2011 saw increase in IAF operational activities

IAF official: Within 50 years, almost all IAF missions will be unmanned

Date: 31/01/2012, 4:05 PM     Author: Yarden Tzur, Bamahane magazine

The Israel Air Force has finished a year filled with combat operations of a larger scale than recent years. The number of targets hit by aircraft rose significantly in 2011, compared with the two previous years of relative quiet following Operation Cast Lead.

There was a 57% increase in the amount of targets the IAF struck in comparison to 2009 and 2010. Most of the operational activity took place in Gaza. The nature of the targets was varied, including various terrorist infrastructure, weapons storage sites, training camps, and smuggling tunnels.

“Since Operation Cast Lead, the IAF has continued to strike targets proactively in order to prevent attacks against Israeli citizens or in response to terrorist activity, usually in the form of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip,” said the commander of Aircraft Control, Lt. Col. Harel. According to Lt. Col. Harel, the rise can be attributed to the frequent security threats faced by the IDF (Zahal) during the past year.

“2011 included a number of escalations and periods of near escalation,” explained Lt. Col. Harel. “In addition, we are facing a new challenge in the form of a new arena, so we are working to become sharper and more focused.”

The terrorist attack carried out in August near the Egyptian border caused the IDF (Zahal) to reinforce the southern border. “The IAF’s activity on the southern border increased dramatically, collecting intelligence, assisting ground troops, transporting troops and deterrence,” said Lt. Col. Harel. All elements of the IAF have taken part in the missions, including transport aircraft, fighter jets, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The use of UAVs also saw a significant increase in 2011. There was a 28% increase in the flight hours of UAV’s compared to 2010. Over the last five years, the operational use of UAVs has increased dramatically with a 68% increase in the number of flight hours. “The rise is due to us acquiring several new UAVs, such as ‘Eitan,’ and the continuing expansion of the system,” said commander of the school for UAV pilots, Lt. Col. Ido. “There is hardly any activity carried out without the assistance of a UAV. These systems easily have the most flight hours.”

“The UAVs are improving constantly. We acquire and create increasingly sophisticated tools, all Israeli-made. If we look 50 years in the future, with the exception of transporting troops, I don’t see a single mission the IAF flies that won’t be unmanned.”