The 117th "First Jet Squadron," an F-16 (Barak) fighter jet squadron, was shut down today (Wednesday) after 67 years of operational activity at the Ramat David base.
The closure of the squadron was undertaken as part of the multi-year 'Tnufa' program, which is based on advancing the IDF's capabilities, in view of the need for efficiency and in light of assessments of future challenges. Among its decisions, the program also promotes the acquisition of 5th generation aircraft such as the F-35 fighter jet.
The "First Jet Squadron" was established in 1953 at the Ramat David base and took part in all of Israel's wars and systems. The squadron shot down enemy aircraft for the first time in 1955, and racked up 124.5 kills over the years.
117th Squadron is the first Hawk Squadron in the world to shoot down an enemy aircraft and the first in the world to shoot down a MiG-23 enemy aircraft. In addition, the squadron, led by then-Squadron Commander Col. Zeev Raz, took part in the 1981 strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.
The squadron has operated the F-16C aircraft, and has been one of only two fighter squadrons stationed in northern Israel. It has therefore operated extensively in the northern arena against existing threats. The squadron continued to train and operate operationally in all sectors until the day it was shut down.
All of the squadron's commanders and soldiers continue their activities in the Air Force, and will be integrated into other units.
"This is a historic day in the Air Force. Today we retire one of the most active and operational squadrons in the corps," said Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.
"The First Jet Squadron and its activities are an integral part of the history of the Israel Air Force. The squadron participated in all of Israel's wars, and the squadron embarked on attack and defense missions in various arenas, including attacking the nuclear reactor in Iraq, a mission that significantly contributed to Israel's security and changed the Middle East," he said.
"The closure of the squadron is a sad event, but it embodies a streamlining process that is currently underway in the Air Force, as part of the deep understanding that we need to adapt to the current reality, and undertake economic streamlining, so we can intensify our activity in the coming years. Until the last days before its closure, the squadron continued operating in the various arenas and provided security for the citizens of the State of Israel. The spirit of the squadron, the human capital, the fallen of the squadron and their families are the ones that are engraved deep in our hearts and they are the ones that will perpetuate the squadron's legacy in the pages of history. I'm proud of you, Squadron 117, you did good."