IAF Bases in North Could Be Targets in Future War

Study finds that IAF bases in northern and central Israel are in range of Hezbollah and Syrian missiles.

An internal study conducted by the Israel Air Force reveals that IAF facilities in northern and central Israel could for the first time come under fire from very accurate long-range missiles.

The air force has already begun to prepare personnel serving on its bases, who are used to relatively secure conditions at their installations near the home front, for this possibility.

Intelligence officials said that Hezbollah and the Syrians are procuring tens of thousands of missiles and rockets, some with a range that could allow them to strike central Israel, and that they are now much more precise. It is believed that if war breaks out in the north, the Syrian army and Hezbollah, and perhaps Hamas and Iran as well, will try to hit civilian population centers in Israel as well as certain military targets - such as deployment areas and especially air force bases.

The IAF's operational research branch shows that in a war lasting a few weeks, each air force base in the north and center could potentially be struck by a few dozen missiles. A larger number of missiles could also strike the area around the base; even if they do not cause damage, alerts and preparation for bombardment could also damage the base's ongoing functioning.

The IAF has been preparing for possible ground-to-ground missile strikes on its bases for a number of years already.

The air force is said to prefer continuing to operate at its regular bases, even while under attack by dozens of missiles. The IAF reportedly believes that even if planes are hit or runways damaged, operational capability will not be compromised if all crews are prepared for the emergency.

Since most air force personnel serve in relatively secure facilities deep in the home front, the extensive preparations the air force is undertaking for such an eventuality among its thousands of personnel is considered a psychological revolution.

A plan is also under consideration to deploy the Iron Dome rocket defense system - whose first battery is to go into service this summer - to protect military targets rather than using the system protect only vulnerable cities in the south, particularly Ashkelon and Sderot, as originally planned. The chief of staff or the defense minister must first deem this plan as essential.

Preparednesss of IAF bases and squadrons for an outbreak of war in the north has been drilled a number of times over the past year, including an operational drill code-named "Firestone 12," run by the General Staff two weeks ago for just such a scenario.

The Israel Air Force has a set of considerations different from other branches of the IDF, as its career officers are the only ones whose families live on the base. Some base commanders reportedly believe that in the event of a missile attack, their families will have to be evacuated from the base.

While population centers will also be in danger, commanders say that the IAF bases are a kind of "magnet" for missiles, and therefore the families are in greater danger than those living in other places. The presence of families on the base during an attack may also distract pilots and other officers from their missions and compromise the effectiveness of the base.