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Under Control Release date 16.11.2018
Have you ever wondered who controls the attacks in Gaza? The IAF Site provides you with an exclusive insight into the HCCs (Heads of the Control Center), who stand behind each and every strike and interception
Hadas Levav & Eitam Almadon

Above the door leading into the HCC's (Head of the Control Center) Compartment is a glowing red light saying "Operational Activity". Lt. Col. M' is sitting in the HCC's chair, giving instructions to officers in the compartment and going from one operational mission to another. She is focused on her main mission – defending Israel's citizens. Her instructions are sharp and her questions are focused while dozens of officers and soldiers run around in her vicinity. When the situation cools down, 30 minutes later, she turns to us with a smile and says: "welcome to the HCC Compartment".

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Located in the IAF's Operational HQ is the Control & Operations Unit. At all times, its service members monitor and control the operating forces. The unit is at the heart of the IAF's operationality, leading an unprecedented amount of missions over the past years.

Control Team
The IAF's operational process begins with military intelligence, which provides an overview of threats and targets; afterwards, plans are made in order to find the proper operational solution in accordance with the mission goals, based on the theater of operations and the enemy's response; at the end, the debrief examines the operation. The meaning of control in the IAF is commanding over the aerial forces during the mission - the control team is made up of a large number of service members from the Operational HQ.

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Commanding over the control team is the HCC, who operates during emergency. The HCC works under the commander of the Control & Operations Unit – they receive a daily order and executes it from the HCC Compartment. Serving alongside the HCC is a "duty air force commander" – an experienced officer ranked Colonel/Brigadier General who is qualified for making significant decisions and managing missions. In certain complex events, the duty air force commander will take command of the HCC Compartment.

"Most of the IAF's operational activity is controlled by the HCC Compartment", said Col. G', the commander of the Control & Operations Unit who also acts as a duty air force commander. "The goal of control is synchronizing the aerial forces and responding to real-time changes".

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In Control
"The HCC is the central component of operational control in the IAF. It's a process which exists between planning and operation, influencing the final result and giving feedback to those who planned the operation", said Lt. Col. R', an HCC.

"In sudden events such as mortar bombs or rockets fired towards Israel, incidents near Israel's border fences or a hostile aircraft incursion, IAF aircraft or air defense batteries are operated", elaborated Col. G'. "The one who makes the main decisions is the HCC".

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The HCC has many jurisdictions and is capable of making a wide range of decisions. As a result, the commander of the IAF is responsible for his appointment. "It is a challenging position which requires taking decision-making to the edge", said Lt. Col. R'. "You are required to make decisions in short periods of time. Sometimes you need to consult with the relevant professionals and sometimes, when there's no time, you need to make a decision by yourself. When you begin your day as an HCC, you know that anything can happen".

A New Middle East
"For the IAF, the past year has been unusual in every way possible", stated Lt. Col. R'. "I can't point out any one specific subject which characterized the past year in the HCC Compartment. There were many sky defense scenarios, including RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) and fighter jet interceptions".

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Lt. Col. R' added: "The operational theatre is constantly evolving. In the southern theatre, we are required to disrupt the enemy's offensive activity and strike when necessary - we operate carefully and make sure that no uninvolved persons are harmed. On one hand, we want to respond aggressively both in defense and in offense, while on the other hand, it's imperative that we be precise and avoid large errors".

Going Up a Notch
This week, IAF fighter jets struck four governmental structures belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization used for military purposes – these strikes were controlled from the IAF Operational HQ. "We are engaging in an important attack on Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza", said Col. G'. "This attack is different to those we performed in the past in terms of the targets' quality and quantity".

An IAF strike on a structure belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization

"We struck a high rise building which served as Hamas's internal security headquarters", emphasized Col. G'. "There is an immediate effect in destroying a target of this sort. It changes the enemy's pattern of operation – they become more vulnerable and less effective. It can also influence their future activity. Our policy is clear: when we see a threat, we remove it".

Great Power, Great Responsibility
With great power comes great responsibility, and with great responsibility come difficult dilemmas. "We encounter dilemmas all the time", emphasized Lt. Col. R'. "We have two goals – performing operational activity and keeping our forces safe. Sometimes these goals can be performed in unison, but at certain times they can be opposed to each other".

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The HCCs have to handle a wide range of emotions. "Everybody approaches you for updates regarding the situation, you feel the adrenaline rushing and constantly have the next event on your mind", described Lt. Col. R'. "However, there are moments of satisfaction as well – for example, controlling over an extraction from the Gaza Strip. After extracting the soldier and avoiding harm's way, you feel relief. And yet, these feelings end just one moment later, when the next event arrives".