Israel is one of the worlds largest F-16 operators and 'The First Jet Squadron' shared in the beginning of this history. On July 2nd, 1980 four F-16s arrived at Ramat David AB with two F-16A’s (#107 and #105) and two F-16B’s (#008 and #015). Things moved fast and on November 21st, 1980 the squadron was declared operational.
History was made when Israel's youngest pilot, Lieutenant Rafi of 117 Squadron scored the first kill with an F-16 on April 28th, 1981. The victory was against one of two Mil-8s which had entered into Israeli held territory. A missile was fired but missed. The kill came when Rafi switched to guns and made a second run. This first kill involved F-16A #112.
On June 7th, 1981 four aircraft from 117 Squadron participated in the famous raid on the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad, Iraq. Joining the flight of four aircraft were another four from 'Knights of the North' squadron. The raid became internationally known because it's braveness. Pilots who had just earned their wings on the F-16, combined with the trajectory and distance the F-16s had to fly and the fact that these early block 10 F-16s weren't realy equiped with the necessary attacking equipment, gave the Israeli pilots and the F-16 international recognition.
||Commander Ze'ev Raz
||Colonel Doobi Yoffe
||Squadron Commander Amir Nachumi
||Commander Yiftach Spector (Base Commander of Ramat)
||Deputy Squadron Commander Hagai Katz
All eight F-16 aircraft that participated in Operation Opera.
||Captain Ilan Ramon
IDFAF F-16C block 30 #315
from 117 sqn is seen taking off from Cold Lake during Maple Flag on June 9th, 2005. [Photo by Karen Justl]
The following year the squadron found itself in combat again. The 1982 Lebanon war yielded some major firsts for the F-16. On June 4th, 1982 the squadron used its F-16s against an alleged PLO ammunition store in Beirut. Two multi-kill sorties were flown by the unit on June 11th, 1982. The squadron was engaged in a major dog fight but instructed to keep away. When MiGs began to flee the fight it put 117 Squadron into position for engagement.
In the mid 1980's the aircraft of 117 Squadron were modified with chaff/flare dispensers and the larger horizontal stabalizers that were standard on anything after block 10s.
With the signing of the Peace Marbel II contract, new F-16s were to be delivered to the IDFAF. Starting in 1987 the squadron started trading in their original block 10 aircraft for the newer block 30 versions. These aircraft are used in a traditional fighter-bomber role. The block 30 C-models are locally known as 'Barak' – meaning Lightning. With the introduction of the new version, the block 10’s were transferred to the other three existing F-16 squadrons, being 110, 140 and 253 Squadron.
As the first and original Israeli F-16 squadron it maintains the status of being the longest operator of the F-16 in Israeli service.
IDFAF F-16C block 30 #315
from 117 sqn is taxiing by the lens at Cold Lake during a Maple Flag exercise in 2005. [Photo by William Gilson