Aerial supremacy is one of the foundations of the IAF’s activity, but in order to maintain this ability, ground defense personnel make sure that hostile elements do not penetrate AFBs. Ground Defense Unit Commanders talk about the challenges and changes they face

Nadav Shaham

“Our mission is to protect all IAF assets and platforms in the various AFBs. We are required to protect the borders of our AFBs and allow the aircraft to take off safely for their various missions”, emphasized Maj. Eran, Commander of Tel-Nof AFB’s Ground Defense Unit.

IAF bases are positioned all over the country, from Ramat-David AFB in the north to Ouvda AFB in the south. IAF AFBs are located in many areas, each AFB surrounded by a different environment, as a result, the threats and challenges the GD personnel facing, change accordingly.

Nevatim AFB, for example, is close to Southern Mt. Hebron, from which many Palestinians who reside in Israel illegally arrive to the area the AFB is located in.

“The local residents are not our problem, we have excellent relations with them that are manifested in mutual visits and a long lasting relationship, our issue is with the illegal residents that assimilate themselves in the community”, explained Maj. Nadav, Commander of Nevatim AFB’s GDU (Ground Defense Unit).

Differently to other AFBs, the “Negev Company” was established in Nevatim AFB in 2012. “They are combatants, who besides their operational activity on base, sometimes participate in operational activity in Judea and Samaria and they are the ones who are supposed to provide a solution for the illegal resident challenge by way of covert and overt activity throughout the day”.

“We apprehend many illegals thanks to blockades we set up outside the base. We know and continuously study the side roads and routes they travel by and in addition, the combatants patrol inside and outside the base all night, hold ambushes and observation posts. We have apprehended illegal residents near the fences before, a number of which were definitely observing the AFB”, added Maj. Nadav.

To Protect

Photography: Mor Tzidon

People, Dogs, Vehicles
Besides the high quality personnel, Nevatim AFB is home to a unique radar system that plays a significant role in the protection of the base. These are advanced radar systems, identical to those posted on the country’s borders. Differently to scanning radars that scan an area circularly and that do not scan the entire base at once, a wide view radar system does. “Thanks to the radar, we can see everything that moves around the fences in real time, it identifies every movement and can differentiate between people, dogs and vehicles”.

Ramon AFB, which is located near Nevatim, might be relatively isolated, but its location poses a different challenge for the GD personnel on base. The AFB is a short distance away from the border. A distance which exposes the AFB to the threat of attackers penetrating the border in a vehicle in order to attack IDF bases in the area.

“We are largely aware to the dangerous scenario that a surprise attack from the border might pose. We prepare accordingly and often train for this type of scenario in order to be prepared”, said Maj. Yaakov, Commander of Ramon AFBs Ground Defense Department.

“Some Ground Defense personnel participate in courses such as dog handling, squad commanders, ‘Krav Maga’ instructing and even Officer’s Course, after which they return to their home base that they are familiar with, with additional skills. These professional courses give us the ability to provide a more professional response to problems we are required to deal with”, Maj. Yaakov added.

Besides the personnel, Ground Defense Units on base are aided by advanced technological systems: cameras of all ranges, “smart fences” that send out alerts if touched and advanced watch towers.

To Protect

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Keepers of the “Adir”
In the coming December, the “Adir” (F-35I) one of the IDF’s most important assets, is expected to land in Nevatim AFB. In light of the intensive preparations and the jet’s strategically significance and value, Nevatim AFBs GD personnel are preparing rigorously to ensure the safekeeping of the platform.

“The ‘Negev Company’ was established some years ago as a result of the decision to integrate the jet in Nevatim AFB. In addition, there is a unique task force in the company that focuses on urban warfare training and that is fitted with unique equipment in order to make sure to only neutralize attackers without damaging the aircraft”, specified Maj. Nadav.