How the Aerial Defense Division Prepares for War
(Source: Israeli Air Force; issued Sept. 21, 2020)
The Israeli Air Force operates a variety of short- to medium-range air-defense missiles; its fast reaction Iron Dome, developed to shoot down rockets and projectiles before they hit national territory, is seen here firing one of its point-defense missiles. (IAF photo)
Last week, the IAF held a "Wargame" exercise with the participation of the Aerial Defense Division commander, Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav, and the division's battalions. The exercise that takes place annually focuses on simulating war and emergency scenarios that the battalion commanders are required to manage: "Our role is to prepare for war"

The name of the exercise can be deceiving and possibly hints that it is just a simple game. However, in reality, the "Wargame" exercise held once a year simulates combat scenarios in order to implement operational plans and test current systems, or in other words - to prepare the division for an evolving enemy.

"Our goal in the current exercise is to strengthen the assimilation of the processes of systemic thinking and integrative thinking", said Col. Tamir, commander of the 168th Wing, which planned the exercise. "We live for aerial defense and strive for learning that never ends".

The current exercise simulated the fifth day of war. For the first section, each battalion simulated enemy forces for its corresponding battalion. For instance, the northern "Yahalom" (Patriot) Battalion operated to test the preparedness of the southern Patriot battalion. "The War Game exercise allows us to stay fresh and focused on intelligence, and the enemy's capabilities, as well as to evaluate our fitness", explained Lt. Col. Liran, commander of the 138th Battalion that operates the "Yahalom" weapons system. In the second section, each battalion was required to re-assess its planning based on the results of the first section.

In a Changing Reality

The exercise, which takes place once annually, is updated and adapted to meet an evolving enemy and the changing. "The Aerial Defense Division is in constant operational friction. We learn throughout the entire year, not just in training", explained Col. Tamir. "Since the aerial threats are constantly changing and developing, the "Wargame" is different every year. The enemy's munitions change, their tactics and strategies develop, and the operational arena is dynamic. When planning for an emergency, we take into account many variables, including Covid-19".

This year's exercise was held in a different format due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In previous years, the participants gathered in a large hall, whereas this year the exercise took place on virtual platforms. "It is undoubtedly preferred to hold a 'Wargame' when participants are physically present, although we have all become accustomed to virtual conferences, stated Lt. Col. Liran. "The current exercise was effective thanks to early preparation. The difference was almost un-felt".

Ready for War

Besides division exercises, individual battalions also hold these war-simulating training exercises that focus on their readiness and the extent of their operation. "When I hold a battalion 'Wargame' exercise, I examine every battery and see if it holds up in its task successfully, as well as ensure it is familiar with the travel axis and knows how to accept munitions support", details Lt. Col. Liran. "I check all of the tactical aspects that relate to the mission, while in the division's exercise they treat the battalion as one unit".

A state of war is, of course, inherently different from the routine defense mission, in terms of the dilemmas the forces face, cooperation between battalions, and the extent of their activity. "The timing of this current exercise is important since in the soon-to-be IAF exercise we want to practice our plans on a broader level", shares Col. Tamir. "Out of necessity, we tend to focus on what's urgent. This sort of exercise allows us to focus on what is important, which is preparing for war. Our role is to prepare for the day of war, which I hope will never come", he concludes by stating the exercise was a success but explains that their mission of studying the enemy continues. "The Aerial Defense Division has three main missions - defending Israel's skies, the active defense mission, and discovering alerts. We must ensure that each one of our weapons provides an optimal and flexible response to each of these missions".

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