The legacy of the Yom Kippur War in the Israeli Air Force

The legacy of the Yom Kippur War in the Israeli Air Force

After identifying operational failures from the war, the Air Force adopted several corrective measures.

Lasting Lessons from Yom Kippur

In commemorating the half-century since the Yom Kippur War, the  IDF  has brought to light the  Israeli Air Force’s meticulous approach to capitalizing on lessons from the conflict.

Colonel  Eli Cohen highlighted in 1982 the persistent relevance of the lessons obtained, both in the configuration of the force and in its operation.

Likewise, during Operation Peace for Galilee, the need to reevaluate the impact of Yom Kippur on military aviation was perceived.

Reforms and adjustments in the Air Force

After identifying operational failures from the war, the Air Force adopted several corrective measures. However, in specific situations, more crucial issues were prioritized due to resource constraints.

For example, a specialized transport wing was created, and the aircraft fleet was increased. Within a decade, the obsolete Nord Noratlas units were replaced by modern Boeing 707s and Lockheed C-130 Hercules, the latter still in use.

Response to ground-to-air threats

Surface-to-air missile ( SAM ) batteries presented a significant challenge to Israel during the war. The IAF’s training and equipment was reformulated to counter these threats.

Among the notable actions, pilots were trained in evasion techniques; aircraft were equipped with chaff pods and SAM warning systems. In addition, priority was given to acquiring weapons that would allow attacking from outside the reach of enemy defenses.

Strengthening anti-aircraft defenses

Post-conflict,  Israel intensified its efforts in anti-aircraft defenses, acquiring anti-aircraft guns and advanced SAM systems, significantly improving its defensive capabilities.

Additionally, a more robust radar detection system was installed after the withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. With systems such as the Iron Dome,  Israel has positioned itself as a leader in air defense technologies.

Preparedness against unconventional threats

After the Yom Kippur War, there was growing concern about possible chemical and biological weapons attacks. This led to the protection of military installations and the provision of specialized equipment for troops.

With the cooperation of the IDF ground forces, various outposts and forward positions were reinforced, guaranteeing comprehensive defense against different types of threats.

Expansion and modernization of air bases

Between 1973 and 1982,  Israel increased its air infrastructure, establishing new bases and landing fields. Aircraft such as the F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons became pillars of the fleet, evidencing  Israel‘s continued commitment to military modernization and readiness.

The evolution and resilience of the Israeli Air Force

Israel strengthened its air defense after the lessons of the Yom Kippur War, investing in technology, strategy and training.

Improvements in air communications

Israel incorporated encrypted radios into modern and older reactors to strengthen communications between aircraft and commands. However, in 1982, there was a shortage of these devices. Despite having advanced jets like the F-15 and Kfir, they faced challenges in intercepting high-altitude aircraft, especially the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25.

The main objective of the IAF was to strengthen its offensive capabilities. This led to the acquisition of F-16, F-15 and mid-air refueling aircraft. Likewise, existing aircraft, such as the F-4 Phantom, were optimized to refuel in the air. Israel strengthened its fleet and invested in advanced weaponry to attack strategic targets.

“The extent of this capability was evident in the attack on the [Osirak reactor] core in  Iraq,” Cohen noted.

Cutting-edge UAV technology and reconnaissance

Israel increased its use of high-resolution aerial photography with the F-4 Phantom for better strategic reconnaissance. This focus on aerial intelligence led to development and production of unmanned aerial vehicles, such as IAI’s Scout. Thanks to these early investments,  Israel is now a world leader in UAV technology.

The IAF also expanded its ground combat wing, establishing a specialized helicopter wing. This wing had three squadrons and multiple bases to house the aircraft. New visors and sensors were incorporated into the helicopters to improve night operations. In addition, the fleet was renewed, replacing older helicopters with more modern and versatile models.

Regarding air-ground operations, the IDF explored missile solutions to confront fortified infantry. However, by 1982 they were still searching for the optimal option.

Restructuring and focus on personnel

The Air Force made organizational changes, introducing specialized departments to improve efficiency and collaboration between different areas. Following the challenges faced in combat, a Missing Persons Unit (MPU) dedicated to locating and honoring fallen soldiers was established in 1976.

Major General  Tomer Bar  highlighted the resilience and continuous learning of the Air Force: “Over the years, the Air Force learned and adapted the lessons of each conflict, reinforcing its processes and tactics with each generation.” Bar emphasized the importance of trust and dedication, recalling the bravery of combatants during the Yom Kippur War.

Commitment and determination were evident in the conflict, where the Israeli Air Force lost more than one hundred aircraft. This war came at a high cost, with 2,689 IDF soldiers killed, thousands wounded, and hundreds captured.