Asymmetric war and the limits of air power

To understand the term “asymmetric war”, come to southern Israel and wait for a few days. The live demonstration will be very convincing.

The sequence in most cases is as follows: Palestinians in the Gaza strip launch rockets into Israel, and a few minutes or hours later the Israeli air force (IAF) is over the area, looking for  pre-planned targets to hit  with bombs or missiles.

The last “demonstration” of this type of war occurred last weekend, when the IAF attacked 30 targets in Gaza in response to dozens of rockets being fired at civilian communities in southern Israel. That was the first wave – when the rockets kept flying the IAF attacked more targets.

In a symmetrical war Israel would have used its advanced artillery systems, but these are “statistical weapons” with a large circular error probability.

In the war fought on the border between Israel and Gaza, the precision achieved by guns and rockets is not enough when the user is a country and not a terror organisation. This forces Israel to use aerial platforms against the rockets.

There is growing criticism in Israel about this unbalanced confrontation. “Israel – with one of the more powerful air forces in the world – uses aircraft and precise weapons against rockets that are launched in the general direction of Israeli populated areas”, one source in the defence establishment told me.

But this is the situation, and all the signs show that as long as these skirmishes continue, this imbalance will remain.


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