03 June 2014 Yaakov Lappin, Tel Aviv - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
Israeli Air Force (IAF) chief Major General Amir Eshel highlighted his service's new firepower capabilities during a conference at the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies on 21 May.
"We have an unprecedented offensive capability that allows us to accurately strike thousands of targets in one day," said Gen Eshel. "We have doubled our abilities twice in the past two years. By the end of 2014 we will see an improvement of 400% to our offensive capabilities relative to the recent past as a result of a long improvement process."
Gen Eshel stated that the air strikes that IAF aircraft carried out over a three-day period during the 2006 war with the Lebanese group Hizbullah could now be achieved in 24 hours and that the 1,500 strikes carried out during the week-long Operation 'Pillar of Defence' against militants in the Gaza Strip in November 2012 would now take 12 hours.
"I believe our capabilities are only second to the United States from both an offensive and defensive standpoint," he said.
IAF officials have declined to disclose what specific upgrades have allowed such a rapid increase in firepower, but sources say that the new systems that have been added to the IAF's F-15 and F-16 multirole fighters are creating capabilities that were "borderline fantasy" 15 years ago.
This means that a single aircraft can hit multiple targets with far less input from the pilot, effectively allowing it to carry out ground-attack missions that would have previously required several aircraft. The increased availability of stand-off weapons also means that targets can be attacked at longer ranges.
The enhanced air power has renewed the debate among senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers as to whether a ground offensive would still be required to neutralise Hizbullah rocket fire in a future conflict. The IAF initially attempted to do this during the 2006 conflict, but troops ultimately had to be sent across the border to find the well-concealed rocket-launching positions.
According to senior defence sources, the IDF's General Staff has concluded that a ground operation would still be essential to ensuring that Hizbullah sustains a level of damage that would require many years for it to recover.