Senior Air Force Commander: Israel Doesn't Need Russia’s Permission to Fly Over Syria

High-ranking Israel Air Force officer, however, cites a mutual understanding on where Russian and Israeli planes can operate.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
The sky is lit up after an explosion at what Syrian state television reported was a military research center in Damascus, May 5, 2013.
The sky is lit up after an explosion at what Syrian state television reported was a military research center in Damascus, May 5, 2013.Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Air Force does not need anyone’s permission, including Russia’s, on where and when to operate in the region, an IAF officer told reporters, discussing his country’s air coordination with Russia.

The officer reiterated that the two countries had set up a mechanism to prevent unintended clashes in the air as Russia operates in Syria.

He said there was a mutual understanding on where and when each air force could operate, but that no area had been stipulated where Israel could not operate.

“We don’t need anyone’s permission, and we make sure we do our job,” the officer said.

As he put it, “The Russians are a new and central player here and we’re trying to separate things – they do their business and we do ours. This is a great power and our policy is not to attack or shoot at any Russian; Russia is not an enemy. We try to avoid friction, as do they.”

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry, a Tupolev TU-22 bomber conducts an airstrike in Syria, November 19, 2015.Credit: Reuters

He was speaking this week after the Turkish air force downed a Russian plane over Syria, but said he did not know what led to the confrontation.

“It’s quite a simple mechanism,” the officer said. “When needed, we know how to ensure that we don’t come close. It’s a question of picking up a phone and talking.”

On Thursday the IAF completed a large exercise as squadrons trained for possible combat in the north. The maintaining of air superiority was considered a key goal of the maneuvers.

All air force squadrons took part, with scenarios involving attacks in the north and the facing-off against surface-to-air missiles and other anti-aircraft weapons.

Most anti-aircraft systems against Israel in the north are Russian-made. Israel has repeatedly vowed not to let weapons reach Hezbollah such as advanced surface-to-air missiles.

“We're preparing for advanced threats by the enemy, which is now more challenging in the north,” the officer said. “But whereas once you had to be over a target to hit it, this is no longer the case.”

The air force also practiced mounting GPS-guided bombs on its planes. These bombs weigh one ton, on which are mounted JDAM jamming devices that include GPS guidance.

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