The Gulf War: A Patriot Missile is Fired Toward a Skud Missile Making its Way from Iraq to Israel IAF fighters only had several days to improvise mid-war and set-up—for the first time in their lives—a Patriot battery. Radio instructions arrived promptly: The Scuds are on their way
You can definitely say that a stressful atmosphere clouded the Israeli air during the beginning of 1991.
The Israeli people had their guard up at all times in preparation for war. The IAF was prepared for an aerial attack, the aircrafts were locked and loaded and the instruction boards at every base sported drawings attack targets in Iraq.
Everything was thought through except that the commanding signal never arrived. Instead, a small Israeli delegation that was sent to the United States to learn about a new anti-aircraft system-The Patriot–was rushed back home.
It was a Thursday night when the first Scuds landed in Israel, catching the delegacy members off guard and in the middle of their training course.
48 hours later, they were already in Israel. “After living abroad for a month and half we flew back home for one night, which we spent on deploying and assembling the Patriot battery”, says a man who became commander of the battery overnight, Colonel (Res.) Haim Moriya.
One problem remained: It was the first time they had ever attempted to assemble the battery.
Putting aside the issues on hand, throughout one long night the team members were able to complete the work and create an exemplary Patriot battery. Once the clock hit 4:00 am, they were all set. Colonel Moriya recalls all following events, such as the moment the siren went off: “We ran into a caravan that was linked to a satellite discovery device and to the IAF Headquarters. Then I was notified: ‘The missile’s heading your way’ “.
Don’t Be Scared, Don’t Abandon Tel-Aviv
This is a moment worth paying attention to. The Scud missiles were flying around the country’s skyline causing an Armageddon-like feel to the Israeli citizens. It was the first time the citizen front became a battle front as well; it was the opening fire of a phenomenon still occurring these days (the Home Front Command was established soon after). Unfortunately, the ‘Viper’ alarm was heard constantly, and many fled Tel-Aviv and to head toward either the south or north of Israel. Shlomo Lahat, then mayor of Tel- Aviv, reminisces about the jar-full of criticism that was thrown at him after calling the fleeing mass ‘deserters’. David Avidan published a poem titled “Don’t Be Afraid, Don’t Abandon Tel-Aviv” in a local newspaper. Meanwhile during the untamed battle, Patriot warriors were sitting in the quiet caravan in Tel-Aviv waiting for the confirmation signal, which would allow them to finally launch back a missile against the one coming their way.
So, how does it feel? “It was actually the first time I had to deal with something like this”, says Colonel (Res.) Moriya. “There is a missile on its way. We aren’t practicing anymore. We are not training, it was no simulation and you knew in the back of your mind that the only thing keeping it from hitting the metropolitan area’s citizens is you”. He holds his breath for a moment.”Of course, the details only hit you later. You have no time to think about such things. At those exact seconds you don’t even think about the consequences, you just become very tense. The adrenaline rush makes you sharp and focused. The processing rate of your brain goes is so intense that it seems as if you have managed to complete many things in a short period of time. When five seconds go by you seem to remember every single detail. To this day, the image of a flying Scud on our screen is scorched in my mind. There are things you never forget, not even after 20 years.”
The First Miss: “Stop Screaming and Raging”
It wasn’t long until the first launch occurred. At first, the team members of the Patriot battery thought that everything was going as planned. “I looked back and all I can see were heads”, says Colonel Moriya. “Anyone who was able to ran into the caravan. I notified about the hit, and then the phone rang. Brigadier General (Res.) Uri Ram, who was then the Anti -Aircraft Formation Commander, was calling. “‘First of all, nice job. Second of all, stop screaming and raging, I can hear you’, that was when I realized that the entire underground intelligence facility was linked to us and could hear us. Obviously, we turned off the microphone and continued our excitement”, he says with a smile. “Then, there was another call. He asked ‘are you positive that you made the hit?’ It was like a freezing cold shower”.