Israel's Military Dominates the Middle East For 1 Reason: An Air Force Like No Other: Robert Farley, National Interest, Jan. 9, 2018— Since the 1960s, the air arm of the Israel Defense Forces (colloquially the IAF) has played a central role in the country’s defense.
Iron Dome Goes Naval to Defend Gas Rigs: Yaakov Lappin, BESA, Dec. 20, 2017— The Israeli Navy has a new tool at its disposal to defend the country’s offshore gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea, which are under threat from the Hezbollah and Hamas terror groups.
Defend IDF’s Women: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2018— Given the chance, women have proven that they can contribute significantly to the success of our military forces.
How the U.S. and Israel Can Reshape the Middle East: James Stavridis, Bloomberg, Jan. 22, 2018— At a dinner the other evening in Tel Aviv, the former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon said, “There are more changes happening in the Middle East today than at any time since the 7th century.”
IDF End-of-Year Video Summarizing 2017 Highlights: Breaking Israel News, Jan. 19, 2018
Need to Fight in a Tunnel or Find Hidden IEDs? Ask Lt. Col. Liron Aroch How: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Jan. 30, 2018
After Years of Alleged Israeli Strikes in Syria, Will Luck Run Out?: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2018
Israeli Air Force Leaning Toward Upgraded F-15 Over F-35 for Next Fighter Jet Acquisition: Amos Harel, Ha’aretz, Jan. 30, 2018
National Interest, Jan. 9, 2018
Since the 1960s, the air arm of the Israel Defense Forces (colloquially the IAF) has played a central role in the country’s defense. The ability of the Israeli Air Force to secure the battlefield and the civilian population from enemy air attack has enabled the IDF to fight at a huge advantage. At the same time, the IAF has demonstrated strategic reach, attacking critical targets at considerable distance. The dominance of the IAF has come about through effective training, the weakness of its foes, and a flexible approach to design and procurement. Over the years, the Israelis have tried various strategies for filling their air force with fighters, including buying from France, buying from the United States and building the planes themselves. They seem to have settled on a combination of the last two, with great effect.
In its early years, Israel took what weapons it could from what buyers it could find. This meant that the IDF often operated with equipment of a variety of vintages, mostly secured from European producers. By the late 1950s, however, Israel had secured arms transfer relationships with several countries, most notably the United Kingdom and France. The relationship with France eventually blossomed, resulting in the transfer of high-technology military equipment, including Mirage fighters (and also significant technical assistance for Israel’s nuclear program). These Mirage fighters formed the core of the IAF in the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel largely destroyed its neighbors’ air forces in the first hours of the conflict.
In 1967, however, France imposed an arms embargo on Israel, which left Tel Aviv in a quandary. The IDF needed more fighters, and also sought capabilities that the Mirage could not provide, including medium-range ground strike. Under these conditions, the Israelis adopted the time-honored strategy of simply stealing what they needed. To complement their existing airframes, the Israelis acquired technical blueprints of the Mirage through espionage (possibly with the tolerance of some French authorities). The project resulted in two fighters, the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Nesher and the IAI Kfir. The second employed more powerful American designed engines, and for a time served as the primary fighter of the IDF’s air arm. Both aircraft enjoyed export success, with the Nesher serving in Argentina and the Kfir flying for Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka.
This investment helped drive the development of Israel’s aerospace sector, with big implications for the rest of Israel’s economy. Heavy state investment in military technological development does not always drive broader innovations in civilian technology. In this case, however, state investment provided a key pillar for the early development of Israel’s civilian technology sector. To many, the success of the Kfir suggested that Israel could stand on its own in aerospace technology, eliminating the need to rely on a foreign sponsor.
Nevertheless, Israel continued to invest heavily in foreign aircraft. The IDF began acquiring F-4 Phantoms in the late 1960s, and F-15 Eagles in the mid-1970s. The arrival of the latter in Israel inadvertently sparked a political crisis, as the first four aircraft landed after the beginning of the Sabbath. The ensuing controversy eventually brought down the first premiership of Yitzhak Rabin. But many in Israel, still buoyed by the relative success of the Kfir and hopeful about further developing Israel’s high-tech sector, believed that the country could aspire to develop its own fighter aircraft.
Enter the Lavi. Like its counterparts in both the USSR and the United States, the IDF air arm believed that a high/low mix of fighters best served its needs. This led to the development of the Lavi, a light multirole fighter that could complement the F-15 Eagles that Israel continued to acquire from the United States. The Lavi filled the niche that the F-16 Viper would eventually come to dominate. It included some systems licensed by the United States, and visually resembled an F-16 with a different wing configuration.
