Just before 2019 began, the IAF executive forum congregated to sum up the previous year and present the plan for the coming year. The focal points of next year’s work plan are operating in the northern theater, replacing the “Yas’ur” (CH-53) helicopter and other platforms, improving the “Adir” (F-35I) Division and adjusting the air force according to the fifth-generation of jet fighters.
“I’m proud of you and of the IAF’s operation over the past year. We didn't give up. We encountered operational activity the likes of which have never been seen by a country not at war,” concluded IAF Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. “2019 will include a dynamic Middle East and a dynamic global situation which will bear an influence on us. I believe that this year will be different from the previous one, characterized by more precise operational activity.”
Significant Achievements in 2018
Intercepting an Iranian UAV, a Syrian fighter jet and Syrian UAVs; performing Operation “House of Cards” to prevent the Iranian military establishment in Syria; attacking terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip and intercepting launches towards Israel; rescuing youths from a flooded river; and extracting IDF Special Forces from Gaza – this is just a small part of the IAF's operational activity over the past year. Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, Head of the IAF HQ, added: “The theater is changing rapidly – the amount of munitions used in 2017 was doubled in 2018.”
Significant achievements in 2018 were also attained in the field of international cooperation: the main event was the International Air Force Commander Conference, which included the participation of senior members of over 20 different air forces. The year began with the “Juniper Cobra” air defense exercise performed in cooperation with the Air Defense Division's American counterpart, and ended with the “Sky Angels” exercise – the largest international SAR exercise ever held in Israel. In addition, the 120th (“Desert Giants”) Squadron participated in the American “Red Flag” exercise in Alaska, and numerous exercises were held alongside Greece and Cyprus' air forces. What's in store for 2019? The “Blue Flag” 2019 exercise will be held for the fourth time in Uvda AFB. Numerous countries will participate in the exercise, including the United States, Greece and Germany.
Intensification and Acquisition
Brig. Gen. Nir Barkan, Head of the Air Operations Directorate, reviewed the geopolitics surrounding Israel: “Regional instability continues in the area. There is an international presence in the various theaters which bears a strong influence on us,” he emphasized. “Almost every week, an Intelligence Directorate report is sent out regarding significant changes in each theater. There are precise missile and air defense system resupplying processes in all theatres. The IAF's preparedness must continue in 2019. Precise performances – from planning and to actual operation – are critical.”
Another main point of discussion was the multiyear plan led by the IDF Chief of Staff, which is due to reach its conclusion soon. Throughout 2019, senior IDF officers will begin working on the next multiyear plan, placing a focus on the IAF’s intensification and the acquisition of new platforms, among which are a replacement for the “Yas’ur” (CH-53) helicopter and a new refueling aircraft.
During the conference, it was stated that 14% of jet fighter aerial training time was performed in simulators, and that this number is due to grow over the past year. This growth will also be seen in additional divisions, including the RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) Division. This year will also include the establishment of a new Mission Training Center, the IAF’s most advanced simulator, where aircrew members can realistically simulate sorties, communicate with each other, and train in teams.
“First and foremost, our goal is to win,” concluded Maj. Gen. Norkin. “We will operate as best we can – both in the campaigns we lead and the campaigns we participate in. I expect each one of you to strengthen the feeling of capability in all service members. We have many fields in which we can improve, and that is exactly what we’re planning to do.”
First publication: Carmel Stern, IAF website