Last November, the cornerstone of an F-35 squadron and a simulator was laid at Nevatim airbase
Thousands of Targets, Hundreds of Interceptions
This year, it happened: the first plane to join the IAF was the Hercules C-130J, a transport plane that is an enlarged, improved model of the old Hercules planes
The “Lavi” is designed to train pilots and weapons systems officers from the Combat Division From Operations “Brother’s Keeper” and “Protective Edge” to the journey of the JSF F-35: these are just some of the challenges the IAF faced in 2014
While 2014 comes to a close this week, the events that took place in the IAF during this year will reverberate for years to come. IAF Site sums up a busy year and looks back at the important moments of the last 12 months.
Thousands of Targets, Hundreds of Interceptions
This past year was filled with operational activity, most of which took place over the summer. Operation “Brother’s Keeper”, which was launched to locate the three teenagers who had been kidnapped, led the IAF to work in close cooperation with IDF ground forces, as the Reconnaissance Division took part in arrests and security patrols and assisted in directing the ground forces.
A number of weeks after the kidnapping, with the increase in rocket-firing from the Gaza Strip, the IDF launched Operation “Protective Edge”, during which the IAF was the main offensive force. All of the force’s divisions went into fighting mode: combat helicopters and fighter jets struck and destroyed thousands of targets, while the Aerial Defense Division intercepted a record number of rockets in addition to a number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Additionally, transport helicopters were dispatched to over 100 evacuations and the UAV and Reconnaissance divisions collected intelligence, accompanied the ground forces and directed attacks. The Control and Technical divisions, through their work, aided the operational activity.
In order to ensure the continuation of operational activity for years to come, the IAF must upgrade from time to time. This year, it happened: the first plane to join the IAF was the Hercules C-130J, a transport plane that is an enlarged, improved model of the old Hercules planes. It is designed for missions involving airborne delivery, equipment transfers, parachuting troops and special missions, and has an especially large cargo hold. The first Hercules C-130J plane landed at Nevatim airbase during the month of April, the second one during the month of September, and a number of additional planes will join them in the coming years.
The second plane to join the IAF this year was the M-346 “Lavi” plane, an instructional plane from the Italian company Alenia Aermacchi. The “Lavi” is designed to train pilots and weapons systems officers from the Combat Division. Thirty “Lavi” planes, which will be delivered to the IAF as part of a procurement deal, will serve the cadets of the IAF Pilot Course and the Operational Training course.
The force has continued to develop even in the field of UAVs: the Hermes 900 became operational during Operation “Protective Edge”. It is an advanced version of the Hermes 450, which has been in service in the IAF since the 90s. The UAV serves in reconnaissance missions, accompanies ground forces, and directs firepower from the air and the ground.
Change Begins Within
Another significant step that was taken during Operation “Protective Edge” was the inauguration of the new IAF Operational Headquarters, the purpose of which is to adjust the nature of the force’s activities to the latest challenges. While over the past 40 years the IAF has added many more missions and adjusted itself to dynamic threats, the Operational Headquarters had not undergone any significant change-until last August, when the Aerial Missions Department began operating.
The new department only deals with operational activity and in so doing will expand the bank of targets faster, therefore allowing the force to destroy them within a shorter period of time. Even the Helicopter Department, which became the Department of Cooperation and Helicopters, underwent changes that were designed to improve cooperation with ground force, which proved necessary during Operation “Protective Edge”.
Next year will probably hold many challenges for the IAF and here are a few of those challenges: the IAF will continue preparing for the new stealth fighter jet, the F-35I, which is expected to land in Israel in two years. Last November, the cornerstone of an F-35 squadron and a simulator was laid at Nevatim airbase and it was recently decided that an additional F-35I squadron would be established.
The IAF will continue to create two air defense systems, “Arrow 3” and “Magic Wand”. A number of experiments are scheduled to be conducted in both of these systems, which are supposed to join the IAF as part of the multi-layer defense system. As part of the preparation for integrating these systems and the upgrade of the whole division, the Aerial Defense Division has drafted the largest number of soldiers ever this year. Additionally, the “Blue Flag” exercise, a multinational Israeli exercise that was first held at Ouvda airbase in 2013, will be held again in 2015 in cooperation with a number of other foreign air forces-and that’s just the beginning.