The amazing story of the Israeli combat pilot Giora Romm

Giora Romm

by Gideon

Giora Romm was the Israeli Air Force’s first jet ace, scoring five kills during the 1967 Six Day War. In 1969, during the War of Attrition, Romm was shot down. As he bailed out he broke his leg and arm. He spent several months in Egyptian captivity. Upon his return to Israel, he insisted on resuming his military career as a fighter pilot. When the Yom Kippur war broke out, he had to overcome his fear and return to the same Egyptian battlefield where was shot down three years earlier. During the war he commanded the IAF’s 115 Squadron which experienced intensive fighting as it attacked enemy positions that were protected under a dense cover of anti-air missile defense system. During the war, when they attacked a Syrian position, his number 2 was shot down and became a POW in Syria.

After the Yom Kippur war he  participated in Operation Wooden Leg, the 1985 raid against PLO headquarters in Tunisia. Romm continued to excel in the Israeli air force and became the deputy commander of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), before becoming Israel’s military attaché in the United States. After retiering from the military he became the  director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel.

In the article below, Giora Romm tells the story of how he learned to fly the  American made attack aircraft Skyhawk, during a real combat mission against Egyptian forces on the first day of the Yom Kippur war. Following the article, there is a video interview with Giora Romm where he describes the difficulty of the recovery after he was returned to Israel from Egypt in a POW swap. The video after that  is a graphic simulation of Giora’s air battles with Egyptian pilots. The third video is  a meeting where Giora explains  his recovery in more details. The last video is in Hebrew. In this segment, Giora tells the story of how he learned to fly the skyhawk on a combat mission.

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Three days before the “Yom Kippur” war, Maj. Gen. Giora Rom assumed command of Skyhawk squadron, after its previous commander was killed. An hour after the war commenced, he was already airborne, charging towards the enemy in a jet he never flown before.

“I am number 4 on runway 33 at the Tel-Nof airbase: Saturday, Yom Kippur, Oct. 6th 1973 15:00.

The target: Egyptian forces attacking the ‘Budapest’ post at the northern tip of the Suez Canal.

Even though I am number 4 on the runway, I am the squadron commander. When I take off, it will be my first flight on the ‘Ait’ (Hebrew for Skyhawk). I never trained nor flown this type of aircraft before.

Only three pilots in the entire history dared to go on a combat sortie in an aircraft they never flown before. I am about to become fourth.

Three days earlier, Lieut. Col. Ami Goldshtein, commander of the ‘First Jet’ squadron was killed in an accident. When I returned home to Hazor base that night, I got a call from the Air Force Commander, Beni Peled. He asked me to report to him the next day at 07:30 in order to assume command over the squadron.

At night, I went to see Ran Peker in Tel-Nof. ‘Ran, you know I never flown an ‘Ait; before’ I said. ‘I want you in this post’ he replied. ‘you can set up a training course for yourself next week’.

Two days on the job, one funeral, and a first introduction to the pilots, and already I am ordered to stay on the base, due to the high alert.

Saturday. The siren goes off. We are briefed on the pre-emptive strike we are to carry out on the Syrian air force. Ram Yosef went to my house, to bring my flight overall and shoes. Miki Schneider, who will get hit as my number two by an SAM-6 missile and will become POW in Syria, went to get my flight equipment. We didn’t get a green light for that operation after all. In the free time, I take the opportunity to go on a general flight on the ‘Ait’. Abraham Yakir joins me. He briefs me on how the cockpit is built, the visual systems, and how to start the jet.  I taxi towards the runway.

I am having difficulty closing the cockpit’s canopy. Apparently you have to use some force (you never use any force in the ‘Mirage’ jet). Yakir arrives, and helps me to close the canopy. It’s 14:00 and I ask for permission to take off. ‘Abort take off. Egyptian forces are attacking the base’, I hear on the radio. I return to the squadron club. All pilots are equipped and ready to go. I gather all the paperwork from one of the pilots. ‘Who is your leader?’ I ask one of the pilots. ‘Kochva’, he replies. ‘I am your number 4 Kochva, we take off in 20 minutes. You will be responsible to train me on the jet en route to target’, I told Kochva.

A voice on the radio tells me to disengage at 150. We are airborne, south bound. The jet responds well to me, and Kochva assists with weaponry controls. Finally we lower down and prepare to attack the outer perimeter of the ‘Budapest’ post. ‘3 pull out’, the leader says, and pullout following the jet ahead of me. I roll over and dive towards ‘Budapest’. I spot the bright yellow light of SAM-2 missile launched in my direction from Port-Said. What a negative day.

I complete the attack and join the formation. ‘4, your missiles did not deploy’.

I repeat the attack, this time solo, while everyone wait for me.

This is my second ‘Dive-Fly’ attack, and I carefully monitor the movement of my stick. I feel for the first time in my life how eight missiles release from my jet.

Fuel check on the way back:

Number 2 and 3 has 4,500 Lbs. I search for my fuel gauge. It’s at the right bottom corner of the front panel. It shows only 1,800 Lbs. I should have transferred the fuel from the detachable fuel tanks. I report 4,500 Lbs. After all, I am the squadron commander, and I am not going to let anyone catch me at such a silly mistake. Where is that switch? I turn all the switches on, and the gauge slowly climbs up. I make a note to find out which one exactly turns on the fuel transfer.

‘4, the landing speed is 150’, Kochva instructs me. My ‘Ait’ landed without difficulty. I hurry back. I’ve got a squadron to lead. I will learn to fly the ‘Ait’ on the go, and will lead my pilots in what will become the most challenging war I ever fought.

I often thought that everyone in Israel were like me. Compelled to stand alone on a new runway, and learn to fly and fight. A strange mix of inferiority and great determination, bound to lead to victory.”  [IAF Magazine Articles]

 

Related articles:

The Story of the Israeli Pilots in the Yom Kippur War – מלחמת יום כיפור: סיפורם של טייסי הקרב

Above and Beyond and the Israeli Air Force (IAF)

 

 

 

 

 

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