10 years have passed since the “Second Lebanon” War, in which the IAF’s AFBs operated non-stop. Yesterday, Palmahim AFB personnel marked a decade since the war, learned about the AFB’s activity from firsthand experiences and made some interesting insights. “The next war will be different and will not progress exactly as we plan”
In an event which marked ten years since the war, the current personnel of Palmahim AFB met with servicemen and women who served in the base during the war and together they went back to those crucial moments. Throughout the war, over 5,000 operational sorties took off from the base and about 25,000 flight hours were performed.
The base’s missions in the campaign were numerous: The Cobra Helicopters attacked Hezbollah targets, the Black-Hawk helicopters transported infantry forces deep into Lebanon and rescued many injured combatants, “Shaldag” Special Forces Unit Operators performed commando operations such as the raid on Baalbek in cooperation with “Sayeret Matkal” Operators and the UAV Division performed surveillance which produced critical intelligence and searches for MIA servicemen in war zones.
“War begins by surprise, there is no brief and no one plans ahead for it. The next war will be different to the last and will not progress exactly as we plan”, said Brig. Gen. N’, Palmahim AFB Commander, in the event. “As a commander, I expect all of the base’s servicemen and women to perform their missions even under fire. There is no one but us, if a soldier doesn’t exit the protected area and go back to work, we will not win”.
Palmahim AFB Commander: “War begins by surprise, there is no brief and no one plans ahead for it” | Photography: Mor Tzidon
It is 2006, the peak of the “Second Lebanon” War, a “Blackhawk” Helicopter from “Desert Birds” Squadron is deployed to extract an infantry force from the Lebanese village Ayta al-Shab. The helicopter joined up with a “Cobra” combat Helicopter from the “First Combat Helicopter” Squadron and together they made way to the complex mission. “At that point, we flew north and waited for confirmation. We understood that our time was running out so we decided to extract the force even though we had yet to receive official confirmation”, recalled Lt. Col. (Res.) Avner, one of the “Blackhawk” Pilots.
“Once we made the decision, Operational HQ gave us approval and the crew began to prepare to land”. During the operation, the team dealt with Hezbollah forces firing toward them. After a long search, the crew members understood that there was a mistake in the coordinates they were given, so they returned to Israeli territory and returned for a second time. “We identified the force thanks to a smoke grenade and when we got closer, we saw that it was a difficult place to land. Despite the heavy vegetation we hovered above the injured soldier, brought him up to the helicopter and evacuated him to a hospital”, shared Lt. Col. (Res) Avner, who was awarded with a Medal of Distinguished Service for his actions in the “Second Lebanon” War.
A “Cobra” Combat Helicopter. The base had numerous missions in the war | Archive Photo
The UAV Division also performed unique operations during the war: On July 20, an “Egoz” Commando Unit Force entered Lebanon in order to extract injured soldiers. One on the injured servicemen wasn’t found and was defined as MIA. The “First UAV” Squadron was tasked with finding him, so it immediately got the “Searcher” UAV in the sky and began searching. “We had performed five operational searches of this nature before the war. In this kind of mission, we search for clues in the field that point at the location of the missing soldier”, explained Capt. (Res’) Chen who participated in the search.
Search missions require intensive and thorough work and the squadron members need to comb every centimeter in the field in order to find their target. “Around noon I suddenly saw something. A few tests later, we were able to confirm that it was the missing soldier”.
“Searcher” UAV | Archive Photo