Multinational missile defense conference held in Tel Aviv

Iron Dome soldiers. Photo: IDF (Zahal) Spokesperon archives

Head of the IDF (Zahal)’s Air Defense Command: Air defense systems provide answer to neighboring countries and terror groups wishing us harm

Date: 28/02/2013, 9:40 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

Head of the IDF (Zahal)’s Air Defense Command, Brig. Gen. Shachar Shochat addressed the third annual Israel Multinational Missile Defense conference held in Tel Aviv earlier this week. The conference featured missile defense experts from around the globe, who addressed global changes and underscored the need for interoperability across multinational platforms.

The Head of the Air Defense Command addressed the great importance of the Air Defense Command in dealing with the changing threats that the State of Israel faces.”In recent years we witnessed a dramatic increase in missiles launched towards Israel,” he said. “If in the past we faced organized armies, with an air force and fighter jets, we now have to fight underground guerilla terror groups.”

Brig. Gen. Shochat said that the Air Defense Command’s capabilities are evolving to deal with the growing sophistication of the various terror organizations’ weapons arsenals.”We see an increase in the number and the variety of the missiles and rockets, which we anticipate will be more versatile and more accurate,” he said, adding that part of the Command’s responsibilities now include defending Israel against terrorist spy planes.

“One of the principal threats we are dealing with are UAVs,” referring to an incident from October 2012 in which an Iranian-made UAV penetrated Israeli airspace. “Our excellent air defense systems, should serve as an answer for all those neighboring countries and terror groups wishing us harm,” Brig. Gen. Shochat concluded.

Multi-tier defense system

Col. Zvika Haimovich, commander of the Active Defense Wing, and responsible for the Iron Dome, Arrow and Magic Wand (David’s Sling) air defense systems, commented on the Air Defense Command’s important efforts during Operation Pillar of Defense.”The operation proved yet again how flexible we can be with the Iron Dome,” he said, underscoring the unprecedented short time it took for the operators to set up the launch site. “We were able to move a new, fifth battery to the Gush Dan area on Friday [November 16, 2012 – the third day of the operation] and were operational by Saturday [November 17],” he noted.

Although the Iron Dome short-range missile defense system gained wide-spread publicity due to its success during Operation Pillar of Defense, Col. Haimovich emphasized that it is not the only weapon in the Air Defense Command’s extensive arsenal. “While the focus was mainly on the Iron Dome, it is important to remember that it is only a part of a multi-tier concept,” he said, adding that the next operation may well involve a different constellation of air defense and that the multi-tier system is designed to defend against multi-tier threats.

Col. Haimovich noted the important role of the newly developed Arrow 3 missile defense system in defending against long-range rockets and missiles, and said that it could play a central defensive role in future conflicts. The Arrow 3 is the world’s first complete national missile defense system, capable of defending all of Israel from long-range ballistic missiles. The system plays a vital strategic role in countering long-range threats like those from Iran.

Defending the skies since independence

The first incarnation for the Air Defense Command was established during the 1948 War of Independence to defend Israel against the threat of enemy aircraft, and was called the Anti-aircraft Command. Initially belonging to the Artillery Corps, it came under the command of the IAF during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

The Command played a vital role during the Yom Kippur War, by taking down 46 Egyptian and seven Syrian aircraft, creating a significant air advantage for the IDF (Zahal). Last year the Command changed its name to become the Air Defense Command in order to reflect the shifting focus of the unit’s responsibilities from the threat of enemy planes to that of rockets and missiles.