10 years have passed since the “Second Lebanon” War began, in which the IAF had a central and crucial role. Despite the relatively quiet decade, the IAF continues to look to the northern theatre and maintain its readiness at all times. How did the war affect the current battlefield and what does the future have to hold?
Zohar Boneh | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
This week, 10 years ago, the “Second Lebanon” War began and lasted 34 days in which the IDF battled the Hezbollah terror organization. A decade has passed since the soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted; since Operation “Density” in which the IAF attacked the Hezbollah’s long-range rocket arsenal in Southern Lebanon; since the war in which the IAF performed about 18,000 sorties: launcher hunting, air to ground attacks, assistance to ground forces, recon and surveillance; a decade has passed since the IDF suffered 121 casualties, 10 from the IAF.
A decade later, we decided to revisit those days, take a glance at what was and while considering the changing reality, the threats and current theatre, we attempted to understand what the future holds.
A New Era
On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah militants attacked an IDF Patrol on the Lebanese border. Five soldiers were killed and the bodies of two soldiers were taken by the attackers. As a response to this incident, Israel went to war, a war which began with massive airstrikes and Operation “Density” in which, in only 34 minutes, the Hezbollah’s long-range rocket arsenal was attacked and destroyed. The operation surprised the Hezbollah, as the organization did not think that Israel would respond so harshly. The operation also ushered the IAF into a new era: Air-Air combat was no longer the main threat and the force’s main activity was striking strategic targets in Lebanon such as Hezbollah posts, ammunition depots and HQ structures.
At the Front: The Home Front
Operation “Density” may have removed the Hezbollah’s ability to attack central Israel from the equation, but the Shi’ite organization’s ability to fire hundreds of rockets at civilian and military targets in northern Israel on a daily basis remained.
There are many opinions about the war and its success, but one thing is certain: it resulted in relative quiet in the theatre, which has strengthened further as a result of the civil war raging in Syria in which the Hezbollah organization sided alongside the Assad regime.
Looking to the Future
A decade has passed since the war and despite the quiet ever since, the IAF is still ready and primed for every scenario that may arise in the theatre, with the IDF training program focusing on the northern arena in the past two years. “The next war in Lebanon will not be similar to 2006 or Gaza”, says Maj. Omer, from the Campaign Planning Department. “This is a completely different story, in the prices that we may pay, in the intensity of combat and in the damage that we can deal to the Hezbollah”.
In the next campaign, the IAF will operate in a defensive and offensive manner. “Defensively, we will deal with many SAM (Surface Air Missiles) SSM (Surface Surface Missiles) and rockets barrages, sky defense against UAVs and even ground penetration of Israeli territory”, specifies Maj. Omer. “Attack-wise, the intelligence and operational abilities the IDF has today are much better than it had in 2006 and allow us to deal a comprehensive and significant blow to the enemy. Our acquaintance with the Hezbollah is much better today than in the past”.
In addition to the broad acquaintance with the organization and the intelligence that create a clear advantage for the IAF, technological development adds to the capacity of the IDF’s strength. For instance, the advancement of the Aerial Defense Division, which includes the “Iron Dome” System, which didn’t exist then, was initiated as a response to one of the main challenges of the war – the rockets fired at civilians. “The active defense systems are very relevant to the next war and the power buildup in the active defense field is taking great steps to maintain readiness”, shared Maj. Omer.