In June 1982, the skies over southern Lebanon saw the most massive dogfights since the end of WWII. For years, the PLO and Syrian Army had harassed the villages of northern Israel. Artillery and rocket barrages had taken a heavy toll on Israeli civilians. The Israeli Defense Forces decided to put an end to the attacks by launching a major offensive code-named "Operation Peace for Galilee." By invading southern Lebanon, the IDF hoped to drive the PLO to Beirut and then out of the country. Prior to the introduction of ground forces, the Israel Air Force would have to clear the skies of the Syrian Air Force. Of particular concern were the surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites in the Bekaa Valley. The numerous mobile and fixed sites had more than 200 missiles at their disposal, and accompanying the SAMs were nearly 400 anti-aircraft guns.
After identifying the location of the ground threats, IAF F-4 Phantoms, A-4 Skyhawks, Kfirs and F-16's went in as strike aircraft to take out the SAMs and triple-A. As the strike portion of the mission got underway, IAF E-2C Hawkeyes and UAV's fed real-time intel to waiting F-15 Eagles prowling the skies. As Syrian MiG's charged into the airspace, IAF F-15's and F-16's were waiting in ambush. Massive, swirling dogfights, with as many as 100-plus fighters all contesting for the same piece of sky from 30,000 feet to treetop level, took place. Before the battle was over, the IAF would claim 85 aerial victories-nearly 50 percent of the Syrian Air Force. The IAF lost only three aircraft, all to ground fire.
This print is reproduced from artist Rick Herter's original oil painting. The original measured 34" x 48" and was commissioned by the Boeing company. The painting was then presented to the IAF and now hangs at IAF headquarters in Tel Aviv. Herter was invited to Israel and spent a week with the IAF as part of the research documentation for the painting.