. It was returned to service through 1974, with the identifier ‘159’ and black and yellow recognition triangles.

These black and yellow recognition triangles quick identifiers were applied on Israeli aircraft from October 14, 1973, when Israeli ground units were first attacked by Libyan Mirages operating out of Egypt.

Shortly after its return from repairs, it was converted to a photo-reconnaissance version and renumbered as ‘459’, with the ‘4’ signifying a recon bird. At the end of the seventies, it was re-converted to a fighter, and as ‘159’ assigned to 254th Tayeset Mercaz Ha’Medina (Middland Squadron).

The Argentines were so proud of this Mirage III that they retained the ‘kill symbols’ when the aircraft served in their own Air Force.

In 1982, it was sold to Argentina. In 2003, the aircraft was sold back to Israel for a symbolic sum, and is today displayed at the Aviation Museum at Hatzerim. The following can be concluded: the aircraft is depicted during the Yom Kippur War, which was theoretically possible, but unlikely in this guise. At the beginning of the war, the aircraft carried 12 kill marks and not six. The other problem concerns the recognition triangles, which, as noted, began to be applied on October 14th, 1973. The aircraft at that time was not airworthy due to the serious damage sustained on October 7th, 1973.

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