The Israel Air Force has closed the 139th Air Defense Battalion that operates the Patriot missile-defense system as the corps continues to streamline the force.
Though Israel does not usually say how many missile defense batteries it has, the IAF is believed to have at least four “Yahalom” MIM-104D batteries that are used to protect the country from incoming aerial threats.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, the commander of the IAF Air Defense Array, Brig.-Gen. Gilad Biran, said the battalion defended Israeli skies during various wars and operations since its inception.
“The Middle East is changing, new threats are taking shape. Everywhere in the region, various types of aerial platforms are used to damage significant state assets. The idea of the Patriot system for our country’s national security is great, clear and obvious.”
Though a large number of troops and reserve forces operated the batteries throughout the years, the battalion has been reduced over the past year ahead of it being closed. The remaining Patriot batteries used by the battalion will be moved to the responsibility of the 138th Battalion and be placed in strategic sites in the country.
The battalion was opened in 1969 and took part in numerous wars such as the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War. The Patriot system was deployed with the battalion in 1991 during the Gulf War and helped contribute to the country’s new security concept that regarded missiles as a significant strategic threat to the country.
The battalion also took part in Operation Guardian of the Walls this past May, when Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired over 4,000 rockets, mortars, and anti-tank-guided missiles toward Israeli cities during the 11 days of fighting, killing 11 civilians and one soldier.
“The last year was very significant for the battalion,” said the deputy commander of the battalion, Major “S.”
“We were mainly responsible for the southern front due to the relevance in that sector.”
The other air defense systems used by Israel include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets; the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere; and the David’s Sling missile-defense system designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40-300 km. (25-186 mi.).