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Israeli Air Force Need For Speed
by James Dunnigan
July 2, 2014

In an effort to dissuade Hezbollah from again attacking Israel with rockets like it did in 2006, the commander of the Israeli Air Force recently pointed out that because of new technology and weapons the air force can now hit more Hezbollah targets in 24 hours than it did in 33 days (during the 34 day war with Hezbollah in 2006). For Hamas down in Gaza it was pointed out that Israel can now hit in less than 12 hours the number of targets it took seven days to find and attack during the week-long 2008 war with Hamas. This is all part of a technological revolution the air force has been undergoing since the 1990s. Since 2006 those changed have been accelerating.

Israel already had some formidable intelligence collection capabilities even before 2006. Israel satellites, UAVs and manned recon aircraft to collect data that leads to the identification of enemy bases and weapons storage sites. This, for example, enabled the Israeli Air Force to quickly destroy most of the Hezbollah long range rockets in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008. The few long-range rockets that survived the 2006 strike were used, but this initial attack prevented over a hundred large rockets from hitting targets all over Israel. The Israeli air force publicists gave particular credit to Squadron 100, which flew militarized twin-engine Beechcraft King Air planes, nicknamed Tzufit, crammed with sensors, electronics and five equipment operators. These aircraft are operated by the oldest squadron in the air force.

The Israeli Air Force demonstrated a lot of changes less than two years after the 2006 war when, in Gaza, dozens of targets taken out within three minutes by Israeli warplanes. That was an impressive example of precision bombing. But when the Israeli ground troops entered Gaza ten days later, other air force innovations were largely invisible to the public.

After the 2006 war the air force quickly made radical changes in the way it coordinated its operations with the ground forces. To do this it mobilized dozens of older (some retired) fighter pilots and used them to staff air support coordination detachments at army brigade headquarters. These officers were in turn supported by new technology and procedures that provided the air support coordination officers, and the army commanders they supported, with more real time video from UAVs and aircraft and the ability to quickly get firepower applied to target after it was identified. The objective of all this was to increase the speed and accuracy of smart bombs and missiles hitting targets the army wanted taken out. In the last few years this has meant new display technology and software that enables a commander to identify and designate a target with a few taps on a touch screen. Israel is also using cell phone size devices for this and constantly upgrading the crypto (that keeps the enemy from making sense of these communications) used. The goal now is to further streamline and speed up so ten times as many targets can be hit as was the case in 2006. Since 2008 the standardization and communications have been further improved so that you no longer need air force officers with ground units to get air support quickly.

After the 2006 war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon Israel realized two things; its military was still superior to Arab forces and its military was not as superior as Israel believed it was. The major Israeli deficiency was communications. What the Arabs, or at least Iran-backed Hezbollah, had done was learned to move faster and more resourcefully than the Israelis expected. What really shocked the Israelis was that although they could spot and track these Hezbollah moves they could not get artillery, aircraft or ground troops moved quickly enough to take out a lot of identified targets before the enemy managed to change position. All the different levels of Israeli headquarters and combat units could actually communicate with each other, but not fast enough to hit a target that had been identified and located but was not staying put long enough for the completion of all the procedures and paperwork required to get the strike order sent to the unit best able to carry it out.

The solution was new technology and procedures. Since 2006 Israel has built a new communications system that is faster and able, according to Israeli claims, to hit a lot more targets than the 2006 era forces could manage. Much of the solution had nothing to do with radical new hardware but to simply standardizing the procedures everyone had long used to call for fire, or to deliver it. Now commanders at all levels can see the same data and call for and receive fire support quickly. Thus when a target is identified the bombs, shells or ground attack follows quickly.

Everyone was shown how easy, and damaging it was to underestimate the enemy. In training exercises the “enemy” is controlled by Israeli troops with ordered to be imaginative and try real hard to not get spotted and hit. It’s been amazing what these “enemy” troops come up, and necessary to keep this secret so that the real enemy does not find out.

 


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