The Israeli Air Force played a key role in the exercise, reflecting its centrality as Israel’s strategic arm.
In May, the IAF sent, for the first time, F-16 fighter aircraft to Cyprus as part of the “Blue Sun” exercise, which simulated war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The drill also saw Israeli intelligence-gathering jets, C-130 transport helicopters, Apache gunships, and special forces on the ground.
The IAF, which is due to have two full squadrons of F-35 fifth-generation jets by 2024, and is due to receive a third squadron in the coming years, is preparing itself for the plentiful security challenges of the 21st century Middle East. Chief among these is the attempt of the Iranian-led axis to surround Israel with a “ring of fire,” and plant missile and rocket bases in civilian areas all around the Jewish state.
In any future full-scale regional war, the IAF will have to be able to both deal with those threats and tackle Iranian nuclear sites and missile bases thousands of kilometers from Israel— all at the same time.
The IAF’s Air Defense Command today plays a key role in defense, Nagel noted, and the IAF is also tasked with protecting national borders until reserves are called up.
In 2017 and 2018, then-Prime Minister Netanyahu drew up a revised defense doctrine, which states that the IDF will strike any who strike Israel, but also that it will target those behind such attacks—meaning Iran, Nagel added.
Nagel said that it is vital to build multi-domain ground forces made up of a combination of forces, which are versatile enough to operate in multiple arenas and are well defended against developing threats.
Ben-Eliyahu noted that the IAF is also building a basis of cooperation with other, friendly air forces.
The F-35s, he added, with their ultra-advanced avionics, collect large quantities of data—relevant information on entire theaters, enabling pilots to act on a full picture, and with coordination with naval and ground forces, as well as other air platforms.
Hezbollah in Lebanon has been boosting its air defense capabilities by importing Iranian-made surface-to-air missile batteries, in addition to the Russian-made systems it already possesses, according to recent reports.This however is not a new threat for IAF pilots.
According to Nagel, the backbone of the IAF’s air power is made up of F-15s, F-16s and F-35s, alongside a growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles of various types and sizes, including multi-rotor copters that can carry significant payloads and remain in the air for hours.
The navy, for its part, will also have an important role, said Nagel, particularly special naval forces. The Israeli Navy also possesses the ability to move ground forces deep into enemy territory, as the IDF official strategy calls for, he said.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate
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