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70 Years of Air Support Release date 30.04.2018
In recent years, air support has become one of the IAF’s most important missions. From Israel's establishment back in the 1948 Independence War and to this day – this is the history of air support in the IAF
Yael Fuchs

During the last decade, especially since the 2006 Second Lebanon war, the IAF has prioritized the mission of air support during operational activity alongside ground and naval forces. As the battlefields evolve, the IDF requires greater synchronization. As a result, cooperation between the forces is required.

Photography: Mor Tzidon

“The battlefields evolve as a result of the enemy’s growth. These days, air support is a requirement”, declared Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, Commander of the IAF. “The combined force is the solution to the various threats”.

The IAF was officially established during the 1948 Independence War. Heavy transport became one of the IAF’s most important missions during the war, acting as a viable strategic tool. Ground force transportation missions were performed, serving as the cornerstone of cooperation between the forces.

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One Language for Battle Management
Another significant milestone in cooperation between the forces was the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The IAF’s mission changed from attack to defense as Egypt & Syria's armies invaded Israel’s territory.

The IDF succeeded at pushing back the enemy forces in cooperation with the ground forces. The price was high – over 2,600 service members killed in action. As a conclusion, the IDF understood that cooperation is essential. In 1975, the Cooperation Unit was established with the goal of developing a strong cooperation between the forces.

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A New Combat Doctrine
The IDF did not participate in any war between the 1982 First Lebanon War and the 2006 Second Lebanon War. During those years, significant developments were made to military technology, especially in the field of missile guidance. As a result, the IDF began developing a new combat doctrine emphasizing a minimization of danger posed to ground forces and IAF aircrew members in enemy territory.

"The IDF deactivated key positions in the field of cooperation a number of years before the Second Lebanon War", said Lt. Col. G', Commander of the Cooperation Instruction Center. "It was decided that the ground forces had enough firepower to succeed in their own missions and that the IAF had missions of its own". For six years, the number of cooperative training exercises was low and there was no mutual language between the forces.

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Turning Point
When the ground forces entered Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War, it was clear that air support was required. The renewed emphasis on air support proved to be a challenge for the IAF. "We had prewritten principles but no chance to put them to use before the war", explained Lt. Col. (Res') T', Commander of the 113th ("Hornet") Squadron during the Second Lebanon War.

"The Second Lebanon War was a turning point in the IAF's grasp of air support. After the war, air support took a significant place in the IAF's ideology and became a core mission in the air force", declared Brig. Gen. Nir Nin-Nun, Head of Air Support & Helicopter Division.

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The Air Support & Helicopter Division acts as the foundation for development of the cooperation between the IAF and the ground forces. The division includes the Air Support Department and the Cooperation Unit, whose mission during routine activity is to create a mutual language between the forces. During wartime, the unit acts as the mediating agent between the forces. "The fact that there's an entire unit as well as an entire division dedicated to air support goes to show the change in how the mission is viewed", concluded Brig. Gen. Nin-Nun. "The Air Support Department and the Cooperation Unit combined are equal to more than the sum of their parts".