But the military-technological environment had changed. Developing the Lavi from scratch (or virtually from scratch) required an enormous state investment for an aircraft that had marginal, if any, advantages over an off-the-shelf F-16. Moreover, the United States took export controls much more seriously than France, and had a much more dangerous toolkit for enforcing compliance. Despite initial optimism about the export prospects of the Lavi, it soon became apparent to Israelis that the United States would not allow the wide export of a fighter that included significant American components. That the Lavi would have competed directly against the F-16 only exacerbated the problem.
In August 1987, the Israeli cabinet killed the Lavi, which caused protests from IAI and the workers associated with the project. Nevertheless, a political effort to revive the plane failed, and Israel eventually acquired a large number of F-16s. In its afterlife, however, the Lavi helped kill the export prospects of the F-22 Raptor; out of concern that Israel had shared Lavi (and thus F-16) technology with the Chinese (leading to the J-10), the U.S. Congress prohibited any export of the F-22. This decision prevented Israel and several other interested buyers from acquiring the Raptor, and undoubtedly cut short its overall production life…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
BESA, Dec. 20, 2017
The Israeli Navy has a new tool at its disposal to defend the country’s offshore gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea, which are under threat from the Hezbollah and Hamas terror groups. The system, called C-Dome by its manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is stationed on board the INS Lahav navy missile ship. This is a Sa’ar 5-class vessel – the largest of its kind in the Israeli Navy. In the coming years, the navy will install more C-Dome systems on board the Sa’ar 6 missile ships, which are currently being manufactured in Germany. These are designed specifically for the mission of defending the gas rigs, and when they enter service in 2019, they will be the largest ships in the fleet.
The reason Israel is investing so heavily in the protection of the gas drilling rigs is because they are a strategic energy supply and a major source of future national income, once Israel begins exporting natural gas to the world. The rigs are vulnerable to enemy firepower. Located in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone, they form an attractive target for hostile, well-armed entities that share Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and pro-Iranian forces in Syria could all try to target the rigs with ballistic rockets or missiles.
That’s where C-Dome comes in. The arrival of a sea-based Iron Dome “enables a multi-layered defense, not only for ground assets but also the sea,” said Lt. Col. Yoni Grinboim, commander of the 137th Iron Dome Battalion, which was set up by the Israeli Air Force to command the Iron Dome batteries stationed in northern Israel. The battalion is also responsible for the first naval Iron Dome unit. C-Dome is linked to the INS Lahav’s powerful new ship’s radar, which can detect a greater number of threats – and at longer ranges – than ever before. Grinboim said that sending his air force Iron Dome operators to a navy vessel, to work closely with naval personnel, was no minor affair. The Iron Dome’s operators now have their own stations in the ship’s battle information center – the area where all data comes in and where decisions are made. They work side by side with navy personnel.
Grinboim said there has been a major process of creating “a dialogue with the navy to adapt our battle doctrines and systems. The process included training, and developing [new] doctrines for Iron Dome operators who need to function in a sea environment…we also adapted these weapons for sea conditions.” The Iron Dome batteries themselves have evolved over the years. Though details on how they have improved are generally classified, Grinboim was prepared to say that many upgrades have been installed to adapt the system “to the developing threats throughout the sectors.” “Our working assumption is that in the next war, terror organizations will try to harm Israeli national assets at sea. This strengthens the importance of the sea Iron Dome squadron and its capabilities,” Grinboim said. Before declaring the system operational last month, the navy fired rockets, simulating an enemy Grad attack from the shore towards the sea. The projectiles were detected by the INS Lahav’s radar and Iron Dome interceptors were fired from the ship’s deck, successfully striking the targets in mid-air.
The head of the Iron Dome program at Israel’s Defense Ministry, whose name is withheld for security reasons, said the trial “simulated several scenarios of rockets fired from shore to sea. The system detected the relevant threats and successfully intercepted them.” C-Dome does not mark the final word in the story of Iron Dome, according to the defense official, who pledged that Israel would “continue to develop and upgrade the system to deal with additional fronts and relevant threats.” Grinboim, speaking a day after the C-Dome test, said it “created a new breakthrough because we were able to improve issues that were raised in past trials. We also introduced new technological improvements for the maritime and aerial defense of the country.” The navy is increasing the range of coverage of the Iron Dome system at sea by linking it up to radars that are on shore…
The INS Lahav has other weapons on board designed to protect the gas drilling rigs. These include Barak 8 surface-to-air missile systems, produced by Israel Aerospace Systems, which are designed to shoot down threatening aircraft (including drones), fast cruise missiles, and other weapons that are believed to be in the hands of Hezbollah. In any conflict, the ship’s battle information center would be buzzing with incoming intelligence and orders. “We will choose to intercept threats with the correct weapons,” Grinboim said. As Iranian-made weaponry continues to pour into Lebanon and Syria, and Gaza’s domestic rocket factories churn out more projectiles, new defenses like C-Dome should prove crucial for Israel’s ability to stop its enemies from threatening the Jewish state’s new energy lifeblood.
