Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot

Operation Mole Cricket 19 also known as the "Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot" occurred on June 9th, 1982, at the outset of the 1982 Lebanon War. The operation was the first time in history that a Western-equipped air force successfully destroyed a Soviet-built surface-to-air missile (SAM) network. It also became one of the biggest air battles since World War II.

The first wave was made up of 96 F-15s, F-4s, Kfirs, and F-16s equipped with AIM-7F Sparrow radar-guided missiles, AIM-9L Sidewinder infrared-guided missiles to fly high cover. The second wave which attacked the Syrian SAM batteries was made up of 92 missile-hunting Israeli Phantoms.

The Israeli drones went in first to cause the Syrian SAMs to light up their radars by convincing the Syrians that many attack aircraft were overhead. Once the drones were tracked by Syrian radar, the tracking signals were quickly relayed to another Scout outside the missiles' range. The Scout then relayed the signal to the awaiting E2C Hawkeye aircraft orbiting off the coast. The data was quickly gathered and analyzed by the E2Cs and Boeing 707 ECM aircraft.

Once the SAM crews fired missiles at the drones, the F-15s and F-16s provided air cover while F-4 Phantoms would turn, diving in to attack the SAM batteries, destroying them with AGM-78 and AGM-45 anti-radiation missiles. The rapid flight time of the missiles minimized the F-4s' exposure to the SAMs. The Syrians reportedly fired fifty-seven SA-6s Surface-to-Air Missiles at the Israeli aircraft, to no effect.

The Syrians launched over one hundred MiG 21, MiG 23s and Su-20 fighter aircraft in response to the Israeli aircraft, and engaged them in what became one of the biggest air battles since World War II.

The battle lasted about two hours, and once the two-hour period had passed, the Israeli Phantoms had destroyed seventeen of the nineteen SAM batteries deployed in the Beqaa Valley while the IDF Eagles and Vipers shot down 90 of the approximately 100 enemy aircraft. The Israeli Air Force suffered not a single loss.

The Soviet military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda announced that "sixty-seven Israeli aircraft were shot down", however, it was found that their sources had been unreliable...


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