This honor goes to Giora Epstein of the Israeli Airforce
Colonel Giora "Hawkeye" Epstein (Hebrew: born 1938), today Giora Even is a retired colonel in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) believed to have shot down more jet aircraft than any other pilot. Epstein was credited with 17 kills, all against Egyptian aircraft. With seventeen confirmed kills, Giora Epstein is also the "ace of aces" of the Israeli Air Force. Epstein was an active IAF pilot from 1963 until 1997, when he retired at age 59. He, like many retired IAF fliers, is currently a captain for El-Al airlines. Early career
Epstein joined the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in 1956 during the Suez War. He was initially rejected from flight school because of a heart condition and thus began his military career as a paratrooper. While traveling with the IDF's parachute demonstration team, Epstein changed his last name to Even ("stone" in Hebrew). He left the IDF in 1959 before returning two years later to again apply for flight school.
After gaining medical clearance (mostly through his own stubbornness), Epstein began fighter training. He soon gained the nickname "Hawkeye" due to his extraordinary eyesight. Epstein was allegedly able to spot aircraft from twenty four miles away - nearly three times the range of the normal pilot. Victories: 1967-1973
Epstein's first kill came on June 6, 1967 (during the Six Day War), when he downed an Egyptian Sukhoi-7 at El Arish.
During the War of Attrition in 1969-1970, Epstein downed a MiG-17, another Sukhoi-7 and two MiG 21s.
The rest of his kills came during 1973's Yom Kippur War. Over the course of three days (October 18-20, 1973), he downed an Mi-8 helicopter and eight jets: two Sukhoi-7s, two Sukhoi-20s and four MiG 21s.
Then, on October 24, 1973, Epstein downed three more MiG-21s west of the Great Bitter Lake.
Eight of these victories came with Epstein at the controls of the French-built Mirage III, a delta wing fighter designed primarily as a high altitude interceptor. His other nine victories came in an IAI Nesher, an Israeli-built version of the Mirage V.