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2018
Given the chance, women have proven that they can contribute significantly to the success of our military forces. Women might lack the brute force of men, but they often have leadership or technological skills that depend on high intelligence and unique personality traits that are essential for the continued success of the IDF.
In the Israel Air Force alone a number of female officers have been appointed to key command positions in recent months. Just last week it was announced that a female pilot with the rank of major, whose name cannot be publicized due to security concerns, will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and will command an aviation squadron responsible for ground-based operations. Another woman, a major, will be promoted to lieutenant- colonel and head the air force’s operational command and control unit. She will be the first female air traffic controller to reach this rank.
In November, the air force appointed its very first female deputy commander of a fighter jet squadron, which flies F-15 fighter jets out of the Tel Nof air base in central Israel. Two other women were appointed to deputy commander positions in the IDF’s military drone squadrons. It is only natural that the IDF, like any other institution that wants to maximize its chances for success, takes advantage of all available human resources and does not make the mistake of shunning 50% of the population due to anachronistic conceptions about “proper” gender roles.
But not everyone is happy about the IDF’s gender-blind meritocratic approach. On Wednesday, during an interview on Army Radio, Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu called to fire IDF Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eisenkot. “The army has adopted a crazy feminist agenda,” Eliyahu said. “I don’t know what’s gotten into Eisenkot. Cabinet ministers and the prime minister should tell Eisenkot, ‘You have to get packing and go home, you have done too much to lower the motivation to enlist, especially waging war on the religious soldiers.’ I call on the prime minister to tell Eisenkot to go home.”
Eliyahu’s comments followed a ruling by prominent National Religious spiritual leader Rabbi Shlomo Aviner that men should not enlist until they can guarantee they are not placed in a gender-mixed unit. Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef publicly backed Eliyahu, telling him that Eliyahu’s father, the late chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu “is happy with you in heaven.” In response, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he would ban Yosef, Eliyahu and Aviner from taking part in IDF ceremonies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he is proud of the IDF for integrating women at the highest ranks…
Two conflicting trends are competing for prominence within the IDF and both are a blessing to it. On one hand, religious soldiers are disproportionately represented in command positions, particularly in combat units. The IDF is also investing thought and energy in attracting Haredi men to the IDF. National Religious soldiers tend to be highly motivated and view their military service as an extension of their Jewish identity and religious obligations. On the other hand, women are demanding – and receiving – egalitarian treatment in the IDF. Women understand that as long as there is gender-based discrimination in the IDF, Israeli society will never be truly egalitarian. And under the leadership of Eisenkot, the gender revolution is underway. In 2017, the IDF reported a record-high 2,700 women joining combat units, a five-fold increase since 2012…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Bloomberg, Jan. 22, 2018
At a dinner the other evening in Tel Aviv, the former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon said, “There are more changes happening in the Middle East today than at any time since the 7th century.” He was referring, of course, to the split in Islam that divided that religion into its two principal religious streams, Sunni and Shiite. Over the next several days, many senior Israeli defense figures — civilian and military, active and retired — echoed the same thought. Israeli’s world is changing, and that will bring both peril and promise.
Fortunately, our Israeli allies have a strong hand of cards at the moment: a rock-solid strategic alliance with the U.S.; an administration in Washington that tactically supports them across a range of key issues; a vibrant and innovative economy that deserves its reputation as the “start-up nation”; a battle-tested military capable of acting across the spectrum of violence from special forces to offensive cyber; newly available offshore natural gas reserves; and, reportedly, a significant nuclear strategic deterrent. In many ways, Israel is the “superpower” in the Middle East.
On the other hand, it is facing another rising regional superpower: The Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran has imperial ambitions dating back thousands of years to the various incarnations of the Persian Empire; a large, young and growing population; strong and experienced military cadres; and huge oil reserves. The Iranians are pushing for political control in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Syria — to build a “Shiite corridor” from Tehran to the Mediterranean. They are drawing closer to Turkey and Russia (whose looming influence in the region is growing in the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s successful defense of his ally, the war criminal Bashar al-Assad). And Iran's leaders despise Israel and the U.S.
