The State of Israel faces new threats and threats that re-emerge at an increasing rate while some of the threats of the past have remained valid. The IDF is building up their strength and prepare to defend the State opposite a new battlefield.
The challenges are the future wars and operations where the fire capabilities will play a dominating role, subject to the compulsion of achieving overbalance within a relatively short time. The importance of the ground maneuver remains intact, especially if the fire alone fails to lead to an overbalance, in which case a ground maneuver will be required. During this stage, the maneuver will have to be accompanied by powerful, close fire support that should include air support using "heavy bombs".
The responsibility assigned to the IAF is expanding, and the more successfully the IAF accomplishes the missions assigned to it, the higher the number of missions and responsibilities assigned to it (a good example is the assignment of the "active defense" mission to the IAF).
The challenges faced by IAF focus primarily on the aspects outlined below.
Multiple-theater operations:the IAF will be required to meet challenges opposite theaters that are geographically separate and different in their characteristics on a regular basis, during the future campaigns and in the context of routine security operations, currently referred to as WBW (the war between wars).
New battlefield:on the future battlefield, our enemies will be employing state-of-the-art SAM systems, GPS jamming, UAVs, et al.
The Third Circle:the Third Circle includes a nuclear Iran with an enhanced Iranian SAM array, the new developments in Iraq and other factors.
Coping with Enemy Fire:our enemies are stockpiling an ever increasing amount of rockets and missiles with improved accuracy, improved mobility and heavier warheads with an enhanced destructive potential.
Severely Restricted Campaign Duration:the international environment and real-time exposure of the battlefield to the mass media necessitates the use of such types and scopes of weaponry that would enable the IDF to achieve overbalance within a short time, to avoid a situation where a cease fire is imposed before the IDF has accomplished its objectives.
Defense:the IAF is the element chiefly responsible for surveillance and early warning in the context of defending the Israeli rear area. It is also charged with the responsibility for defending the rear area and the strategic assets of the State using active defense systems (Iron Dome, David's Sling, Arrow, et al.).
Functional Continuity:numerous rockets and missiles will be aimed, during any confrontation, at IAF bases. The IAF must be prepared for and capable of continuing to operate at full strength even while its bases are being hit by missiles and rockets.
Interoperability:as stated previously, the ground maneuver will have a major, important role and in the context of some scenarios, the ground maneuver may constitute the primary element at a certain stage. The IAF must be able to fit into such a maneuver while offering the highest performance standards, understanding the ground moves and fusing its activities into the land effort.
All in all, it is obvious that the range of missions assigned to the IAF has been expanded. Additionally, the complexity of these missions and the difficulties associated with the need to accomplish them promptly and effectively have increased as well. In the face of these challenges, the IAF should develop its strengths and spot the points of failure and bottlenecks facing it. In order to attain a sufficient fire-generating capability, the IAF is currently developing a system capable of destroying thousands of targets each day.
In order to make this possible, the IAF should clear the bottlenecks facing it, which are located mainly at the IAF operational HQ. For this reason, highly significant changes are about to be made with regard to the organizational structure of IAF HQ, and a senior Brigadier-General will be appointed as DAO (Director of Air Operations). This function will command three operations departments/activities: offensive operations, defensive operations and participation operations. The branch heads subordinated to this function will be able to conduct any mission assigned to their responsibility, from end to end. This is a true revolution for a service branch previously accustomed to in-built and procedural changes. Here, a much faster pace is required, along with significant conceptual changes.
Intelligence generally and target intelligence in particular will be empowered by the addition of new systems and additional manpower, so that the intelligence elements would be able to generate thousands of targets per day in a problematic environment where the enemy hides in urban areas, behind numerous civilians and at highly sensitive points, in terms of how attacks against these points will be conceived by the international community.
Additionally, IAF will be required to develop the ability to assess, as accurately as possible, the results of each air strike (BDA, Battle Damage Assessment) in order to accomplish its objectives with a minimum of collateral, publicity and diplomatic damage.
At this point, IAF has been and will be exposed to several complex dilemmas: should we relinquish the investment in people in favor of technology? Will technology provide a definite solution to the threats? What will be the appropriate way to introduce the above changes into an organization with a solid organizational culture, upon which the quality of the IAF had been built? What will be the appropriate way to determine the highlights and priorities in the context of the over-all doctrine of the IAF, whose components include operational procedures, command and control, weapon systems, logistics, training and, naturally – manpower? Will the challenge of generating an overwhelming, erupting firepower within short time constants lead us to employ IAF in a highly centralized manner, where every pilot will be a pawn being moved across the chess board with very little space for independence? Will the success of the doctrine compel us to return to the days of the "industrial military" concept, where the task of the military is to serve as a "target destroying factory"?
These processes will have a profound effect on the "culture" of IAF, on the people who would want to serve in it, on the level of creativity assimilated into it and the freedom of initiative and freedom of operation spaces allotted to it. Whereas the quality of the warfighters will, eventually, determine the chances for a victory, we are faced with a key question, and any answer provided to it will have substantial implications. These implications will also pertain to situations where our plans have been disrupted.
From the dawn of the build-up of the defensive force by the Jewish community in Palestine and subsequently by the State of Israel, the warfighter and officer have always been, and will always remain, a "generator of initiative and motivation" without which, taking into consideration our quantitative inferiority in each and every parameter – we will not be able to survive.
Accordingly, IAF faces a complex task that would determine the character of the service for the coming generations. The development of a destructive capability does not guarantee the accomplishment of the military objectives and most certainly the diplomatic objectives – which are the main and most important issue.
At the present time, when we are facing severe budget constraints that lead to a serious undermining of the status of regular service personnel (which makes up the bulk of the IAF's manpower), we might find ourselves possessing the world's most advanced weapon systems, with a rapidly-shrinking complement of warfighters and combat support personnel who lack the abilities required in order to operate those weapon systems with the effectiveness required in order to accomplish the objectives and missions for which they had been developed and acquired very expensively. For a very long while, IAF has not faced such a complex challenge that would have such far-reaching implications on the national security of the State of Israel as the one it faces today.
Creativity, innovation, openness and attentiveness, along with the support provided by wise individuals from diversified disciplines and backgrounds, can ensure that the right insights are reached.
Brig. Gen. (Res.) Asaf Agmon is the former commander of both Sde Dov and Lod Air Force bases. Today he serves as the managing director of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies