In the first-ever visit by a civilian reporter to the Sky Crows Squadron’s base, the IAF gives a rare glimpse into Israel’s state-of-the-art electronic warfare capabilities.
Sometime after midnight on September 6, 2007, 10 F-15I fighter jets took off from an air force base in Israel and headed towards Syria. The target – a nuclear reactor being built along the Euphrates River modeled after the North Korean reactor in Yongbyon and financed with Iranian assistance.
Minutes into the flight, the command came through from headquarters in Tel Aviv and seven of the planes broke away from the formation and dipped into Syrian airspace. Seconds later they had already dropped their first bomb on a radar installation. Only a few moments had passed and the planes were already over the nuclear reactor, dropping their AGM-65 bombs, each one weighing about half a ton.
As the planes began making their way out of enemy airspace, the Syrian military finally woke up and fired air defense missiles into the air. But it was too little, too late.
This is the reported story of the so-called Operation Orchard, the bombing of a fledgling nuclear reactor which Syrian President Bashar Assad was building illicitly in an effort to strike a balance of power with Israel. Israel never confirmed attacking the site.
What is less known about the raid on the reactor is Israel’s reported use of electronic warfare in neutralizing Syria’s air defense systems, which form a tight line of security along its borders against Israeli raids like the one three years ago.
Two months after the operation, Aviation Week published a story titled “Israel shows electronic prowess” claiming that Israeli Air Force (IAF) electronic warfare (EW) systems succeeded in deactivating all of Syria’s air defense systems for the entire period of time that the Israeli fighter jets needed to infiltrate the country, bomb their target and escape.
Israel has never confirmed its use of electronic warfare and network invasion during the 2007 strike, just like it has never publicly confirmed that it was, in fact, the Israeli air force behind the bombing. In the article, however, Pinchas Buhris, who served as director general of the Defense Ministry at the time, admitted that Israel was investing a great deal of resources in developing these state-of-the-art capabilities.
“You need this kind of capability,” Buchris said at the time. “You’re not being responsible if you’re not dealing with it. And, if you can build this kind of capability, the sky’s the limit.”
For Lt.-Col. Oren, commander of the IAF’s Sky Crows Squadron – the unit responsible for developing and operating Israel’s EW capabilities, this statement is more than true.
In an exclusive interview and visit to the squadron – the first ever by a civilian reporter – Oren provides a unique and rare glimpse into the quieter side of what the air force does. While pilots and fighter jets usually steal the headlines, in most operations there is always an element of EW involved, assisting the planes in getting where they need to go undetected.
The squadron’s mission is quite simple, Oren explains. “The current theater of operations for aircraft is challenged and threatened by advanced surface-to-air missile systems in enemy territory,” he says. “Our objective is to activate our systems and to disrupt and neutralize the enemy’s systems.” (end of excerpt)
Click here to read the full story on the Jerusalem Post website.