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“Keeping Israel open for arrivals and departures is a national goal” This past summer, the skies above Israel were especially crowded: UAVs, fighter jets and other aircrafts shared the airspace with rockets launched by “Hamas” and the interception missiles of the “Iron Dome”. How was civilian aviation possible?

Nadav Berger | Translation: Liran Ackerman

Among the rockets and mortars that the terrorist organization “Hamas” launched, the UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) the IAF operated, the “Tamir” interception missiles launched from “Iron Dome” batteries and the fighter jets fly around the clock, civilian aviation in Israel continued for all 50 days of Operation “Protective Edge”.

Despite Hamas’s attempts at disrupting civilian aviation in the state, it was not disrupted except for a day and a half, when some foreign airlines decided not to land in Ben-Gurion Airport following the guidelines of the Federal Aviation Authority. “Operating a civilian aircraft during a conflict is a complex challenge that we decided to deal with by choice”, said Colonel Ran Turgeman, who until recently served as Head of Command Control Units, during the International Civil Aviation Conference of the Fisher Institute and the Civil Aviation Authority. “Keeping Israel open for arrivals and departures is a national goal and we must not allow the enemy to keep us from doing so”.
During war, explained Colonel Turgeman, the IAF is required to have strong cooperation with the Civilian Aviation Authority and the Israel Airports Authority in order to keep the skies open and available for everybody.
One of the main challenges that the IAF had to deal with is the planning of the flight paths in areas where air defense systems such as the “Iron Dome” and “Patriot” operate.

The choice of flight paths was based on intelligence and the ongoing activity, so that the air defense systems did not operate in areas designated for the civil pilots. Nonetheless, these flight paths altered in real time according to the defense needs. “We do not want planes to be in areas where interceptions take place and that is why we have created special ‘tubes’ in between the interception areas where the planes could fly”, added Colonel Turgeman.

Maximize Defense
The intelligence indications have brought about a change in the interception fields, which has caused a delay in takeoffs and the reduction of vehicle tracks in order to protect human lives.
“On one hand we do not want to interfere with the civil aviation and on the other hand we want to maximize defense. This requires risk management that complies with international standards and cooperation between all the forces”, said Colonel Turgeman.
Among other things, the representatives of the IAF met with representatives of the Civilian Aviation Authority and vice versa and discussed the aviation map and the use of it.
“Our cooperation is key to the success and the creation of mutual trust. We rose to the challenges of operations ‘Pillar of Defense’ and ‘Protective Edge’, but during the next campaigns we will have new challenges, and that is why it is vital to promote preparations for the next conflict”.