Iran Trying to Prop Up Aerial Defense Array on Israel's Border, Defense Officials Warn

According to security officials, the array Iran is trying to establish in Lebanon, Syria and other locations is meant to thwart Israeli attacks ■ Israeli Air Force sees increased use of drones against Israel

Yaniv Kubovich
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Iran's Air Defense Unit during a military drill, with the participation of Iran's Air Defense units, last year.
An Iranian flag is pictured near in a missile during a military drill, with the participation of Iran's Air Defense units, last year.Credit: WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Yaniv Kubovich

Israel's defense establishment has identified growing Iranian efforts to improve their air defenses in locations where, according to foreign media, the Israeli air force has been carrying out attacks.

According to intelligence estimates presented to lawmakers in recent months, Iran is trying to establish an array of surface-to-air missiles in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and other location, in an attempt to disrupt the attacks and bring down an Israeli aircraft. In one of the recent strikes in Syria, which were attributed to Israel, Syrian soldiers fired missiles from Iranian-made defense systems at the aircraft.   

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Defense sources say that the aerial defense systems manufactured by Iran have helped Syria improve its capabilities against Israeli aircraft. According to these sources, the Syrians have succeeded in shortening their response time to Israeli attacks and have improved their capability to destroy the ammunition fired by Israel in Syria. Officials are concerned over the possibility of these defense systems finding their way to Iranian-backed terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, as well as other groups.

Officials have also identified an increased Iranian deployment of drones against Israel, through Hezbollah, Hamas, and others. The air force has prioritized the location and attack of these drones.

As part of the response to this threat, the army has urged Israel’s defense manufacturers to make a laser-based missile defense system operational by next year. In addition, the army is expected to receive several more Iron Dome systems in about two years.

An aircraft participating in the Blue Flag exercise in Israel, Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Meanwhile, as efforts to renew nuclear talks with Tehran are underway, the Israeli government has ordered the defense establishment to prepare for an attack on Iran's nuclear sites – in case the talks fail and the Islamic Republic continues to make progress towards a nuclear bomb. The preparations include special equipment, advanced intelligence capabilities and improvements in previous plans that have already been presented in the past.

On Sunday, an international air exercise began at Ovda Air Base in the southern Negev, with the participation of 15 foreign air forces. Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said at the start of the exercise that "the threat to the State of Israel comes from various fronts – from the Gaza Strip, through Syria and Lebanon to Iran." According to Norkin, the joint drill "allows us to learn from other air forces … and prepares the Air Force teams to real-time scenarios."

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