IAF Commander: Hezbollah has firepower unparalleled to many states

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Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Ido Nachushtan spoke about the Air Force at the sixth annual Conference of National Security

Date: 11/05/2010, 8:54 PM     Author: Nadav Deutscher

On Tuesday (May 11) the Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and Space Research, founded by the Air Force Association, held its sixth annual Conference of National Security under the heading “Air Power – Israel’s challenges for the coming decades”. Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan, Commander of the Israeli Air Force, opened the second day of the conference with a speech on his accession to the position of commander of the corps: “Israel is a country that needs to fight for its existence, which means using military power, while war characteristics are different from what they used to be in the past. Despite these different characteristics, in reality, a country that needs to defend itself needs a strong army which helps it cope with difficulties”.

According to him, armies in the world are undergoing deep and multi-dimensional changes, not only in terms of levels of weaponry used, but also from a strategic thinking point of view. “We are fighting against missiles and rockets in large numbers, whereby the enemy sees it as an efficient weapon and therefore invests money and effort in it”, the IAF Commander said, stressing that the most fundamental change is of a strategic-political nature, and to illustrate this he explained that an organization such as Hezbollah has firepower unparalleled by many states. “Today’s wars are also public opinion wars and therefore we have to know how to hit terrorist targets only and avoid hitting uninvolved populations. This is a significant, multi-dimensional change which demands a lot of efforts from us”, he said.

In his speech, Maj. Gen. Nechushtan described the modern challenges standing before Israel’s Air Force. “I see efforts to reduce the Air Force’s freedom of action, not only in counter measures but also in the enemy’s ability to hide and escape. This hurts the Air Force’s efficiency and its freedom of action and therefore we need to work in the best possible conditions and in coordination with accurate intelligence. It is much more difficult to fight against a system of well camouflaged tunnels and bunkers; mobility also makes the fighting more difficult because the targets move all the time. The Air Force is aware of all of this, it is not new to us and we deal with it in an effective way.”

“We must know how to work in a threatening environment”

The Commander of the Air Force praised the IAF’s air power, capable of preventing attacks against the ground forces. “Air superiority is essential in order to manage a struggle on the ground, not only today but also in the future. It is required not only to give the Air Force freedom of action, it is essential to enable freedom of action to ground forces. As a result, the Air Force must create its own freedom of action, must know how to work in a threatening environment, and must constantly develop its capacity to strike with precision. It must constantly improve its intelligence gathering abilities, and it must know to quickly connect accurate intelligence to attack ability.”

Looking ahead to the future, Maj. Gen. Nechushtan spoke of the function of the Air Force’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), saying that they do not replace other air operations, but rather represent a complementary force: “UAVs belong to a whole aerial niche which did not exist before, because they enable new capabilities on the battlefield. Planes in general do not remain on the battlefield; they go and come back, and to that end they need very precise planning, as opposed to ground forces that go to the field and only then finalize operational plans. UAVs work in a different way – they go to the battlefield and spend a lot of time there. They can help and accomplish a lot in both air and ground missions”.

“UAVs allow us presence in the air, and this is a revolution that the Air Force is entering by using them. This is expressed when considering the total flight hours of the IAF during Operation Cast Lead, where UAVs made up for about half of the total flight hours. Their contribution to the battlefield is considerable and they constitute a complementary and crucial tool to the IAF”, he added.