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Fire in the sky! Israel’s Apache helicopter’s stunning aerobatic display to mark top gun graduationAstonishing pictures show Israel's aerial hardware in actionThe images were taken at a graduation ceremony for pilots earlier todayIsraeli Air Force pilots are seen as among the best in the world
20:56 GMT, 27 December 2012
These incredible images of some of the world's most sophisticated aerial warfare technology were taken during today's graduation ceremony for Israeli pilots.
The images, taken at the Hatzerim Air Force Base near the southern city of Beersheba, Israel, provide a rare glimpse into the astonishing air power wielded by the Israeli Air Force, an arm of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
The Israeli Air Force was born in the War of Independence in 1948 and has grown from four Czechoslovakian Messerschmitt planes to a vast and technologically sophisticated force.
Pyrotechnics: An Israeli Boeing AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter launches anti-missile flares during today's air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots
Might: Israel has a sophisticated and well-trained air force that uses fighter jets, attack helicopters and drone technology
Technology includes the U.S.-built F16I fighter jet and the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, as well as a vast array of support vehicles and state-of-the-art drone technology.
Israel spends 7.3 per cent of its GDP on its military, making it the country with the sixth highest expenditure in the world.
The graduation ceremony also saw an American-made Israeli McDonnell Douglas F-15I fighter jet launch anti-missile flares, while engaging in aerobatic manoeuvres.
The American McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter that is used by air forces throughout the world.
It is considered among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights, according to aviation writer Mike Spick.
Interceptor: An Israeli Air Force fighter jet releases flares during an acrobatics display
Might: The IAF had 43 F15s as of January 2011. It is an air superiority craft with ground strike capabilities
Defence: The flares seen in this image are used as a countermeasure against enemy 'heat-seeking' missiles
Joy: Israeli pilots throw their hats in the air as they celebrate at their graduation ceremony
THE ISRAELI AIR FORCE BY NUMBERS
According to a 2011 report by Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, the IAF currently has:
804 combat aircraft (490 operational)77 transport aircraft (57 operational)231 helicopters (171 operational), 80 of which are attack helicopters
89,000 personnel (34,000 regulars, 55,000 reserves)11 military airfields