Changing nature of wars prompts questions over fighters

Israel has initially expressed its intention to buy 75 Lockheed Martin F-35s. The first and only signed contract is for 20.

More and more people in the Israeli defence establishment are beginning to ask questions.

They are asking questions because wars have changed, especially in the Middle East. There are no more scenarios of thousands of tanks that have to be stopped or dogfights between jet fighters carrying air-to-air missiles, but, instead, what is referred to as “low-intensity war”. The enemy is more and more a terror organisation, rather than an army.

In the coming months, Israel will have to make a decision about further contracts for more F-35s. I think that the Israeli air force will persuade the decision-makers and that another 20 of the type will be purchased.

But questions hang in the air. In order to attack the rocket-launchers that are used by Hamas in Gaza, the air force needs no more than what is in its inventory. The restrictions on using the existing firepower are political rather than operational.

And taking into account the fast development of unmanned aerial platforms, some “exotic” alternatives loom.

In one arena, reality managed to bring a change for the role of the Israeli air force in the battlefield. For years, the air force objected to giving up its close support missions and let precise rockets perform such missions. But that has changed and now a new set of operational procedures will help the air force to coexist on the battlefield with the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) artillery corps.

The new set of procedures enables the artillery corps to use its systems, guns and rockets in conjunction with the air force’s fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and unmanned air systems (UAS).

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Israel Military Industries (IMI) have developed a range of mobile, inexpensive, precise rockets. Some can be launched from multi-launchers capable of fast reactions and creating a large kill zone.

The companies claim that these rockets can deliver the necessary close support for ranges of up to 200km (108nm).

Only some designs of the rockets have been revealed, while others are still classified.

So, things are changing and even a conservative organisation, such as an army, sooner or later has to make a decision.

But those controlling the budget are not experts. They are impressed by the last words they hear before voting. This, in many cases, takes the budget in the wrong direction.

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