The “Ofek” Unit, the IAF’s software unit, is preparing for its future challenges. In the midst of a strategic process, and in the summation of a year in which an assigned cyber unit for the IAF was established, the Commander of “Ofek” tells us about the need to adapt the unit to events as they happen and lead the IAF into the next decades

Eilon Tohar | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

The pilot wings that adorn the chest of Col. A, a fighter pilot and the Commander of the “Ofek” unit, might inspire confusion for someone from the outside. After all, what does the most technological place in the IAF have to do with the operational field? The connection between the programmers sitting in front of their flickering screens and lines of code, and between the fighter pilots that launches a bomb over a weapons depot in deep enemy territory or an aerial defense combatant that intercepts the next rocket fired at Israel – is an inseparable one.

This was a busy year for the “Ofek” unit, which stands behind all of the covert and overt units in the IAF which are all based on data transfer, information systems and communication networks. This year, the “Ofek” unit also celebrated a decade since its establishment; a decade in which the threats that strengthened its position in the defense of the country only intensified, and in which the world of computers gained momentum not only as a technological reinforcement which provides operational abilities behind the scenes, but as a significant player in its own right.

It was also the year in which a comprehensive strategic process in the unit which has already began to show fruit began. As a part of said process, a new cyber unit, assigned for the IAF, was established under the “Ofek” unit in order to deal with one of the most significant and intriguing threats of our time. “In the past years, and especially after Operation ‘Protective Edge’ we understood that we provide consequential response for the IAF’s needs, but do not lead the way. When we approached the strategic process, we had two options: two work from the ‘bottom to the top’ – each unit would congregate and display its arguments and we will provide a narrow response, or from the ‘top to the bottom’ – to dream about what we want and lead the whole unit in the steps of a detailed vision for the years to come”, explained Col. A. “As a part of the increasing activity in the cyber realm, and the need to protect significant IDF assets and the country as a whole, we understood that we must be differently organized”.

Preparing for the Cyber Threat

This year marks 10 years since “Ofek” was established | Photo by: Adi Abu


Cyber Unit: Not Just an Organizational Change
Today, there is currently a Cyber Unit within the Ofek Unit responsible for concentrating every aspect of the field. “The IAF has its unique characteristics, and we have to able to respond in said field”, explained Col. A. “We were required to concentrate our activity that was dispersed between different units, to a central unit that would be one address. It was a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The change did not only make the work more efficient and help us further utilize our resources, but ensured more significant work in the cyber field”.

 

Preparing for the Cyber Threat

In the past years,we understood that we provide consequential response for the IAF’s needs” | Photo by: Adi Abu

The cyber trend is not unique to the IAF, the IDF is preparing to establish a Cyber Branch that was decided upon by the Chief of Staff, which the “Ofek” Cyber Unit is expected to largely cooperation with. The cyber threat is gradually receiving a central role, just last month a conference named “The Silent War is Here” took place, to which commanders from the IAF and Computer Service Directorate that deal with the information technology were invited. “One of the characteristics of this world of content is that the threat is constant and continuous, rather than being unique to a state of war. We feel that awareness of the threat is growing in the general public as well”, stated Col. A. “This is a significant field in the IAF. We are prepared for it and are leading in the IDF”.

Preparing for the Cyber Threat

The IAF has its unique characteristics, and we have to able to respond in said field” | Photo by: Adi Abu