Close air support or close ground support ?

This pill will not be easy for the Israeli air force (IAF) to swallow. The debate in the Israeli defence forces ‫)‬IDF) general staff is very fierce, but for the first time there is a chance to settle the debate of how to define close air support.

The role of the IAF in suppressing rocket and shell fire into Israel is again being evaluated, based on the weight of close support fire using new precise rockets developed by Israeli Military Industries (IMI).

Traditionally, the IAF is in charge of suppressing any fire coming from neighbouring countries against civilian and military targets inside Israel.

The development of very precise, low-cost rockets by IMI put the issue on the table some years ago, but opposition from the IAF resulted in keeping the status quo. The opposition was based on concerns that a change will decrease the IAF’s procurement budget.

The current debate forms part of the discussion around the new multi-year plan for the IDF. This plan determines the main procurement programmes that will be budgeted.

Until a few years ago, the only precise rocket available to the IDF was the upgraded, trajectory-corrected multi-launch rocket system (MLRS), with a range of 45km (28 miles).

The IMI concept is based on the company’s extended range artillery rockets like the EXTRA – jointly developed with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

The trajectory-corrected long-range rocket is aimed at replacing aircraft missions at a range of up to 150km.

The EXTRA, which is actually a guided missile, has a range of over 150km. It will replace air-ground weapons in medium and long-range strikes.

The EXTRA is 3.9 metres long and has a diameter of 30cm. The total weight of the rocket is 430kg, including a 120kg warhead.

As part of the new concept, IMI has developed a new launcher that can be used to launch different types of precise rockets.

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