French Air Force (Armee de l’Air), 201 Fighter Squadron (Ramat David)
Build Date: 2004
French F-84F in Suez Canal Crisis – Historical Background
The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, having been financed by France and the Egyptian government. Later, the Egyptian government’s share was bought by the British; British banks and business held a 44% stake. The canal was of strategic importance, being the link between Britain and its Indian Empire, and the area as a whole was strategic to North Africa and the Middle East. The importance of the Canal was shown during both World wars.
In the summer of 1956, Egyptian President Nasser (Formerly Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser), in his nationalistic effort to reform his country and re-established Arab pride, nationalized the Franco-British Suez Canal Company. This greatly angered Britain and France as this deprived them of the estimated $25 million dollars annual profit from commercial ocean traffic through the canal.
Britain and France held a secret meeting with Israel outside Paris to organize an invasion of Egypt to take back control of the canal. Israel was amenable to the pact as any effort to weaken their strongest Arab enemy, which at that time was Egypt, was welcomed. Britain and France, being a partner in NATO, did not inform the United States of their plan.
The three Allies were concerned about the strength of the Egyptian Air Force (EAF), the fighting capability of its aircrew, the newly purchased MIG 15, the Illusion 28 Bombers, the heavy Stalin Tanks, the self-propelled SU-100 guns in addition to other unknown types of Russian and Czech arms, but especially the preparedness of Czech and Soviet ‘advisers’ to fight alongside the Egyptians. To counter these threats, large air forces had been deployed to Cyprus and Malta by the Britain and France and many aircraft carriers were deployed. One of the French Air Force (Armee de l’Air), 201 Fighter Squadron (Ramat David), deployed 18 Republic F-84F Thunderstreak with 25 pilots to operate from Cyprus and Israel.
On October 29, 1956, Israeli troops invaded the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and quickly overcame opposition as they raced for Suez. The next day, Britain and France, following their part of the script, offered to temporarily occupy the Canal Zone and suggested a 10 mile buffer on either side which would separate the Egyptian forces from the Israelis. Nasser of course refused, and on October 31, Egypt was attacked and invaded by the military forces of Britain and France.
Operation Musketeer – initially called Hamilcar
The Anglo-French air operations against Egypt to retake the canal began with attacks on twelve Egyptian airfields in the Canal Zone and the Nile Delta. The first phase of the assault, between October 31 and November 1, was designed to destroy or neutralize the Egyptian Air Force.
De Havilland Venoms of the RAF and Arm é e de l’Air Thunderstreaks from Cyprus pounced on canal zone airfields. Royal Navy Hawker Sea Hawks and de Havilland Sea Venoms from the carriers Eagle, Bulwark and Albion swooped on three fields in the Cairo area. The flak was light, and all the attackers returned. By early afternoon, the carriers were 50 miles offshore and launching a fresh sortie every few minutes. On Cyprus, planes were taking off or landing at the rate of one a minute. The jets were joined by turboprop Westland Wyverns from the British flattops and propeller-driven Vought F4U Corsairs from the French carrier Arromanches, which was accompanied by Lafayette, carrying Grumman TBM Avengers and helicopters.
The air operation was so effective that the EAF was destroyed in a day. Egyptian air fields were later secured by the Anglo-French airborne forces as a preliminary to a major sea borne assault with the aim of gaining control of the Suez Canal.
The hostile take over of the canal caused international condemnation at the UN. The Soviet Union threatened to intervene on Egypt’s behalf with all manner of modern weapons. At the same time, the Soviet Union had an anti-Communist uprising in Hungary to deal with. The United States was deep in the Cold War with Soviet Union and fearing an escalation of the conflict pressured Britain, France and Israel into agreeing to a cease-fire and withdrawal from Egypt.
The war itself lasted for only a week, and invading forces were withdrawn within the month. Egypt suffered great losses to its armed forces but did not lose the objective. After this conflict, Egypt firmly aligned itself with the Soviet Union, which armed Egypt and other Arab nations for the continuing struggle against Israel. The British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden resigned in January 1957 as a result of the Suez fiasco. The result of the conflict symbolically marked the end of the British Empire. This event prominently demonstrated the influence of the two Superpowers which drove Geopolitics at that time. Other partners such as Britain and France could no longer “go at it” by themselves without buy-in and support from the NATO partners, especially the United States. Their “gun-boat” diplomacy from the 19th Century was dead.
