The Patriot surface-to-air missile system, officially known as the MIM-104, is an important part of Israel’s aerial defense. Designed by the American company Raytheon, this ground-to-air, long-range missile is able to intercept and shoot down all types of aircraft. Drones, helicopters and fighter jets can all be targeted from a distance of 160 km. During the IDF (Zahal)’s most recent operation, the system executed its first three interceptions in the past 20 years.
Lieutenant Uri Regev was the operations officer of two Patriot batteries located in Israel’s Southern District during Operation Protective Edge. “As the operations officer, my mission is to train the soldiers during times of quiet, as well as to act as quickly as possible during emergency situations,” he said.
The First Patriot Interceptions in 20 Years
“During the operation, my soldiers and I were responsible for two Patriot batteries in southern Israel. We intercepted two drones that had infiltrated the country from the Gaza Strip,” said Lt. Regev.
These two interceptions, the first on July 14 over Ashdod and the second on July 17 near Ashkelon, were the first in nearly 20 years for the Patriot defense system. Thanks to their intense training (between 20 and 30 hours of simulations per week), the soldiers were well prepared and were able to act professionally and quickly when the drones infiltrated Israel’s airspace.
Syrian Aircraft Shot Down by the Patriot
IDF (Zahal) officers are aware of the current tension near Israel’s northern border with Syria and Lebanon. “Since 2006, the ammunition pointed at Israel from the north has continued to multiply,” summarized Lt. Col. Roy Katz, battalion commander of the Patriot system in the north. “Faced with this palpable tension in the north, we continue to train and further evaluate the situation.”
On August 31, the Patriot defense system intercepted and neutralized a drone that infiltrated Israel from Syria. This infiltration was followed by another incident when a Syrian combat plane infiltrated Israel on September 23. It too was intercepted by a patriot missile.
How Does the Patriot Defense System Work?
When an enemy aircraft threatens the security of Israel, the Israel Air Force decides how to react and what system to use in just a few minutes. If it is decided to use the Patriot, the “Sheinav” group takes control of the operation and decides what battery will intercept the aircraft.
“All of the soldiers in the ‘Sheinav’ group were in charge of activating a Patriot battery before arriving in this position,” said Captain Ella Lasry, the commander of the ‘Sheinav’ group. “They know the characteristics and functions of each battery in Israel.”
“We must act as quickly as possible,” said Capt. Lasry. “The situations that the Patriot system faces are ones that can place the entire Israeli population at risk. It is our duty to end these threats in a very short time.”
Lt. Regev is also aware of the huge responsibility that rests on his shoulders. “It is a defense system. This means that we act when an imminent attack threatens the lives of civilians. We have no room for errors.”
The Soldiers: the Backbone of the Patriot
“Although the Patriot system is technologically advanced system, it can not function without its soldiers,” insisted Lt. Regev. “A human being is required to activate the system, as intelligent as it is.”
During Operation Protective Edge, many reserve soldiers were called to lend a hand to the soldiers operating the Patriot system. “They left their homes, families and jobs in order to come and serve here. Our soldiers worked tirelessly, 24/7 throughout the operation in order to ensure the safety of the country. We are very proud of each and every one of them.”