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Israeli Phantoms Volume 1

Israeli Phantoms Volume 1 Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2009 Title Israeli Phantoms Volume 1
Author Andreas Klein, Shlomo Aloni Publisher AirDOC
Published 2009 ISBN 978-3-935687-81-2
Format 160 pages, hardbound MSRP (Euro) 39.95€ less 7% VAT for non-EU customers


AirDOC just released a two-volume masterpiece from 'Double Ugly! Books' which provides the best coverage of the F-4E Phantom II in Israeli Air Force service to date. This first volume covers the history of the Phantom in Israeli service from 1969-1988.

In the early days of the Israeli Defence Forces/Air Force (IDF/AF), aircraft were usually referenced by their 'given name' provided by the manufacturer. As the French-made aircraft entered IDF/AF service, they started receiving names of birds, animals, or natural phenomenon and this continued with the US-made aircraft as they came online. Not so the F-4E - this received the Hebrew name for Sledgehammer - 'Kurnass'.

Entering service in 1969, the Kurnass was quickly pressed into operational service as skirmishes required quick and precise responses. The F-4E proved to be a stable bombing platform and capable of carrying significant payloads. By the time the Yom Kippur War errupted in 1973, the Kurnass had already accumulated a solid reputation by its crews, but none were prepared for what was to come.

After their defeat in 1967, Egypt sought out the best air defense capabilities from their Soviet allied and soon the F-4E was not only seeing the SA-2 Guideline also being used in Vietnam, it was also subjected to the deadly duo of the SA-6 Gainful and the ZSU-23-4 23mm radar-directed mobile anti-aircraft gun system. The results were devastating and many IDF/AF aircraft were shot down or severely damaged in their encounters with the Soviet-designed 'integrated air defense system'. F-4E attrition was so bad that most of the aircraft out of a USAFE fighter wing were hastily ferried to Israel to reinforce the IDF/AF.

This title is well-written and very well illustrated with period photographs, color and black & white, to tell the story of the first 20 years of Kurnass operations. The title coverage includes:

  • Introduction
  • The War of Attrition
  • 'The Kammers' Shark-Mouthed Kurnass #187
  • The Yom Kippur War
  • US Airlift to Israel - Operation Nickel Grass
  • Peace for Galilee
  • Kurnass Movie Star - Iron Eagle II
  • F-4 Yom Kippur War - Cockpit and Armament
  • Scale Drawings
  • Camouflage Schemes
  • Cockpit Layout - Early Production Block F-4E
  • Kurnass Serial Lists
  • Kurnass Aces
  • Kurnass MiG Kills
  • IAF Kurnass Attrition List

In addition to some excellent photo coverage, there are some interesting shots of the Phantom/Kurnass armed with a variety of Israeli-produced weapons. Not many of these photos have ever been published before, at least in English-language titles.

Whether you're a Phantom Phreak, a modern aircraft modeler, or a military aviation historian, this title and its Volume 2 companion are the best coverage of the IDF/AF Kurnass I've seen and are a must-have for your library.

This title is available directly from AirDOC's website

My sincere thanks to AirDOC for this review sample!