The F-84F was supplied in large numbers to NATO air forces by the United States via the MAP (Military Assistance Program). Out of the 2711 Thunderstreaks built, 1301 were transferred to Europe for service with the air forces of allied nations.
The Armee de l’Air received its first Thunderstreaks in 1955. They equipped the the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 11 th Escadres. It was in French service that the Thunderstreak saw its only actual combat during the Suez Crisis. 36 French Thunderstreaks from the 1st Escadre flew to the Israeli base at Lyddia and at the same time F-84Fs from the 3rd Escadre moved to Akrotiri on Cyprus. The 3rd Escadre later also operated out of Israel. The French Thunderstreaks at Lydda supported the Israeli forces that invaded Sinai on October 29. Cyprus-based units began direct attacks on Egyptian airfields on November 1. Twenty Egyptian Ilyushin Il-28 bombers were destroyed on the ground and one Il-28 was shot down by these Lydda-based units. These operations were concluded on November 6, and only one F-84F was lost. The French F-84Fs were flown for over 10 years until replaced by Mirage IIIE in the mid 1960s
The Model Kit
Monogram and Heller both produced a model kit for a 1/48 scale F-84F. Both kits have raised panel lines. The Heller kit appears to have a more accurate rear fuselage. The speed brake is located closer to the wing fairing and the rear fuselage proportion is correctly shaped when compared to line drawings. The cockpit and ejection seat is very basic and does not have many details. The wheel wells are bare without details.
The Monogram kit’s rear fuselage portion is not properly shaped in that the height appears to be short. Also, the speed brake is positioned a bit far from the wing fairing. The cockpit is classic Monogram in its finest. It is rich in details and even the ejection seat is correct and can be used as is. The landing gear wheel wells are richly detailed and do not require additional work. Despite the minor shortfall, it is by far the better kit.
I choose the Monogram kit despite its dimensional faults but more than made up with far better details.
The Model Subject
Most decals for the F-84F are for US aircraft. I wanted to do a scheme that not many people would do. I wanted it to be spectacular and off the beaten track. When I saw the photos of the French F-84F used in the Suez Conflict in the November issue of Wing Master, I knew I found exactly what I was looking for. The aircraft I modelled is an aircraft 52-9012, Coded “1-NL” from the Armee de l’Air, 1 st Escadre, 1st Squadron. This squadron operated from the Israeli base at Lyddia. I can not read all French words, but it appears that aircraft 1-NL was later handed over to Israel and the Israeli just overpainted French insignia with the Star of David and changed 1-NL to 1-NX.
Construction and Painting
The kit cockpit is excellent as is and so I used it, but only added small details like oxygen hoses, and seatbelts. I rescribed the entire models with recessed panel lines.
To prepare for painting a natural metal finish, all exterior surfaces were wet sanded with fine grit wet sanding paper to remove as many scratches as possible. This is followed up by buffing with a plastic polishing compound.
The model was painted with the Alclad grey primer and the Alclad II Aluminum paint system. Selected panels were painted with Polished Aluminum, Dark Aluminum, and Matt Aluminum. The red stripes were carefully masked off and painted with Model Master Guard Red. The identification bands were masked off and painted with Gunze paint. The mask was created for each aircraft code letters and painted with Gunze flat black paint.
Decals for the French F-84F in the Suez conflict is hard to find. Carpena was the only Vendor that I know of that made the markings for the aircraft I wanted to do. This deal sheet was not good at all: The small text on the sheet is totally illegible and the panel marking stripes were so wide that it would have been laughable if used. The major problem I had with this decal sheet was it would disintegrate into many tiny pieces when dipped in water! I solved the problem by spraying the decal sheet with a coat of Gunze gloss clear which held the decals together long enough for me to apply them to the model. This worked and I only used the squadron badges from the sheet.
I rate this F-84F kit as the best Monogram kit I have ever built. It fits together well and is so well detailed right out of the box. Although I could have done one of the several US aircraft with the decals from SuperScale, I am glad I went off the beaten track and modelled a French aircraft that actually saw action. It was a challenge to get the markings and masking all the stripes.