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Firsthand: The Syrian UAV Interception Release date 12.07.2018
Yesterday (Wednesday), the IAF successfully intercepted a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) that infiltrated Israel’s territory from Syria using a “Yahalom" (Patriot) weapon system battery. Combatants from the battery and service members form the Northern ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit told the IAF Site about the interception
Tal Ben Naeh & Illy Pe’ery

Yesterday (Wednesday), the IAF intercepted a UAV that infiltrated Israel’s territory from Syria using a “Yahalom” (Patriot) weapon system battery. Combatants from the Air Defense Division detected the threat, monitored it and intercepted it. “We were on ready alert in the battery. An officer was assigned to man the control station early in the morning”, explained Capt. Or Neeman, Commander of the “Yahalom” battery during the interception. “This is my first interception. When I successfully intercepted the UAV, I felt that I had fulfilled my purpose. After the launch, we felt euphoric in the control station. This is what I am here for”.

“After debriefing, we determined that the battery’s commanders and combatants acted professionally”, said Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovich, Commander of the Air Defense Division. “The IAF’s Air Defense Division is deployed along the border. This event joined last month’s list ofevents in which ‘Iron Dome’ combatants intercepted missile threats in southern Israel. During that period, we were ready for any scenario in all theatres”.

Capt. Or Neeman

Ready Alert
“I have been serving in the battery for 8 months, and we have been on high ready alert”, explained Lt. Koren Cohen, a commander in the “Yahalom” battery that intercepted the UAV.
Although this was not her first interception, she was emotionally prepared more than in the past: “We acted as soon as we received orders. I had to stay calm and handle the situation in the most professional way possible. After the fighter jets identified that the UAV was hostile, we intercepted it. There is a rise in aircraft movement in the northern theatre as a result of the active warfare in Syria. We are prepared for any situation and will continue to stay on high ready alert”.

Capt. Neeman has been the battery’s commander for three months. “The combatants performed the mission just as they were trained to”, she said. “Knowing that our hard work is significant is very satisfying. We came a long way and are now operational. Although it is not the battery’s first interception, being in the control station is very different. My job is to handle the situation, giving commands in the station and being responsible for what happens outside after the launch. After detecting the target, we go on-call, call other on-call squads and ensure everything is happening correctly. Taking part in something this big – defending Israel’s skies – is exciting”.

Photography: Celia Garion

From Detection to Interception
The Northern ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit was responsible for detecting the UAV and accompanying the aircraft and the Air Defense batteries2 until the interception. “The ATC Division leads sky defense missions. We detect the target, classify it as an enemy aircraft, distribute the aerial picture and confirm it”, explained Lt. Col. A’, Commander of the Northern ATC Unit.

“The ATC (Air Traffic Controller) responsible for leading the mission and the Transport ATC are responsible for ensuring optimal conditions for operating an IAF emergency in the airspace.”, stated Lt. Col. A’. “The moment we detected the aircraft and identified the aerial picture, the Mission ATC activated the sky defense system. By doing so, the relevant squadrons and Air Defense batteries were scrambled. A control station was also called on to the mission, relying on the ATC’s instructions. The ATC responsible for the weapon systems transfers information to the control station while recommending required actions”.

Archive Photo

“The ATCs accompany the aircraft as soon as they take off to intercept the threat. They transfer information and lead them to the theatre safely”, added Lt. Col. A’. “This goes for the Air Defense batteries as well – from the moment of the call for operational ready-alertness, the ATC responsible for surface-to-air missiles is in contact with the interceptors and updates them on every change in the target’s activity. When it is decided to intercept, the ATC transfers the information precisely and professionally in order to maximize the battery operation”.

The unit’s members face changes in the northern theatre on a daily basis, along with the enemy’s evolving capabilities. “The northern theatre is challenging for Israel and the IAF. The ATC Unit leads the mission of defending Israel’s skies, and lately there has been a rise in hostile activity in the northern theatre”, emphasized Lt. Col. A’. “Alongside planning units, intelligence units and control units, we organize all of the actions and give the IAF’s operational orders. The processes in the frontline affect sky defense missions, and we are required to stay attentive and study the theatres’ daily evolvement. In doing so, we lead the unit with high quality results and fulfill our responsibility of maintaining northern Israel’s safety”.

Archive Photo

First On The Field
The Air Defense Division is the first to deploy in the field, and the last to return. The division’s combatants and technicians are prepared 24/7 for any threat to Israel’s civilians. The “Yahalom” (Patriot) weapon system is responsible for defending Israel’s skies from missiles and aircraft.

The system became officially operational in the beginning of the 80s, and was at first an anti-aircraft system. At the beginning of the 90s, it was used against surface-to-surface missiles and was deployed in Israel during the Gulf War against Scud missiles. After the war, it returned to its original function. The first UAV interception was during Operation Protective Edge. The last time the “Yahalom” weapon system intercepted was in September 2017, when an Iranian UAV belonging to the Hezbollah infiltrated the demilitarized zone near the Golan Heights”.

Photography: Celia Garion