IAF activity changes when ground forces also enter the battlefield
“What’s unique about this exercise is that it was practiced in the area that simulates the environment in which we are going to maneuver when needed”
In one week, Ashkelon became Gaza
Unlike last year’s operation, a ground operation was practiced.
A year after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, in which the IAF continuously operated in the Gaza Strip, the Gaza Division held a large-scale exercise that simulated urban warfare. Unlike last year’s operation, in which the IDF prepared for a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip, but did not carry it out, infantry soldiers and armored brigades took part in the exercise alongside the other branches of the army. “What’s unique about this exercise is that it was practiced in the area that simulates the environment in which we are going to maneuver when needed: the Gaza Strip”, explained Brigadier General Mickey Edelstein, Commander of the Gaza Division.
IAF activity changes when ground forces also enter the battlefield: alongside the intensive airstrikes of the Combat Division and the reconnaissance flights of the transport planes, the other divisions also operate, in joint fighting on the ground and in the air. “In this exercise, the IAF had to simulate its activity while fighting in the Gaza Strip.”, explains Major Uri, leader of exercise on behalf of the Cooperation Unit. “In order to control the expansive air power, an assembly of liaison officers of the division works rigorously with the squadrons that practice the layouts that will have to be flown if need be”.
During the exercise, the IAF operated as it will have to when the plan for a ground invasion is underway: first, the combat planes hit planned targets that could be dangerous to soldiers in the field. Then, after the soldiers crossed the border, combat helicopters accompanied them in order to provide fire support, while assault helicopters helped swiftly and effectively evacuate the injured from the territory to the hospital. Additionally, UAV squadrons and real-time intelligence squadrons from Sde Dov constantly work on providing updated intelligence. Alongside infantry soldiers, aerial forces also operated in cooperation with the armored brigades, which are essential partners in all ground invasions that the IDF may order. “This exercise is a a jigsaw puzzle of all the challenges we face”, explains Colonel Tomer Ifrach, Commander of the “Barak” Armored Corps. “The ‘Barak’ Corps may be associated with the Golan Heights, but it can and in prepared to operate in other areas.
Ashkelon Became Gaza
The large-scale exercise was held in the city of Ashkelon, which suffered heavy rocket barrages from the strip. “The city of Ashkelon was chosen because of a combination of several characteristics: First of all, it was really important for us to simulate fighting in a crowded, populated urban area close to the coastal strip”, stresses Brigadier General Edelstein. “Additionally, because the division also conducts its operational activity during the exercise, the physical proximity of Ashkelon to Gaza was a significant advantage. All residents of Ashkelon mobilized and made an effort for the IDF, because, at the end of the day, those are our buildings. The expectation of the citizens of Israel, is that we be prepared for the day when we will have to act”.