IAF – Israeli Air Force (in Hebrew Heyl Ha'avir, Heyl – force, Ha’avir – air).
Assembled (then not official but more of a “defense league") in 1947 (then called Sherut a Avir (air service)) it slowly grew in size and in combat experienced pilots. With the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the IDF the modern Israeli Air Force was born. The creation of a Jewish state in a predominate Arab region made sure that the Israeli defense forces, especially the Air Force, had a quick introduction to battle conditions. From 1948 to 2003 the IAF lost only 23 planes to enemy action, shooting down around 700 enemy planes in the various wars Israel was engaged in (war for independence, Sini Campaign, Six Days War, War of Attrition, Yom Kipur War, Peace for Galilee Campaign, and other various campaigns). The dogfight ratio between the IAF and its Arab neighbors is 30:1.
The IAF consists mainly of three role squadrons, Combat squadrons, Helicopter squadrons and Transport, Control and UAV squadrons. Early in its formation the IAF’s combat squadrons contained mainly WW2 American Mustangs, British Spitfires and even some Czech S-199 Messerschmitts (a variant version from the German Messerschmitt 109). In the 60s, the Phantom (f4s), skyhawks and the french Mirage dominated the skies over the middle east. The 70s and the 80s saw the Kfir, Nesher, Lavi, Barak (Israeli produced planes, all multi role fighters) and American made F-15s, F-16s. The 90s saw the improvements on the F-15s with the F-15I (F-15Es marked with an I for Israel). The helicopter Squadrons today include mostly the Boeing Apache, the Panther (eurocopter), the Blackhawk and the Cobra. Transport planes include the C-130 Hercules, the Boeing 707 and the TB-20 Trinidad (among others).
The IAF flew most of its missions against Russian made MIG models, starting with the MIG 15, to 17, 19, 21 and some early version of the MIG- 27 and 29. The fact that most of the kills came against high end models of Russian airplanes (considered some of the best in the world) make the IAF one of the best Air Forces in the world (for its size). What makes the IAF different from other Air Forces around the world is the combat experienced pilots that train the new generation of aviators, the standards and difficulty of becoming a pilot in the IAF are probably the highest in the world (taking into consideration the size of the population vs. percentage of soldiers accepted into the IAF). Only that human factor allows the IAF to control the skies over the Middle East with such dominance.