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Syrian Who Defected to Israel Teaches Israelis to Fly Mig Jet

January 31, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Syrian air force officer who defected to Israel in October has been teaching Israel air force pilots how to fly the Soviet-built MiG-23 jet he arrived in.

Maj. Mohammed Bassem Adel streaked into Israel airspace undetected on Oct. 11 and landed at a small airfield in the North used by cropduster planes.

His MiG was the first advanced Soviet combat plane of its type to land intact outside the Soviet bloc or one of its client states.

On Monday, it was flown for the first time with an Israeli pilot at the controls. The pilot, identified only as a lieutenant colonel who heads the air force’s flight testing unit, circled central Israel for about 50 minutes, flew over Jerusalem and landed without problems.

The MiG was accompanied by Israel air force F-15 and F-16 fighter-bombers, which made a photographic record of the test flight.

A senior air force officer told reporters that three month’s preparation was needed for the flight. He credited Maj. Adel, who has asked for political asylum, with cooperating fully.

“He gave us all the information we needed, and more,” the Israeli officer said. He said the intelligence would be shared with friendly foreign states, apparently meaning the United States.

Further extensive tests are planned to familiarize the Israeli air force with the most advanced aircraft deployed by Syria. Israeli strategists regard Syria as Israel’s No. 1 enemy at this time.

Until now, the Israelis have had only a “general knowledge” of the MiG-23’s avionics and electronics. After studying the aircraft, they expressed surprise at its level of sophistication, especially the early warning and counter-measure systems.

The Israeli test pilot said he was impressed by the MiG’s rate of climb. He said that after taking off with the American made F-15 and F-16, the MiG shot upward in a stiff climb “and left them standing.”

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