The war over the Sinai peninsula was a battle between modern Israeli warplanes and Egyptian anti-missile systems.

The Israeli Air Force is certainly not as modern as the US Air Force, to be able to counter the air defense systems of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel was completely surprised with the new air defense weapons of the Arab countries. There were losses to the Israeli fighter squadron in the early days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The F-4E Phantoms and F-2 Mirage fighters attempted to carry out attacks on the Arab forces and entered the fire zone of the S-125 missiles.

The Israeli air force’s initial losses to the new Egyptian and S-125 missile systems were a key to the early Arab successes, but this advantage was quickly reversed by Israel. Due to the relatively short range of the Egyptian S-125, it could only protect within the western part of the Sinai peninsula, and could not cover the entire depth of their defense.

Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force

Israel has cut off Egypt’s ground forces from the protection of S-125 air defense systems. That was the key to Israel’s victory. The Israeli army exploited a tactical error by Egyptian forces. On October 15, 1973, the Israeli Army launched Operation Gazelle to break through the fragile and vulnerable lines of Egypt, to cross the Suez Canal. With the implementation of deep thrust attacks, the objective of Operation Gazelle was to destroy the Egyptian anti-aircraft missile batteries. If successful, it will allow Israel to unleash the power of its air force.

Colonel Haim Erez, commander of the Israeli Army’s Operation Gazelle, led a 12 km breakthrough into the Egyptian defenses within a few hours. And the Egyptians were completely surprised. Very quickly, Israeli mechanized units quickly destroyed Egyptian surface-to-air missile sites. When Egypt’s air defenses were significantly weakened, the Israeli Air Force dispatched fighters from their second front in Syria, to overwhelm and destroy the remaining Egyptian missile batteries. At this point, Egypt’s ground forces had essentially lost their ability to resist.

Without the shield of the air defense system, the Israeli Air Force now attacked Egyptian territory like an empty place. Not only attacked military targets, but also destroyed water supplies, communication networks and almost paralyzed Egypt’s major cities. Israeli ground forces laid siege to Egypt’s 3rd Army soon after, and almost completely surrendered. This event shook Egypt’s leaders, and quickly accepted the terms of a ceasefire to end the war.

Egypt’s defeat in the 1973 Yom Kippur War was due to Egypt’s failure to fully assess the situation, when it decided to quickly liberate the Sinai peninsula. This separated the Egyptian ground forces from the air defense umbrella of the S-125 and other missiles. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was primarily responsible for this painful defeat. He rejected the opinion of Chief of the General Staff Saad Al Shazly, in resolutely protecting strategic transport routes, to protect the air defense system.


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