Thursday, October 17, 2013

Egyptian Lysander

As a teenager, one of my favorite science fiction books was one that used cover art from paperback science fiction. Most were of space ships. I did not know it was cover art until I saw the same images on paperbacks years latter in used book shops.

What I loved about this book was the story line were many of these space craft were personal craft or merchants that were fitted for war between Mars and Earth (I think).

While this is used in many science fiction novels and movies it does have a connection in real life. During the Falklands War civilian transports were used as reconnaissance aircraft. Often coming close to British Harriers. In the bush wars of Central America and Sub-Sahara Africa, T-6 Texan was often used in COIN operations. 

Now the aircraft I am interested in is very similar with an obscure history in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. It is the Lysander. An aircraft that was designed as an army cooperation aircraft before World War II and was found to be perfect for short range reconnaissance and photography. After the fall of most of Europe they were pulled from front line service. These aircraft received a second life as they were able to operate from unimproved airfields and could supply the resistance fighters in France and the Balkans. 

They were also used by Egypt in World War II to patrol the Western Desert. I saw never sure if there were watching the German and Italians, or the British forces. A few lived on to see action in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. These twenty-year-old well-used aircraft were still operational and on at least one occasion engaged an Israeli aircraft. The story is best told from

(I reached out to ask if I could use this excerpt but did not hear back. I will take it down if the owner so wishes.)

By Dr. David Nicolle  

Conflict of another kind
The war had left Egypt’s shores months earlier, but other clouds were looming, both in Egypt’s increasingly tense relationship with Britain, and over the frontier in Palestine. For this reason, the REAF hung onto whatever aircraft it could. Although nine Lysanders were sent for scrap between October 1946 and January 1947, four others were overhauled and returned to the Miscellaneous List in June 1946. Some while later, these were attached to the new Royal Flight, which itself formed part of No. 3 (Comm) Sqn. Meanwhile, their original owner, No. 1 Sqn, had regained its original status as the REAF’s elite unit, being re-equipped with secondhand Spitfire LF.IXs as a fighter-reconnaissance squadron by the end of 1947.

Shortly before the Palestine War broke out in 1948, two of the REAF’s surviving Lysanders were re-equipped for aerial photography. According to Jabr Ali Jabr, writing about the 1948 war: ‘Very few Egyptian aircraft were equipped for photography and the only ones available for this purpose were two antiquated Lysanders. One of them was usually unserviceable. At the same time, there was also a serious lack of officers trained to interpret and comment upon aerial photographs. The same went for analyzing and using the information from such pictures.’

As a result, the two Lysanders were thrown into the early part of the Palestine War. One of these, or perhaps the third surviving Lysander, was soon involved in an extraordinary aerial combat with an Israeli Avia C210 (Czech-built Messerschmitt Bf 109) on June 9, 1948. Air Commodore Muhammad Abd al-Munaim Miqaati, one of Egypt’s first three military pilots, and now Deputy Director General of the REAF, was due to fly from al-Arish to Cairo-Almaza, but had been expecting trouble. This would, in fact, be the first day of the so-called Ten Day War, which followed the collapse of the first UN Truce. As Miqaati recalled: ‘It was Condition Red. I had been advised to keep the radio on, but I was still nervous as I set across the Mediterranean. Fortunately my gunner – I don’t remember his name – was a keen-sighted man and he spotted an Israeli Messerschmitt as it maneuvered into position to attack. Of course, my Lysander was a very old kind of airplane, but I’d flown these for a long time. Still, we were at a big disadvantage and you’d expect such a contest could only end one way… The pilot of the Israeli aircraft came up behind us. I told my gunner to fire just as the Messerschmitt came into range and I went down to about 100 feet. Then the gunner fired and I throttled right back. You know the Lysander can drop like a stone to land in a field, like they did when the RAF took spies in and out of France. The Israeli must have been concentrating on keeping me in his sights because he dropped his nose to follow. He overshot and went right in, almost level with me. I honestly felt sick in my stomach and, I don’t know why, I saluted him. Then we flew straight back to Cairo.’

The Israeli pilot was Bob Vickman, and his loss remained unexplained for the Israelis until Miqaati’s account was published. According to an unofficial report obtained by the British Air Attaché in Cairo in October 1948, No. 3 Sqn no longer had any Lysanders, but one was still listed as serviceable at Almaza in January 1950. Air Commodore Miqaati said that a Lysander was among many different types kept there in the early 1950s, intended for an air museum that was never built because of the 1952 Revolution. British bombing during the 1956 Suez War destroyed most of these historic aircraft. One way or another, Egypt’s Lysanders went out with a bang rather than a whimper, and they were surely the last to see combat.

While I have played and helped design a number of flight and combat sims, I find it hard to believe (but not impossible) that a Lysander could down a Messerschmitt Bf 109. What can I say; the Lysander has a place at least for 1948 and 1956 conflicts.

I am happy to show these aircraft off in 3mm. These have just been released by O8 and came from PicoArmor.

The models are very clean with little flash. You can see here both the bare metal and primed and washed versions. 

I have also painted both the silver and camo patterns of the REAF. This will make a nice addition to my 1948 collection. While it is an aircraft that was available, I do not think I would want to be in one against any fighter. But that is just me.

Additional colors can be found at Wings Palette.


  1. Very nice post for a very nice plane!

    1. Thank you Phil. I only wish I had Egyptian roundels. Hand painting them was tricky.