Every attack begins with the meticulous planning of the intelligence people
“Producing a quality intelligence photo”
“Deciphering the photograph and examining every detail”
The phrasing is almost always the same: “IAF planes have attacked targets on the Gaza Strip”. The choir of voices on the communicator sound similar and the black and white aerial photographs show the same smudges of subsequent explosions. But behind every well-known photo of an explosion or operational attack, there is a long line of intelligence people, who had worked for hours to locate the target, study it and translate it to an exact spot.
The aerial-intelligence combination was already formed decades ago, and the marriage produced the Deciphering Unit. “We see in technology the opportunity to create a mutual language between the various parties”, explained Lieutenant Colonel A’, head of a wing at the forecasting division of the Intelligence Department in an interview with the IAF magazine. “We realized that we need to strengthen the cooperation in order to produce a quality intelligence picture, and that’s what we’re doing”.
The interesting cooperation can already be noticed in the corridors of the unit, in which IAF uniforms mingle with green (ground forces) outfits, working alongside one another, analyzing details and closely examining their joint goals that will serve the operational arm. “These days, the IAF uses intelligent and sophisticated arming, and in order to allow the planes to attack we need to provide them with a point of reference within a particularly short time frame”, said the former commander of the unit.
A Goal is Born
Long before the flight takes off, attack targets need to be examined closely. Structuring targets is an arduous and complex task, and here comes in the Deciphering Unit. First, they attempt to receive a recent aerial photograph of the attempted target, and a plane flies above it ahead of time.
“We choose our aircrafts and cameras according to the mission”, explains Lieutenant Colonel B’. The new cameras are chockfull of technology, and are capable of filming in daylight, at night, from tremendous distance and in all weather conditions.
After receiving the pictures, the examination stage arrives. “When we need to attack a target we receive the photograph, decipher, locate and mark the goal”, explained Major Reuven, a commander in the unit. “Using tridimensional photos, we find the target and examine it closely”. Standing between this point and an actual attack is only one more action: creating the “assistant”, the photograph of the place itself, as seen by the pilot in the cockpit. At the push of a button, the decipherers transfer the photo to the squadron and from there–prepare for takeoff.
Ready, Set, Go
Almost everything is ready, and now is the time to choose the ammunition. That choice too is often a product of the information received from the Deciphering Unit. J-DAM bombs, for example, are based on GPS information that is received from various intelligence units. “At this day and age we can attack a target without seeing it. Therefore weather conditions are not a hindrance”, explains Major Reuven.
But the work is still not done: After conducting the mission, decipherers receive more recent photographs of the target, meticulously determine whether the goal was reached–or whether the process has to be started from the beginning.