Menu JTA Search

The Iraqi pilot who defected to Israel

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

MIG-21

The hijacker who loved Israel was thwarted on August 16, 1973. Seven years earlier, another interesting Arab-Israel aviation incident unfolded when an Iraqi air force captain defected to Israel:

[The pilot] said that one of the reasons for his decision was that he was a Catholic in a Moslem country and felt that he was discriminated against. He explained that he had chosen Israel rather than a Moslem country, such as Turkey or Iran, because he believed that Israel would not expel him. He said another reason was that he opposed the Iraqi war on its Kurdish minority. He also told the newsmen that he had been in the Iraqi Air Force 10 years and that he had spent four months in Russia training.

The Israeli Air Force commander said he had been expecting the Iraqi captain for the last 10 days and had ordered Israeli planes to be on the lookout for him.

Aviation and Cold War history nerds will find this event significant for another reason: "The incident was the first known instance of a flight of a MIG-21 into a non-Communist or non-Arab country. The MIG-21 is one of the advanced Soviet military jet fighter planes."

[Image: MiG-21UMLancerB.jA Russian designed MiG-21UM Lancer B fighter aircraft from Romania (ROM), arrives in support of the Partnership for Peace Exercise Cooperative Key 2003 at Graf Ignatievo Air Base (AB), Bulgaria (BGR)]

NEXT STORY