New head of the IAF Air Defense Command assumes office

Head of the IAF: “The Air Defense Command of the Israel Air Force is the most advanced in its reputation, technology and experience worldwide”

Date: 16/10/2012, 1:40 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

Yesterday (October 14th), Brig. Gen. Shahar Shohat was appointed the new head of the IAF Air Defense command in a ceremony at the Palmachim base, just south of Rishon Letzion. Brig. Gen. Shohat is replacing Brig. Gen Doron Gavish, who is leaving the army for civilian life after a 30 year term at the Israel Air Force, three of which he spent as head of the Air Defense command.

“In the last years, the Air Defense Command had a fostered a change, even a revolution, in its way it is operated and deployed. A procedure we called ‘designing the future’,” said Brig. Gen. Gavish at the ceremony, ” On the symbolic date, 11.1.11, we embarked on our new mission, with the reformation of our systems and our strategies, and changed our name from Anti Aircraft to Air Defense Command.”

The Air Defense Command was established during the 1948 War of Independence, as part of the Artillery Corps, and moved under the jurisdiction of the IAF during the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956. By 1971, the command had been completely merged with the IAF. The defining moment of the Command came during the Yom Kippur War, when 46 Egyptian planes and 7 Syrian planes were taken down, creating a significant air advantage for the IDF (Zahal).

Last year, in an effort to emphasize the unit’s new responsibilities, whose focus has shifted from the threat of enemy planes to that of rockets and missiles, the Command changed its name from Anti – Aircraft to Air Defense Command.  Both Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, and Incoming head of Air Defense Command, Brig. Gen, Shohat, emphasized the delicate situation in the region.

“The Middle East is in the midst of a storm, the spectrum of threats is large and its complexities ever increasing,” warned head of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. “The combination between ideological terror organizations, and new regimes [getting hold of] advanced weaponry, an inheritance of militaries [of sovereign states], creates a platform of wild, uncalculated belligerence, without any restraint within our boundaries. [This behavior] threatens our country and our way of life.”

Brig. Gen. Shohat also spoke of the situation saying, “The state of Israel is confronted with significant political, security, and social challenges. It seems as if we are at the beginning of a winter, in both senses, more than we are in the beginning of a spring,” said Brig. Gen. Shohat.

“The command finds itself at the beginning of a strategic change – receiving unique missions of national importance, operating new technologically advanced systems, and a thorough restructuring,” Brig. Gen. Shohat explained.

While the Air Defense operates five different systems, the three most prominent ones are the MIM Patriot 104, the Arrow Missile Defense, and the Iron Dome. The patriot system was first used during the Gulf War in response to the Iraqi – operated Scud missiles, and during the Second Lebanon War, defense of the Northern Israeli cities, defending from the Hezbollah operated Katyusha missiles.

The newly developed Arrow Missile System, soon reaching its third generation, is the world’s first national missile defense system, capable of defending all of Israel from long-range ballistic missiles. The system plays a strategic role in countering long-range threats like those from Iran.

In recent years, constant rocket attacks from Gaza have been launched at Israeli cities, and prompted the development of the Iron Dome system – a system aimed at intercepting short-range rockets and artillery shells. The Iron Dome, one of the world’s most advanced rocket defense systems, is an Israeli invention, backed by U.S. support.

“[ the Iron Dome] withstood the test of time, taking down 109 rockets and providing an effective protection for the citizens of southern Israel – an operational success on an international scale,” noted outgoing commander Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish, emphasizing the importance of the cooperation between the U.S. Air Force and the IAF

“We have moved from a tactical command to a strategic command with multi-layered capabilities,” concluded Maj. Gen. Eshel , “the Air Defense command of the Israel Air Force is the most advanced command , in its reputation, technology and experience worldwide.”