Warplanes: Israeli Air Force Lessons Learned


January 7, 2009: The Israeli Air Force learned its lesson from the 2006 campaign against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Before 2006, the air force had convinced the government that it was on top of Hezbollah military preparations in southern Lebanon, and could take down the terrorist rocket stockpiles with air attacks. Ground troops would not be necessary, or would have little to do if sent in. The Israeli generals were wrong. In the first ten days of the 2006 operations, the air force took out 150 known targets. But it turned out that Hezbollah had a lot more down on, and under, the ground than the air force intelligence knew about. The air force had a hard time finding those additional rocket stockpiles, and bunkers full of Hezbollah fighters. The army had to be hastily mobilized and sent into a battle they were not prepared for.

Thirty months later, the Israeli Air Force had cleaned up its act, or so it appears. We won't know for sure until the Gaza operation is over. But in the first ten days of fighting in Gaza, the air force destroyed over 500 targets, using 555 fighter and 125 attack helicopter sorties. More importantly, a new intelligence approach, and new sensors, have made it possible for the air force to keep finding new targets. Part of this was due to the air force forming a tighter link with the other intel organizations (army, Mossad, Shin Bet and foreign nations), and increasing the speed at which intel is collected, processed, and passed back to the combat aircraft in the form of target information.

The Israelis are using more high resolution targeting pods, including some using high rez (SAR) radar for all-weather ground surveillance. This gave them more information, more quickly. This was aided by greater use, than ever before, of UAVs. The Gaza battle areas have been under intense UAV surveillance 24/7 since operations began. This explains how the air force is now able to generate a constant supply of new targets. Hamas is suitably shocked, or so it appears from what Arab language reporters are broadcasting from within Gaza. There's a higher than expected use of faked bomb victim stories, which is largely attributable to the greater precision with which the air force is identifying and hitting targets. Hamas appears to be in disarray, having been hit with a more devastating attack than their Hezbollah advisors had endured. As a result, Hezbollah is getting nervous about what a second round of fighting in southern Lebanon might do to them.

The U.S. has supplied Israel with just about every smart bomb in the American arsenal. Not just to help out an ally, but so that American and Israeli air force planners can compare notes after this is all over.


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