The Vautour Pages
THE VAUTOUR IN THE IAF SERVICE

ORDERS and PURCHASE

1) The IAF evinced interest in the Vautour already in 1954. That time the three prototypes had been in status of trials.

2) It was only in 1956 when preliminary discussions with the French authorities yielded an invitation to evaluate the Vautour in France.

3) In April 1956, Danni Shapira arrived, as head of a delegation to CEV, Bretigny. In April 23 all the members flew, aboard a M.D. 316X Flamand to Mont de Marsan (CEAM), where the FR-AF officers demonstrated the two pre-production Vautours present - B 04 and N 08.
D. Shapira flew both aircraft during the single day of visit. Between April 24 and 26 the delegation visited SNCASO plant at Saint Nazaire, to become acquainted with the production line and the manufacturer's specifications. [ info: A. Crosnier ]

4) The second Israeli pilot to flew the Vautour was Binyamin Peled, then 101 sqn, CO. between the ferries of the Mysteres, in June 1956.

Gen. Beny Peled


5) B. Peled flew the powerful pre-production Vautour IIN 09 ( powered by two 10,000 lbs. thrust Avon R.A.28 engines ), for three sorties:

a) On the 21st of June: 45 minutes, familiarization flight, with Col. Shlomo Lahat ( IAF deputy Commander at the time) as "passenger".

b) On the same day, for 1 hr & 20 minutes, a second test flight, also with Col. Lahat in the back seat.

c) On the 24th of June: an 1:00 hr, low level navigation flight, single engine operation and aerobatics, with Commandant Bigand as navigator. [ info: Gen. B. Peled ]



6) Peled was impressed by the Vautour's performance. His conclusion was that the aircraft could satisfy IAF needs, and he recommendation to consider its purchase.

7) In June 26 another visit of Israeli delegates took place at Gron, the field nearby SNCASO plant, St. Nazaire. It's possible that talks about a Vautours' deal became practical at this occasion.

8) The French were willing to sell the IIA variant, which was already in production , and its orders for the FR-AF had been cut down.

9) The supply of offensive weapons to the Middle-East was then vetoed by the western super-powers, so that all discussions with the French took place in great secrecy.

Gen. Dan Tolkovsky

{ Ironically this policy, of the U.S and the U.K, resulted in a deep involvement of the Soviet Block in the region, and not for the benefit of any of the parties..! }



10) In July 1956, the French offered the Vautour in a price of 600,000 $ a unit (including armament, spares and eqipment, for a "commercial" quantity of aircraft). They also promised to deliver the first two aircraft (which had been already built anf flown), as soon as November of that year.

11) Financial constrains and professional hesitations caused a long delay in Israeli government's decision. The IAF demanded comprehensive tests and evaluation of the Vautour. The main reasons were a) It wasn't operational yet, and b) Its features and capabilities were not completely studied. ( A third reason, not outspoken was - it was a "Non -Dassault" product. Although many interesting projects had been carried out by SNCASO {Sud Ouest}, it aroused doubts regarding the success of the final product).

12) In some stage, possibly July 1956, the Israeli P.M, Ben-Gurion, decided to negotiate for the cquisition of just 10 Vautours, as there were no financial sources for more.

13) In August 1956 a second offer was proposed by France, that consisted 18 aircraft (12 A plus 6 B), at a price of 742,850 $ per unit.

14). Towards the end of 1956, the Israeli government became convinced to order a more substatial quantity of Vautours. Meanwhile the French offered 30 machines, 18 IIA and 12 of the two-seaters IIN or IIB, a total of 30, all newly built, and scheduled to enter both air forces at the same time.


15) The final order, issued in April 1957, was for 28 aircraft: 17 IIA, 7 IIN and 4 IIB. (The IIB variant was not yet produced and it wasn't clear if the French would accept to sell bombers to Israel, but the idea of converting this variant to PR platform was considered).

16) Meanwhile, Dani Shpira was in CEV / Bretigny, and flew several prototypes and pre-production Vautours during February 1957.

17) The same month, February 7, 1957, Dani Shapira, arrived to Mont-de-Marsan AFB, and joined, as the head of a delegation which arrived from Israel. The Israeli members consisted of 12 crewmen and technicians. The second Israeli pilot to join this group was Yehezkel Somekh, Sqn. 110 commander.

