Israeli F-16's sidestick control grip used in attack on Iraqi nuclear site up for auction

World 11:01 AM - 2021-11-25

The still functioning grip used in 1981 Operation Opera is up for sale with a starting bid of $50,000; 'That red button is one of the few that saved Israel,' says the man in charge of the auction

The sidekick control grip of an F-16 fighter jet used by the Israeli forces in attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor 40 years ago is set to be put up for action over the weekend. 

The item will be put up for sale some five months after the 40th anniversary of Operation Opera, with a starting bid of $50,000.

Operation Opera was carried out on June 7, 1981 when eight Israeli Air Force (IAF) war planes bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor. The jet, the grips of which is now for sale, was part of the 117 Squadron.

Col. Hagai Katz (Res.), served as the pilot of the plane, while the owner of the rare sidestick control grip is a senior squadron member who wishes to remain anonymous. 

"The control stick came through squadron personnel, and I would rather say no more because it's a sensitive subject," said the owner. 

It's unclear how the control stick came to the possession of the squadron members. IAF pilots who retire usually receive a "souvenir" such as a helmet, but not a fighter jet grip, certainly not one with such a rich history. 

The surprising fact is that the grip's buttons are still functional.

At the bottom of the grip, the date 6.6.81 is engraved, which is one day before the attack, and next to it an additional engravement - 12.81 - believed to be the date the sidekick control was decommissioned.

The fate of the F-16 plane itself isn't much different: It was sold at the beginning of the year, along with three others, to a company in North America that provides training services for the U.S. Air Force.

"Six months ago, someone in Europe, sold part of a plane that fell in the 1950s with a symbol of an Israeli squadron for some $60,000," said the grip's owner. 

"These kinds of items are very much in demand in the world, especially among collectors in the United States and flight enthusiasts, and this item has great value due to its historical meaning."

Eyal Ilya from "Pentagon Auctions", who is in charge of the sale along with "Garage Sale Collection", is set to put the grip up for sale with the starting bid of $50,000, although he says "it's clearly worth much more".

"We already got an offer for $100,000, but we declined. That red button that you can see on the stick is one of the few buttons that saved Israel."

PUKmedia / Ynetnews

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