Stealing a Mig

In 1962, the Soviet Union began supplying Arab air forces with the Mig-21, a fighter capable of speeds of approximately 1200 miles per hour.1,2 The Commander of the Israeli Air Force, Ezer Weizman, decided that Israel's possession and examination of that plane could have decisive importance in any future war, and the Mossad began to plan how to steal one. A number of ways of accomplishing this were considered: interception followed by a forced landing in Israel, infiltration of an Israeli pilot into an Arab air force, and recruiting an Arab pilot to bring a Mig-21 into Israel. The last alternative was decided on.3

Both AMAN and Mossad collected a huge amount of detailed information on Arab pilots in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. After a number of false starts, an Iraqi pilot with a Christian background was selected for a recruitment attempt.4

His name was Munir Redfa. He was one of Iraq's best pilots, from a Maronite-Christian family, and had been trained to fly the Mig-21 in the Soviet Union. A "complex" approach at recruitment was decided on, and a number of agents were dispatched to Iraq, by way of Europe, for the recruitment attempt. A key role was played by an American born Israeli woman, supplied by Mossad, who posed as an American. Her name is still a secret. A "chance" meeting with Redfa was engineered, and the Israeli, beautiful and a gifted conversationalist, developed the relationship. It was decided, for tactical reasons, that she shouldn't at first have sexual contact with Redfa. Eventually she told him that she didn't feel comfortable sleeping with him in Iraq, and that they should take a trip to Paris, where they could be together safely. Once in Paris, she convinced him to fly to Israel with her, where she said she had some "interesting friends."5

Still on the hook, he flew with her to Israel, was treated royally, and was met by Mossad and AMAN officials who made an offer: a million dollars and safe harbor for his family in exchange for a Mig-21. He agreed, with the stipulation that his family be removed to safety first . A large sum was deposited in a Swiss bank account in Redfa's name, he went back to Baghdad with his Israeli girlfriend, who he still believed to be American, and so the operation began. His son acquired a "serious illness", which required the care of a London specialist, his entire family left for London, and during a stop at a European airport, left the plane, and were in Israel within hours.6

Then it was his turn. On August 15, 1966, he asked his crew to fill up his tanks (without the knowledge of the Soviet advisors), took off, disappeared from Iraqi military radar, flew through Jordan, and landed on a base in southern Israel. It was the first advanced Soviet fighter to appear in the West, and caused a sensation. Decades later, it was still talked about in western military circles as a high point of Israeli espionage.7

1 Reuters, "U.A.R. Launchings Displease Israel,", The New York Times , July 23, 1962, 4, ProQuest Historical Newspapers
2 Hanson W. Baldwin, "New Jet Bomber in Russian Skies,", The New York Times , July 9, 1957, 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers
3 Иосиф Дайчман, "Моссад" - Первые полвека , Глава - Персональное досье., Widely available on the Russian web, Example:,
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