109 Squadron - The Valley
Israel formed the 109 squadron in June-July 1951, composed of the Mosquito FB.6 and PR.16 aircraft out of Hatzor Airbase. The establishment committee was headed by Dov Ehrlich. In September 1951 Danny Shapira was appointed commander of the squadron and left for England with five air-crew to be retrained on the Mosquito. What set the Mosquito apart from the other combat aircraft of its time were its two engines and its long range. The IAF took advantage of these features during July 1952 when it carried out sea-patrol flights along Sinai's beaches in order to located Egyptian vessels attempting to harass Israel fishing boats. That month the squadron started to keep a pair of the aircraft armed with canons and machine guns on permanent alert.
In August 1952 the first Operational Training Course was opened for pilot school graduates. Some of the course's training flights were carried out on the Harvard T-6, and focused on the principles of flying in combat formations, aerobatics and instrument flying. On the 3rd and 7th September 1953 the first long range aerial photography flights were carried out over Egypt. The first was to Cairo and the surrounding airfields, and the second was to Alexandria. The sorties were not authorized by the political authorities, or even by the relevant IDF decision makers. On 18th July 1954 the squadron's training body was made into an independent squadron, and the photography body was attached to the “Aviation” squadron, within which it operated independently. From this point on, the “Valley” Squadron began to focus exclusively on combat and bombing missions.
The Mosquito aircraft had a number of structural problems, which led to the disbanding of the 109 squadron for several months in 1956, until it was reformed with new Mystere IVA aircraft in August 1956. On 4th June 1956 the Mosquito aircraft ended their service in the squadron. Taking them out of service was intended to allow the absorption of the Mystère A4. The first of these aircraft were received by the "First Fighter" Squadron during April 1956. They almost entirely replaced the IAF's propeller aircraft and placed Israel on the cutting edge. During the Sinai campaign, the squadron flew alongside three French squadrons that had been deployed in Israel.
On 13th November 1964 the squadron carried out its first operational strike, with the bombing of Syrian forces at Tel Azziah and Tel Hamra. During the Six Day War the squadron, along with the Air Force's other combat squadrons, carried out Operation Focus, which destroyed almost the entire Egyptian Air Force whilst it remained on the ground.
The reformed 109 squadron took part in the Six Day War of June 1967, but suffered several losses. On 29h December 1967 a boat reached Haifa port carrying Israel's first A4H Skyhawks, known in Hebrew as the “Ayit” (meaning “Eagle). Their arrival marked the end of the IAF's French era, and begun the American era that continues to this day. The “Valley” Squadron became the first Skyhawk squadron. In the wake of an Egyptian commando raid on an Israeli tank facility in the Ras Masallah area, the decision was taken to operate the squadron as “Airborne Artillery” on the Egyptian front.
Before the end of 1967, the 109 squadron became the first Israeli squadron to operate the A-4H, which it used to conduct a bombing run on terrorist bases in Jordan. The squadron's airplanes took part in the Air Force's operations throughout the War of Attrition, flying in the area of Jordan, Egyptian, Syria and Lebanon. The regiment's strikes continued until the ceasefire of August 1970. During one of the sorties on the Egyptian front, Major Hagain Ronen, a former Second-in-Command, was killed.
The squadron saw action in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The main tasks facing the squadron during the Yom Kippur War were attacking ground-to-air missile batteries, assisting ground forces, electronic warfare sorties and observation flights. With the outbreak of the War on 6th October 1973, the squadron was the first to strike the Golan Heights. During the strike the squad leader, Major Eitan Chanan was hit by an SA-2 missile and killed, becoming the IAF's first casualty of the war.
Alongside the other Skyhawk Squadron on the base, the “Knights of the North”, the regiment assisted the ground forces in Ramat HaGolan. Similarly, the squadron's aircraft participated in the successful strike on bridges in the area of the Suez Canal, attacks on AA facilities and in particular in assisting the ground forces. On the 20th July 1977 the Skyhawks completed their nine years of service in the squadron, and were transferred to the “Knights of the North” squadron. In March 1977, the squadron began its preparations to receive the IAI Kfir C-1 from the "First Fighter" squadron, based on Hatzor, when the "First Fighter" squadron received the improved Kfir 2C. On 28th July 1977 the first Kfir landed, and the “Valley” Squadron was official inaugurated as a Kfir Squadron.
Unlike the southern Kfir squadron, the “Valley” Squadron's only flew air-ground missions, and on 9th November 1977 Kfir's from the squadron, alongside the "First Fighter" and the “Wasp” squadron carried out the first Kfir flight over South Lebanon. During “Operation Litani”, in March 1978, the squadron carried out intercept and attack sorties. During the First Lebanon War the squadron carried out patrols and air-to-ground strikes.
In the early 1980s, the 109 squadron was upgraded to the Kfir C-2, which conducted attacks against PLO and Syrian positions in 1982. The squadron was dissolved in 1986, but was reformed during the nineties as an F-16D squadron. In 1991, The 109 squadron received more than two dozen F-16C aircraft, bringing it up to the level of the 110 squadron. On 31st March 1991 the regiment’s establishment team began to function, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Shkedi. On 2nd July the squadron held it's official ceremony, with its first aircraft which were transferred to it by the “First Fighter” squadron.
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