Fearing unprecedented missile attacks directed at its bases, the Israel Air Force has doubled the number of emergency drills it has carried out since the beginning of the year to prepare pilots and ground crews for continuing to operate in a time of war, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
At the Hatzor IAF base, for example, airmen have carried out 25 drills since the beginning of the year, compared to just 12 last year. The drills vary and include scenarios that involve missile attacks on the base’s runway, living quarters and plane storage facilities.
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The increase in training stems from intelligence assessments that in a future conflict with Hizbullah in Lebanon or Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s air force bases will be targeted.
During Operation Cast Lead last year, a number of rockets were fired in the direction of Hatzor, which is located near Gedera, as well as at Hatzerim, near Beersheba. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah also tried to target the Ramat David base in the north.
“We do not have other bases that we can just move our aircraft to, and we need to learn how to continue operating as rockets and missiles are landing in the base,” a senior IAF officer who serves as a base commander told the Post.
According to the officer, it would be very difficult to stop a base from continuing to function, even though Hizbullah and Hamas have acquired long-range missiles with large warheads. Hizbullah, for instance, has M-600s, a missile manufactured in Syria that has a range of more than 250 kilometers and can carry a 500- kilogram warhead.
The main concern is that a missile could hit a runway. To deal with such
a scenario, the IAF has established specially trained teams that are
capable of fixing holes in runways within a matter of minutes. These
teams have already deployed mounds of material needed at different
places alongside the runways.
Another example was the decision by
the commander of Hatzor to disperse missile storage sites throughout
the base. The problem then was that the base did not have enough tractor
drivers who could transport the missiles from where they were assembled
to the aircraft.
For this purpose, the base trained dozens of
soldiers to serve as tractor drivers in a time of war.