In response to an operational need and as a result of the understanding that UAVs can provide comprehensive protection of naval borders, IAF “Shoval” (Heron 1) UAVs have begun conducting routine naval patrols. “We see the naval image and know where every vessel in the area is”
The “Shoval” (Heron 1) UAV has taken up a new mission: the aircraft conduct naval patrols that were previously conducted by “Shachaf” (Sea-Scan) aircraft from the “Desert Giants” Squadron. The UAV is equipped with radar designated especially for the mission which can comprehensively scan large areas in the ocean and identify unusual events. The squadron will soon equip additional aircraft for the mission. In addition, the IAF intends to increase the number of hours dedicated to the mission, in order to achieve a broader image of the country’s naval borders. “The mission is currently conducted by one operator”, said Second Lt. Omri from the “First UAV Squadron”.
The squadron began operating in this field in response to an operational need and as a result of the understanding that aerial assistance to the mission provides a wider image of the area. The protection of naval borders is performed in cooperation with navy personnel who are permanently present in the squadron. Each sortie is joined by three people: the mission commander, the radar operator who is responsible for scanning the sea and the payload operator. The mutual briefing before each sortie between the mission commanders from the navy and from the IAF creates a deep understanding of the mission and shared goal.
“The aircraft takes off and when it identifies a suspicious vessel, we fly to its position and scan it”, explained Second Lt. Omri. “We perform the mission in order to get an image of the sea in routine and know where the vessels in the area are”.
The cooperation between the air force and the navy has largely increased in the past two years, as a result of a process intended to bridge the gaps between both corps and create a mutual language. Force-wide comprehensive exercises which have been held simultaneously in the past two years in addition to joint exercises and mutual administrative work which involves both sides, improve the quality of the mutual operational activity.
One of the most significant actions taken as a part of the process was the creation of an official document which established all of the principles of the mutual cooperation. The goal of the document was to deepen the mutual work and joint activity between the forces and define operating procedures.
In a number of terror attacks in the past, the attackers penetrated Israel through its naval borders in a number of different ways. An example of such penetration occurred during 2015 Operation “Protective Edge”, when Palestinian commandos attempted to penetrate north of the Gaza Strip in order to kidnap Israelis. The attackers were killed by aerial, naval and ground forces.
In June 1974, terrorists from the PLO organization penetrated Israel’s naval borders in a “Zodiac” motorized boat and arrived on the coast of northern Israel. They arrived heavily armed and apparently intended to perform a mass attack. On their way to their target, they encountered a civil guard force that opened fire which delayed them until the arrival of an IDF force. The attackers barricaded themselves in a house and were killed by a force from the “Golani” Brigade’s commando unit. A soldier and three civilians were killed in the attack.