Military achievements

When it comes to the military, Israel was forced by its enemies to be the best in the world.

pilots after osirak bomb (photo credit: Courtesy)
pilots after osirak bomb
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli weapons The Uzi was introduced in the early 1950s and became the IDF's weapon of choice before the Sinai Campaign in 1956. The original manufacturer - Israel Military Industries (IMI) - developed a number of variants over the years, including the mini Uzi, the micro Uzi and the Uzi pistol. The Uzi soon became a favorite weapon for special forces around the world and can be found today in almost every Western country. During the 1981 assassination attempt on US president Ronald Reagan cameras caught a Secret Service agent pulling an Uzi from under his jacket. Another Israeli automatic weapon is the Tavor, developed and manufactured by Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) - a former subsidiary of the government-owned IMI. It utilizes a bullpup design and is configured in a layout that shortens the overall length but not at the expense of the barrel which remains at 33 cm. This configuration enables an operator to use the weapon in urban warfare but at the same time shoot at targets at distances over 500 meters away. The Tavor comes in different variations with the CTAR, or commando version, utilized by the IDF, which purchased 15,000 in 2002. According to foreign reports, the weapon, which has a sniper and grenade-launcher variant as well, is also in operational use by India, Portugal, Georgia, Colombia and Thailand. Last but not least is the "monster" of all Israeli military platforms - the Merkava Mk 4 tank - believed to be the best-protected tank in the world with the greatest survivability rate. It featured prominently during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Development of the tank began in 1965 and the latest model entered production in 1999. It has a robust and upgraded fire-control system and improved armor on all sides - including the top and the underbelly. Operation Focus Operation Focus was the opening preemptive air strike at the start of the Six Day War in 1967 and was instrumental in giving the IDF the upper hand by destroying the Egyptian and Syrian air forces. The brilliant air operation was one of the riskiest in aerial history. On June 5, 1967, under the command of Maj.-Gen. Mordechai Hod, the entire Israel Air Force - except for 12 fighters that stayed to defend Israeli airspace - took off at 7:14 a.m. with the objective of bombing and destroying Egyptian airfields while the Egyptian pilots were eating breakfast. In less than two hours, 18 airfields and some 300 Egyptian aircraft had been destroyed. Several hours later, IAF jets attacked and destroyed the Jordanian air force and wiped out half of the Syrian. The operation was crucial in winning the war and after destroying over 450 aircraft, Israel had almost complete control of the skies enabling the IAF to effectively assist the IDF ground forces in the Golan and Sinai. Entebbe The rescue of more than 100 Air France hostages from Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976 was one of the most daring commando operations in history. Four IAF Hercules transport aircraft - carrying 100 personnel, several vehicles and a medical team - took off on July 3, 1976, for the Entebbe Airport by cover of night and without assistance from ground control. The Air France plane was hijacked on June 27, 1976, by a mixed group of Palestinian and German terrorists. It was on its way from Tel Aviv to Paris via Athens but was diverted to Uganda after a refueling stop in Libya. Upon landing at the airport, the IAF planes unloaded their cargo which included a black Mercedes with several accompanying Land Rovers to give the impression that the troops were actually an escort for Ugandan leader Idi Amin. The assault team was led by Lt.-Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, commander of the IDF's General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), who was the only Israeli soldier killed during the raid. The entire assault lasted less than 30 minutes, during which close to 10 hijackers were killed as were four hostages. Armored personnel carriers, brought by the Hercules planes, were then unloaded to secure the airport perimeter. The aircraft were then refueled from Entebbe's own tanks and before takeoff the commandos destroyed 11 Ugandan Air Force MiG-17 fighter jets which were stationed at the airport. Some 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed during the operation. Osirak US and coalition forces may never have decided to invade Iraq in 2003 had it not been for prime minister Menachem Begin and "Operation Opera," better known as the bombing of Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor outside Baghdad, which he approved in 1982. Touted as one of the greatest air strikes in IAF history, a squadron of F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took off from the Etzion Air Force base in the Negev, flying over Jordan to attack the French-built reactor. According to reports, Jordan's King Hussein was vacationing in Aqaba when the planes flew over his head. He reportedly tried to notify the Iraqis, but they never got the message. Upon reaching Iraq, the squadron split up. Two of the F-15s escorted the F-16 bombers, and the remaining F-15s dispersed to set a diversion and to be ready to serve as a back-up force. The attack squadron reportedly flew at a mere 30 meters over the Iraqi desert in an attempt to stay under radar detection. Two hours after taking off, the planes went into a dive over the reactor and began releasing the Mark 84 bombs in pairs and at five-second intervals. According to the Israeli reports, all 16 bombs struck the reactor, although two did not detonate. Before the Iraqi air defense could respond, the IAF jets climbed and began making their return to Israel, where they finally arrived on their last drops of fuel. Satellites Israel is a world leader in the development and launching of spy satellites, and is one of seven countries - the others are the US, France, Japan, China, India and Russia - with independent satellite launching capabilities. The space program began in the 1980s and despite a number of failures and setbacks, the country has succeeded in launching close to 10 satellites, with an outrageously small annual budget of around $50 million. In comparison, the US annually invests $50 billion in its space programs. In January, Israel launched its most advanced satellite - called TecSar - from India. Weighing just under 300 kg, the TecSar was developed by the Israel Aerospace Industries' Space Division MBT and has the ability to create images of objects on Earth in cloudy weather conditions and can see through certain rooftops that are not made of concrete. The Ofek 7 satellite, launched in June 2007, is a camera-based satellite, while TecSar can create high-resolution images using advanced radar technology called synthetic aperture radar (SAR). In addition to the Ofek 7, Eros B and the Amos 1 and 2 (both communication satellites), Israel currently operates the Ofek 5 spy satellite, successfully launched in May 2002. Unmanned aerial vehicles They come in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to developing and manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) Israel is a world leader. Several Israeli industries develop the drones - Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit Systems, Aeronautics and others. In total, IAI has about 1,000 of its UAVs operational in close to 20 countries. Israel uses the drones in a wide-variety of operations and particularly for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering in the Gaza Strip and in southern Lebanon. According to foreign media reports, Israel also uses drones to fire missiles in targeted assassinations in Gaza. In total, during the Second Lebanon War, UAV operators flew for more than 5,000 hours above Lebanon, finding dozens of rocket launchers and contributing significantly to the war effort. Established in 1971, the IAF's Squadron 200 first operated UAVs during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The first aircraft used was a missile carrying a still camera that took pictures behind enemy lines and parachuted back into Israel. The film in the camera was collected, developed and taken for decoding, a process that took five to six hours. But technology continued to improve. By the country's next major war in 1982, the squadron was already operating UAVs that were capable of transmitting real-time images back to headquarters. Today, the squadron operates the Searcher Mk. II manufactured by IAI, and is in the process of laying infrastructure ahead of the scheduled arrival of the newly developed IAI-made Heron, capable of more air time and of carrying a larger and heavier payload. While the Searcher is able to take to the skies for 12 hours straight, the Heron can remain in the air for two days without refueling. It can also fly at altitudes of 30,000 feet, making it a difficult target for standard anti-aircraft weapons. It has the ability to carry a 250 kg. payload, in comparison to the Searcher's 100 kg.