This week, air force commanders from around the world gathered in Israel to address the globalization of aerial threats. The first international air defense conference included representatives from Israel, Poland, Germany, Greece, the U.S, the U.K, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands.
The rapid globalization of aerial threats presents the need for a global response. Israel is no stranger to such threats, as was evidenced most recently during Operation Protective Edge. After the operation, Israel’s Iron Dome established itself as the model for air defense worldwide. With a nearly 90% success rate, it is the most efficient missile defense system of its kind.
“The Israeli industry occupies a center-field position in the international scene of aerial defense. Regarding the development of advanced protection systems, Israeli systems have more than justified their reputation in the last conflict,” explains Brig. Gen. Shachar Shohat, Commander of the Israel Air Defense Force.
In continuation with previous collaborative efforts with ally armies (i.e., the “Nobel Dina” joint exercise with the US Navy and Hellenic Navy, the “Nobel Shirley” aerial exercise with the U.S Air Force), Brig. Gen. Shohat was joined on May 19 at the IAF base in Palmachim by his colleagues to commence a productive collaboration in a first-of-its-kind conference. The main objective was to construct a plan geared towards improving each army’s collaborative effort in combating the globalization of aerial threats.
The air force commanders represent their perspective countries in the conference. Behind them are the IDF (Zahal)’s anti-missile defense systems “Patriot” and “Iron Dome.”
From left to right: Brig. Gen. Blaise Frawley (Canada); Brig. Gen. Georgios Andreou (Greece); Brig. Gen. Christopher Spillman (U.S.); Maj. Gen. Robert Lowenstein (Germany); Brig. Gen. Shachar Shohat (Israel); Brig. Gen. Donald Fryc (U.S.); Air Com. M E Sammy Sampson (UK); Brig. Gen. Jan Gabryś (Poland)
“The globalization all over has also reached the military field. The Western world is facing, in many dimensions, the same threats. We have to act together for the security of our societies.” -Maj. Gen. Robert Lowenstein, German Air Force Commander
“Unfortunately, Israel is forced to confront, daily, a very real danger. Last year the world witnessed how Israel had to contend with the thousands of short-range missiles which were fired into Israeli territory. This discussion has deepened in Central Europe,” explains Maj. Gen. Lowenstein, a commander in the German Air Force. “We must share our knowledge and work together. The concern about the proliferation of high-tech aircraft missiles is not just an Israeli concern, but is shared by the entire Western world,” he stresses.
Maj. Gen Lowenstein also reminds us that this year is the fiftieth anniversary of Israeli- German military cooperation and explains that “we are looking forward to intensifying our cooperation and to extend into an international collaboration that would best combine our forces.”
The various air force commanders seem more determined than ever to reach a new level of partnership, enabling them to optimize the timing of their workforce and technologies. Several Western countries also have a special interest in the “Iron Dome” missile-defense system, which took up a large part of the debate at the conference.
“It is very clear to me why the commanders of these armies have such great respect for our aerial defense industry. We are working to improve and extend the capabilities of existing systems so that we are ready for the next confrontation,” Brig. Gen. Shohat states. However, he is quick to dispel any impression that the IAF is resting on its laurels: “This conference is a gathering of commanders who have come together to share their expertise and deal with operational issues and challenges. This is not a marketing conference.”
When asked about his thoughts regarding the imminent threat posed at the northern border, Brig. Gen. Shohat responded calmly: “The IDF (Zahal) is ready, the IAF is ready and our aerial defense systems are ready.”