The Israeli world seems to change daily. In addition to this rising Iran, there is a newly aggressive and activist Saudi Arabia; a shattered Syria; an ugly war in Yemen; a still-dangerous Islamic State seeking to reinvent itself; Russian and Turkish troops within a few hundred miles of Israel; the lingering aftershocks of the so-called Arab Spring; and a reduced U.S. presence on the ground. What can Americans do to help our strongest partner in the region? I have a few suggestions:
Implement a joint strategy for dealing with Iran. It was reported last month that the U.S. and Israel were working together on a plan for the region that reflects both countries' national interests. This means first and foremost working together — alongside other regional actors as well as partners from outside the Middle East — overtly and covertly to confront and contain Iran. It should include new sanctions to respond to Iranian military and intelligence provocations. The U.S. should remain in the Iranian nuclear deal (despite its flaws and limitations), but lead the effort to sanction Tehran outside the deal for its ballistic missile and terrorist support actions. It should also keep a strong maritime component in the Arabian Gulf, enhance its intelligence collection, and coordinate support to indigenous forces opposing Iran in Syria and Iraq.
Encourage Israeli engagement with moderate Sunni states. Israel has for some time enjoyed good relations with Egypt and Jordan. But the rise of Iran has created a real opportunity for it to step up cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. This will be uncomfortable for obvious reasons and bitter history; but the overarching threat posed by Iran makes this a potentially new strategic alignment. With a dynamic young leader in Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom is assertively acting in Yemen and Syria, exerting influence in Lebanon, and generally confronting Iran from the Arabian Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. could act as a coordinator for links between the Saudis and Israel on shared intelligence, regional ballistic missile defense, maritime interception operations against Iranian weapons shipments to Yemen, and other confidence-building measures.
Strengthen bilateral military cooperation. While the U.S. and Israel already have an extraordinary level of defense integration, there are still important zones of potential improvement. These include better intelligence sharing; joint work on cyber options, especially vis-à-vis Iran; increased partnering on defense procurement, particularly in missile defense; and maritime operations in both the Eastern Mediterranean (where Israel has significant challenges protecting its nascent offshore gas infrastructure) and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. Another promising zone of defense cooperation is in space. Using their successful ballistic-missile cooperation as a model, the U.S. and Israel could bring together their defense-industrial sectors to explore joint programs. These could include exercises and training focused on the ways in which the two nations use space militarily. Finally, the U.S. should also consider home-porting two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in Israel –their positioning in the Eastern Med would help counter the increased Russian presence there.
Increase Israeli engagement with NATO. Israel was a founding member of NATO’s “Mediterranean Dialogue” — a loose confederation of non-NATO countries bordering the Mediterranean. The Israelis are engaged operationally in some low-key ways with the alliance. The U.S. should try to increase that level of involvement, offering the Israelis opportunities for working with NATO in exercises, training and potentially in operations and intelligence sharing. This could easily be structured out of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters in Mons, Belgium. Above all, the U.S. should continue to stand strong alongside Israel from the halls of the United Nations to the ballistic-missile radar installations in the dusty Negev desert, where our troops are for the first time posted permanently. The two nations will always disagree on a variety of international and political issues, from settlements in the West Bank to the best approach on climate change. But the Israelis will continue to be the closest allies for the U.S. in the most turbulent and war-torn region of the world. That, at least, will not be changing.
IDF End-of-Year Video Summarizing 2017 Highlights: Breaking Israel News, Jan. 19, 2018
Need to Fight in a Tunnel or Find Hidden IEDs? Ask Lt. Col. Liron Aroch How: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Jan. 30, 2018—There’s an active Hamas attack tunnel deep inside Israeli territory, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Gaza Strip, stretching tens of meters and full of hiding spots, offshoots and storage depots. There are others like it, too.
After Years of Alleged Israeli Strikes in Syria, Will Luck Run Out?: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2018—Israeli jets have struck hundreds of targets in Syria for the past five years, returning safely to base after facing no resistance. Since January 2013, Israel has acknowledged 100 air strikes targeting Hezbollah terrorists, weapon convoys and infrastructure, and it is believed to be behind dozens more, including on early Tuesday morning against a military installation in the al-Qutayfa area east of Damascus.
Israeli Air Force Leaning Toward Upgraded F-15 Over F-35 for Next Fighter Jet Acquisition: Amos Harel, Ha’aretz, Jan. 30, 2018—The Israel Air Force is to decide in a few months between purchasing a third squadron of F-35 fighter jets or the F-15I, which, while less advanced, has other advantages.