On July 30, 1970, five Soviet MiG-21 fighters were blown out of the sky by the Israeli Air Force. And all in three minutes.
Today, Israel, America and Russia seem to be trying to avoid a clash over Syria. But as in 1970, proximity risks conflict, as when U.S. air strikes killed hundreds, including Russian mercenaries .
As Israel attacks Syrian targets, or Iranian forces inside Syria, it's not hard to envision a scenario where Russian interceptors or air defense units confront Israeli aircraft. If attacked, Israel will fight back.
On July 30, 1970, five Soviet MiG-21 fighters were blown out of the sky by the Israeli Air Force.
And all in three minutes.
(This first apAs America, Russia and Israel today face off in Syria, the story forty-eight years ago sounds ominously familiar.
A Soviet client state—Egypt at the time—was in trouble. Humiliated by crushing defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser chose to confront Israel without risking defeat in open battle: the War of Attrition of 1967–70 would see constant Egyptian artillery barrages and commando raids on Israeli positions along the Suez Canal.
But Israel, averse to casualties and unable to win a slugging match with the more numerous Arab states, struck back with its own chosen weapon.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF), whose aerial blitzkrieg had been decisive in winning the Six-Day War, would use its newly acquired American-made F-4 Phantoms on retaliatory air strikes deep into Egypt.
Nasser's response was to turn to the Soviet Union, which built a dense air defense network of surface-to-air (SAM) missile sites along the Suez Canal.
While the IAF shot down numerous Egyptian aircraft, the SA-2 and SA-3 batteries downed several IAF aircraft and threatened Israeli air operations along the canal (a situation appreciated by American pilots over Hanoi).
The SAMs alone were a red line for Jerusalem. But then came the straw that would break the Egyptian camel's back: Soviet Air Force MiG-21 squadrons flying defensive air patrols over Egypt.
Initially the Soviets and Israelis took care to avoid each other (just as Israeli, American and Russian aircraft do over Syria today).
But eventually, the Soviets were intercepting Israeli strikes, and even damaged an Israeli A-4 Skyhawk with an air-to-air missile on July 25, 1970.
Between the SAMs and the MiGs, the Israelis dubbed the area around the Suez Canal as "Texas," as in the Wild West.