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October 29, 2013 11:16 pm

Israeli Air Force Re-Organization Aims for Expanded Capacity to Hit 10x as Many Targets

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israel Air Force planes. Photo: Israel Defense Forces.

A strategic re-organization of the Israel Air Force portends to increase its capacity to wage war by “an order of magnitude,” translating into a 10-fold increase in the number of targets that it could hit at once in war time, Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, chief of air operations, told Defense News.

Norkin said that Israel struck 1,500 targets during the eight-day Pillar of Defense operation, in Gaza, in November 2012, doubling the targets it hit in the 34-day Lebanon War, in 2006, six years earlier. The Expanding Attack Capacity program, designed by his superior, IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, calls for Israel to be able to identify and attack 15,000 targets in a similar conflict.

“In Pillar of Defense, our daily attack capacity was twice that of Lebanon, despite the fact that [Gaza] was a much smaller area and more densely populated,” Norkin said. “Now, when we talk about the northern area of operations, we’re aspiring for an order of magnitude expansion — maybe more — in the number of targets to be destroyed every day.”

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Israel will focus on “hurting the enemy where it hurts the most,” Norkin said, referring to enemy leadership, commanders and significant war-fighting assets, rather than rocket launchers. “We won’t be able to push the enemy to the point where he can no longer shoot rockets and missiles. Therefore we need to push him to the point where he doesn’t want to shoot his rockets and missiles,” he said.

Defense News said, “traditional waves of air attack should give way to an express train of precision strikes, allowing ‘first circle’ enemies such as Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Gaza-based Hamas little time to recover from the initial shock and awe of previous campaigns.”

“Air power assumes enormous added value in our defensive concept and in all Western cultures that are less tolerant of the heavy casualties that come from big maneuvering ground wars,” Norkin said. “It’s hard to stop the lethality of tanks once they start to move. In contrast, air power can be controlled in a very calibrated, surgical manner. It’s like a thermostat that you can direct as hard or as soft as needed or turned off entirely when it’s time to stop.”

In the new structure, the IAF will split into two divisions with one exclusively for planning and executing missions, separated from the areas where the IAF works with other Israel Defense Forces service branches, and focused more on cooperating with the IDF’s intelligence arm that supports air operations.

Reporting from Ramat David Air Base, Defense News said, “Officers here say the program affects all aspects of air operations, from the orders received from the Israel Defense Forces General Staff to the pilot in the cockpit and maintenance crews tasked with turnaround time. It also involves wholesale changes in mission planning, resource management, bomb damage assessment and the way the IAF coordinates movements with western coalition forces that may be operating in the region.”

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