Arab Reconnaissance Aircraft

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MiG-25RBS Unit: 9 Sqn, SyAAF

Syrian Foxbats were flying regular recce sorties around – and even over – Israel during the 1990s. SyAAF still operates two MiG-25RBs with 7th OCU, based at Shayrat AB, and six examples – including this MiG-25RBS – with the 9th Sqn, based at Dmeyr AB. For operations in connection with Israel, they were usually ‘forward deployed’ to al- Ladhiqiyah.

Egypt was the only Arab nation to fly dedicated reconnaissance aircraft during the War of Israeli Independence (1948-1949). The Egyptians flew three types of aircraft in a reconnaissance role. For general visual reconnaissance missions, they operated British aircraft, the Avro Anson Mk. I and the de Havilland Dove. The two-engine Anson was a World War II-era British maritime reconnaissance aircraft. It had a maximum speed of 188 miles per hour (mph), a ceiling of 19,000 feet, and a range of 790 miles. The Dove, a small two-engine transport aircraft, entered Egyptian service at the end of the war. It had a top speed of 202 mph, a ceiling of 20,000 feet, and a range of 1,070 miles. For tactical photographic reconnaissance, Egypt used the Supermarine Spitfire. This aircraft, originally provided to Egypt by the British during World War II, was the Spitfire Mark IX. It had a maximum speed of 408 mph, a ceiling of 44,000 feet, and a range of 434 miles.

The Egyptian Air Force underwent major transformation be – tween 1949 and 1956. The Egyptians could have employed any of their aircraft in the visual reconnaissance role. However, it is not clear if any of their planes had been modified for tactical photo duties. The Egyptian order of battle included Gloster Meteor fighters, which were used for photo reconnaissance by other countries. The twin-engine Meteor had a maximum speed of 598 mph, a ceiling of 43,000 feet, and a range of 980 miles. Israel flew them in reconnaissance missions during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, the Soviet-built Mikoyen-Gurevich MiG-21 (NATO designation Fishbed) was the most advanced fighter of the Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi Air Forces. The MiG-21 had a maximum speed of 1,385 mph, a ceiling of 62,336 feet, and a range of 600 miles. The Israeli Air Force carried out a preemptive strike to begin the war, in the process destroying more than 75 percent of opposing Arab aircraft in the opening days. Very few Arab fighters managed to penetrate Israeli fighter defenses, and it is not known if any of these were MiG-21 photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

The MiG-21 continued as the primary Egyptian photoreconnaissance aircraft during the 1970s so-called War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt and for Egypt and Syria in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It carried its cameras in an external pod. Later, these aircraft were specifically modified to house an internal camera array. In October 1971, Soviet MiG-25s (NATO designation Foxbat) arrived in Egypt, and these flew photo-reconnaissance missions over Israeli-controlled territory until 1972. Israeli fighters were unable to catch this fast Soviet aircraft. It had a top speed of 1,849 mph, a ceiling of 80,000 feet, and a range of 901 miles. The MiG-25s were officially on loan to Egypt. They carried Egyptian markings but were flown by Soviet pilots.

In 1982 Israeli and Syrian forces fought one another during Operation PEACE FOR GALILEE, Israel’s invasion of southern Lebanon. Syrian pilots flew the Mig-25R, acquired in 1975, for photo reconnaissance.

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