The 2006 Second Lebanon War was a turning point for the air and ground forces’ collaborative capabilities. Obstacles and differing perceptions which arose during the war were the impetus for a reconstruction of the cooperation. Commander of the Air Support and Helicopter Division: “If we want to win, we have to work together”
During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, intensive engagement in the ground campaign was required of the IAF and the air force’s activity was increased in both scope and level. “There are clashes which simply amount to aerial firepower without ground forces entering the battlefield, but when the IDF does execute a ground maneuver, the need for air support immediately increases and the need for optimal cooperation rises accordingly”, says Brig. Gen. Nir Nin-Nun, Head of the IAF’s Air Support and Helicopter Division. During the war he commanded the IAF’s attack helicopter squadron. He went on to add that the Second Lebanon War was a turning point in the IAF’s understanding of the significance of cooperation and its place therein.
A New Combat Doctrine
The IDF’s operational perception changed greatly between the First Lebanon War, which broke out in June, 1982 and the Second Lebanon War, which broke out in July, 2006. This change heavily influenced the interaction between the air and ground forces.
In the 24 years between those two wars, the development of military technology around the world led to a conception favoring aerial firepower over ground maneuvers.
“Six years before the Second Lebanon War, the IDF decided to cancel key positions in the field of cooperation in combined combat”, says Lt. Col. Gil, Commander of the IAF Cooperation Instruction Center. “There was a widespread perception that the ground forces had enough firepower to execute their missions successfully and that the IAF had enough missions and goals of its own”.
A Common Language For Combat Management
Over 3,500 fighter jet sorties and 1,500 attack helicopter strikes were executed during the Second Lebanon War. Brig. Gen. (Res’) Itzhak Brandt, Commander of the Northern Frontal Command Center during the war, explained that the IAF took great risks in evacuating wounded soldiers in helicopters: “Around 93% of the critically wounded were evacuated via helicopter, an objectively high number”.
Around the Clock
“As the war went on, JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) a position rescinded before the war and reinstated throughout, were stationed in units positioned in the field. The feeling that an IAF serviceman is in the room and that the work is mutual, is of great importance”, shared Brig. Gen. Brandt. “Division commanders sat beside senior IAF officers in the command center. We worked in shifts around the clock – I would go to sleep at 04:00AM, but the rockets falling around us would wake me up and I would get back to work”.
Brig. Gen. Nin-Nun added: “Since the Second Lebanon War, cooperation has become one of the IAF’s core missions. The establishment of the Air Support and Helicopter Division portrays exactly that–it is the only mission-oriented division in the IAF, due to the understanding of the importance of cooperation”.
Cogs in Unison
While the IAF had a single Operations Department during the war, today there are three, one of which deals exclusively with cooperation. “The fact that there is an entire department and unit dedicated to cooperation goes to show the change in its treatment”, declared Brig. Gen. Nin-Nun. “For mutual trust to exist, exercises and doctrines must be established. This is exactly what we are doing now, so that in the next war, the cogs—which are much stronger today than ever before—will turn in unison”.