The Israel Air Force is drafting a new operational doctrine aimed at improving its ability to confront the proliferation of advanced surface-to-air missile systems throughout the region.

Called “White Paper,” the plan is under development by the IAF’s Operations Division and includes an analysis of each front that Israel faces – Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – as well as the different SAM systems that are located in the various areas of operations.

Over the past year, for example, Syria has received several SA-17 batteries from Russia under a deal signed several years ago. A number of batteries are already operational and are deployed in Syria.

Also known as the Buk System, the SA-17 has a range of about 30 km. and can intercept multiple targets flying at altitudes of over 40,000 feet. The launchers are mounted on trucks and are mobile, making them difficult targets.

Hezbollah in Lebanon is also believed to have upgraded its SAM capabilities over the past year and the IDF suspects that the guerrilla group – which is known to have a large number of shoulder-launched missiles – also now has SA-8 truckmounted Russian tactical SAM systems. The SA-8 is reported to have a range of 30 km.

On the southern front, Israel’s main concern is shoulder-launched missiles that have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip.

The IAF also takes precautions now when flying along the border with Egypt where terrorists are also believed to be stockpiling missiles. Last August, a missile was fired at an Apache helicopter but missed.

The IDF suspects that some of the missiles that have been smuggled into Gaza and Sinai originated in Libya, where large stockpiles of shoulderlaunched missiles went missing following the revolution there last year.

“The threat to our aerial superiority is growing and we need to adapt our operational plans to be able to work despite the existence of these systems,” a senior IAF officer explained.

The White Paper plan includes a number of layers – from the development of hard kills (explosive) systems to the formulation of new flight guidelines depending on the area of operations.

Most IAF craft carry electronic warfare systems that are designed to neutralize threats.

Others carry additional means, such as flares, to misdirect enemy rockets.

A few months ago, Israel Military Industries introduced a flare that is smaller and lighter than those currently in IAF inventory and would enable aircraft to carry larger stockpiles enabling longer flights in dangerous areas.

As revealed recently in The Jerusalem Post, the air force is also working together with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to develop a hard kill system that can intercept SAMs fired at helicopters.

Called Fliker, the system fires an interceptor at incoming missiles and is designed to minimize debris and thereby reduce the risk that shrapnel will hit and damage the aircraft.

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