RAMAT DAVID AIR BASE, ISRAEL — The Israel Air Force (IAF) is revamping
headquarters staff, planning procedures and air operations to support a
10-fold increase in the number of targets it can detect and destroy, the Air
Force’s chief of air operations said.
In an exclusive interview with Defense News, Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin said
the institutional revamp — the service’s first since the 1973 Yom Kippur
War — aims to shorten the duration of future wars while reducing demand for
maneuvering ground forces through massive, persistent and punishing use of
precision air power.
More than a year in the making and slated for phased implementation in the
coming months, the changes are driven by IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel
and his Expanding Attack Capacity (EAC) program.
Officers here say the program affects all aspects of air operations, from
the orders received from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 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.
But perhaps the biggest driver of EAC, experts here say, is significant
improvements in so-called sensor-to-shooter capabilities. By mating
persistent intelligence collection with precision weapons, the IAF expects
to generate an exponential number of new, time-sensitive targets during each
day of future fights.
Once implemented, 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.
“We’re focusing on the entire system across the full distance,” Norkin said.
“The RPMs [rotations per minute] of this engine must be much higher to
support a huge surge in the quantity of targets we detect and destroy each
and every day of a future campaign.”
In an Oct. 21 interview at this IAF hub in northern Israel, Norkin noted
that the 1,500 targets attacked in Israel’s November 2012, eight-day Pillar
of Defense operation in Gaza doubled the number of targets attacked in the
34-day 2006 Lebanon War.
“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.”
Despite IAF sensor-to-shooter capabilities demonstrated by its destruction
of 120-some rocket launchers in the last Lebanon war, Norkin said the IDF
realizes it can no longer waste time and assets going after individual
launchers. “We all understand that rockets will continue to fall here until
the last day of war. A residual capacity to launch will remain with the
enemy,” he said.