18) Among the participants were Ariel Bar-Lev (Markovitch), a technical officer who would later contribute immensely to the reception and development of the Vautour in the IAF, and Mordechay Alkalay, a senior technician. {Bar-Lev would become the technical officer of Sqn. 119 and Alkalay - the chief assistant of Nurik Har-el, Sqn. 110 technical officer}.

19) In Mont de Marsan Shapira flew the pre-production Vautour IIN-06 on February 8th, for some 50 min. (and even included aerobatics). He performed later another 15 flights, on different variants, in various profiles and with installed armament.

20) D. Shapira's report (February 21, 1957), was positive: the Vautour capabilities as a fighter-bomber were very promising. It possesed good maneuverability, long-range, high-altitude flight and an unprecented bomb load. The self-defense ability, that enabled the Vautour to compete with fighters of that time was also an advantage. He recommended to change some of the performance profiles used by the FR-AF, to develop more efficient attack techniques and to fit the IIN variant to lift the same external loads as the IIA. (The last demand was always an IAF policy, i.e to prefer multi-purpose fighters rather than one-mission oriented aircraft. The same adaptations were made for the originally "pure" fighters, the Mystere, the Super Mystere and the Mirage).


21) The IAF, on the basis of this evaluation, was in favour of buying all the three variants: the IIN as replacement to the Meteors N.F.13, the IIA as a tactical bomber/attacker and the IIB as a photo-recce aircraft.

22) The Vautours were bought new and most of them were delivered from the production line to Tour AFB, in which all conversions to Vautours were carried out, actually with, and in parralel with French crews.

23) All the received Vautours were tested by Israeli crews before transfer. The IIN a/c were also improved and fitted according to the IAF demands in full cooperation with the French.

24) The senior represantative of the IAF, that coordinated the Vautours' reception, testing and ferry flights, was Dani Shapira. As head and coordinator of the "Vautour Project" was appointed Yoash Chatto-Tsiddon. The two Sqn. commanders to recieve the Vautours (Yehezkel Somekh - sqn. 110 and Yoash Tsiddon. sqn. 119), shared their time between studying the aircraft and being "on the line" Israel - France, responsible for the conversion of the crews and, at the same time - organizing the built-up of the squadrons in Israel. {in sqn. 119 oded Erez often took temporary command when Y. Tsiddon was in France, while in Sqn. 110 Y. Agassi (vice commander) was in charge when Somekh was abroad).

25) Starting May 1957 Yoash Tsiddon "toured" between France, Britain and Israel, flying many types of aircraft, relevant to the all-weather aircraft training, conversion and doctrine. He also flew several pre-production Vautours (among them the 07 and the high thrust 09).He struggled, unsuccesfuly, to fit the aircraft with more powerful engines, as well as for fitting the Vautour with many other items of better quality.

26) The technicians of both IAF squadrons were the first to study the Vautour. Conversion courses for the aircrews commenced already in February 1957.

27) The IAF was the only air force to operate the Vautour IIA, and the only one to operate all three variants. In this sense its experience would be very helpful for the French manufacturer, as well as for the FR-AF.

28) The Vautours acquisition cost was ca. 20 Mil. USD (ca. 700,000 $ per a/c) ( an amount that would have been sufficient for a wing of second-hand A-26, as some had wished..)


* { To demonstrate the ambivalent attitude towards the Vautour, I quote Mr. Weizman, in a telephone conversation with the editor of this pages "...If I had to decide today - I wouldn't buy the Vautour...... but , well, it did some good things during the Six Days War.." ; Weizman himself was not too enthusiastic to buy the Vautour in the 50's, and truely he flew the Vautour very little. As the IAF commander he couldn't ignore any type of aircraft and not to have some experience in its piloting }.




HOW MANY VAUTOURS WERE REALLY PURCHASED ?

The correct figure is 31 Vautours (including one exchanged for a special IIN "70" aircraft), but it is very common to find speculations about larger number purchased. These are based upon pieces of unreliable data, confusing data and sometimes - deliberate misinformationon. The most common mistake is the report about "25" or "at least 20" Vautours IIA sold to Israel.

The original purchased was 28 (A-17, N-7, B-4 ) which arrived between August 1st, 1957 to March 10, 1959. One more N and two more A's arrived much later, a total of 31 Vautours entered the IAF service.





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This page was last updated: June 20, 2002



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