Giora Epstein is the all-time jet ace. His 17 kills, accomplished during three conflicts, make him the jet era ace-of-aces.
At seventeen, Epstein joined the Israeli Defense Force in 1956 but because of a heart condition he was not approved for a flying program and was assigned to the paratroopers. He separated from the IDF in 1959 but returned two years later and, through shear determination, was finally accepted for flight training. Early on, Giora earned the nickname “Hawkeye” because of his ability to pick up incoming adversary aircraft long before the other members in his formation.
During the 1967 Six Day War Epstein got his first kill against an Egyptian Su-7. In the War of Attrition in 1969-1970 he got four more kills to become an ace. Then, during the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 Epstein shot down 12 more aircraft. In one three day period that month he shot down eight jets and one Mi-8 helicopter.
Eight of his victories were accomplished flying the Mirage III and the rest in the IAI Nesher, an Israeli built derivative of the Mirage. All his kills were against Egyptian flown, Soviet built aircraft.
Israeli Mirage III
Photo by Yural Lapid
After an amazing 35 year career of flying operational fighters, Colonel Giora Epstein retired in 1998 just shy of his 60th birthday. If you love flying fighters, that’s hard to beat. Epstein went on to fly for El-Al airlines.
Oct 3rd, 2009
Absolutely incredible! I caught part of this story on History channel and decided to find out more about this amazing fighter pilot!
Naturally, sharing his last name (I got mine thorugh marriage) only made me all the more curious to lean more. An amazing warrior story!
Dec 29th, 2009
Just saw the history channel program on the ace of aces.
True soldiers are born, not trained.
Feb 23rd, 2010
I too caught this on the Military Channel. I too wished to learn more about this incredible man.
Jun 21st, 2010
Kol hakavod a true eagle of the skies, hashem ishmor you and yours .
Sep 29th, 2010
'make him the jet era ace-of-aces' - It's not even funny. As anyone who knows a little history, knows that the best - Soviet pilots Pepelyaev (20 kills) and Sutyagin (22 kills), the Korean War.
TO: S21, I'll get some articles on the site about your boys from Russia. I'd enjoy seeing a 1 v 1 with either of them and Epstein. Who would you put your money on?
Sep 19th, 2011
HE is the king of all fighter pilots
Aug 22nd, 2012
7 Minutes in a dogfight with 11 Mig-21s all ALONE!!??
Ya, I know Egyptian fighter pilots suck...but come on...that's not bad display of flying...
Aug 25th, 2012
I would enjoy seeing some articles about the Soviet pilots Pepelyaev (20 kills) and Sutyagin (22 kills).
Aug 25th, 2012
I actually have a MiG Ace article coming out next week. I'll look for info on the two pilots you mentioned to publish in another article. Thanks for the input.
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