In 1948, a group of World War II pilots volunteered to fight for Israel in the War of Independence. As members of “Machal” – volunteers from abroad – this ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war, preventing the possible annihilation of Israel at the very moment of its birth; they also laid the groundwork for the Israeli Air Force.
In 1944 Germany had started production of the Me-109 near Prague producing G-12 and G-14 type aircraft. After the retreat of the German army the production facility was virtually undamaged. The post-war Czech government ordered the continuation of the production. So about 20 G-14’s, named Avia S-99 and two G-12’s named CS-99 were produced.
There were plans for a large scale production to equip the new Czech air force. In September 1945 the stock of DB 605 engines was lost in a fire in the factory where they were stored and an alternative powerplant had to be found. The only available engine were the Jumo 211F and 211H intended for Heinkel He-111 bombers. The 109 airframe was adapted for the Jumo engine and the first Jumo engined S-199 first flew in March 1947. The S-199 was not a good fighter. Performance was disappointing.
To improve pilot vision a new “bubble” hood was fitted. Standard armament were 2 MG 131’s over the engine and two MG 151/20 under the wing. The S-199 and the two seat trainer CS-199 served for some years with the Czech air force but was soon replaced.
In 1948 25 of the S-199 fighters were sold to the new state of Israel where they served during the 1948 war fighting against Egyptian Spitfires!. In Israel the type was disliked by the pilots and prone to accidents. After the war in 1949 the surviving aircraft were soon decommissioned.
Above and Beyond is the story of these brave men.
The first major feature-length documentary about the foreign airmen in the War of Independence, Above and Beyond brings together new interviews with pilots from the ’48 War, as well as leading scholars and statesmen, including President Shimon Peres, to present an extraordinary, little-known tale with reverberations up to the present day.
Above and Beyond is currently in production. It is produced by Nancy Spielberg, directed by Roberta Grossman and written by Sophie Sartain.
Sample Reel for ‘Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force’ – Playmount Productions from Katahdin Productions on Vimeo.