Air Force History 1970s

During 1970 there were clashes between the Jordanian army and the different Palestinian groups who were trying to destabilise Jordan. On September 6 the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) hijacked Swiss, US and British airliners, to Dawson’s Field (a World War II emergency airstrip west of Azraq) the hostages being released at the end of September. Martial law was declared on September 15 and early in the morning of the 17th the army moved into Amman.

On September 16, 1970 Syrian tank forces (with Palestinian fighters) were reportedly close to Jordan’s border. They crossed over at 0500 on September 20 and engaged with the Jordanian army.

On September 20, two Hunters took off from Mafraq just before sunset at 1700 hours to survey the battlefield. At that time Iraqi troops were deployed in Jordan (as part of the eastern front land forces), particularly around the Mafraq area. The next day after the Air Force launched the first strike, the Iraqis issued a warning that they would shoot any aircraft taking off from the base. They fired some rounds at one of the formations.

The King, as Supreme Commander, ordered the Hunter squadrons to be evacuated to PHAB, H5 and on the following day, Hunter Mk 9s attacked the Syrian armour below the Husn ridge (between Irbid and Ramtha), with anti-tank rockets and machine guns, to such devastating effect that the tide of the battle turned in favour of the Jordanians.

The Hunters encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and the skies were full of puffs of smoke. The noise from the aircraft and the heavy weapons with the dust of the tanks, made it a unique battle scene. The morale of the pilots was so high that each one was eager to fly as many missions as possible.

F104s were tasked with combat air patrol and reconnaissance missions. By the afternoon of the 22nd the Syrians had pulled back across the border. The only Air Force casualty was Lieutenant Samir Shorafa who was shot down by ground fire whilst flying a Hunter. He parachuted to safety but was taken prisoner by the Syrians and transferred to Damascus. He was later released.