How Mossad Captured Iraqi Fighter Plane In Third Attempt

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We know Mossad for many furious operations. This was just one of them.

Operation Diamond was an operation undertaken by the Mossad. Its goal was the acquisition of a Soviet-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, the most advanced Soviet fighter plane at that time.

MIG 21 production started in 1959 and Egypt, Iraq and Syria received many planes. Israel tried to capture one MIG in Egypt by by Mossad agent Jean Thomas. Thomas and his men were ordered to find a pilot who will be interested to fly a Mig 21 and bring to Israel. They contacted Adib Hanna, an Egyptian pilot but he informed the authorities about Israeli interest in the MiG. Thomas, his father, and three other people were arrested and charged with espionage. Thomas and two others were hanged. The first attempt failed badly.

During the second attempt, the Mossad agents had to kill two Iraqi pilots who would open their secret and it also failed.

In 1964, they established contact with Munir Redfa who was a Christian pilot in the Iraqi Air Force and was frustrated due to being sidelined for promotions on account of his religion and he was also asked to attack on Iraqi Kurds. A Mossad agent met Redfa and they discussed all the things. He also met an Israeli Air force officer in Europe. Redfa was offered Israeli citizenship, 1 million USD and his entire family was smuggled out of Iraq before he carried out the deed. He was also assured complete security for his family and kids.

On 16 Aug 1966, while on a training sortie he flew the aircraft into Israel and landed with barely any fuel left in his plane. The aircraft was extensively studied by the Israelis and Americans. Israel Air Force flew the plane and used it to train their pilots against future attacks as it was the mainstay of the Air Forces of Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Later, they loaned the aircraft to the US for further evaluation.

Col Daniel Shapira with MIG 21

Soon after his defection, Redfa’s MiG was renumbered 007. Within a few weeks the aircraft took off again with Israeli test pilot Danny Shapira at the controls, on the first of many test flights. The jet’s strengths and weaknesses were analyzed and it was flown against IAF fighters, eventually training Israeli pilots to deal with the aircraft.

“Our goal was to learn about our enemy, understand our threats and acquire a MiG-21 aircraft,” explained Col. Daniel Shapira Chief IAF Test Pilot at the time. Immediately after receiving the plane, Col. Shapira was required to examine it, learn about it and use it in training as soon as possible.

“While I was learning from Cpt. Redfa, we’ve become true friends,” said Col. Shapira. “He was an incredible person: persistent, intelligent and determined. He never for a second regretted his decision to come here.”

Upon leaving Iraqi territory, Cpt. Redfa was confronted by Iraqi planes who attempted an attack to no avail. “He crossed the designate point on the Dead Sea and successfully reached Hatzor where he safely landed with his family,” explained Col. Shapira.

“Cpt. Redfa told me that his main motive for leaving Iraq was that he feared for his life and the lives of his family while living there,” said Col. Shapira. as quoted on IDF website.

Other than Cpt. Munir Redfa, two other pilots defected to Israel. In January 1964 Cpt. Mahmud Abbas Halimi of the Egyptian air force, followed by Cpt. Radfa two years later. In 1989, Maj. Bassam Adal a Syrian pilot arrived in Israel as well and was granted an alternative identity.

A year later, during the Six Day War, Israeli fighter successfully shot down dozens of Mig-21 jets in air battles, owing to the knowledge obtained from the analysis of the Iraqi Mig-21.

After it was returned from the US, the Mig-21 was transferred to the IAF museum in Hatezrin, near Be’er Sheva, where it stands to this day.

The Iraqi pilot, Redfa, and his family, left Israel after a short stay and were moved to another western country, where Redfa died of a heart attack about nine years ago.