Hundreds of the more than 6,000 targets struck from the air during Israel’s 50-day urban war in Gaza were from fighter jets delivering one-ton bombs in record time and in close proximity to friendly ground forces.
After-action accounts of Operation Protective Edge show unprecedented use of fixed-wing fighters for close air support (CAS) of urban maneuvering troops.
With an F-16 dedicated to every brigade, precision air power provided “pillar of fire” protection for friendly forces fighting less than 350 meters away.
That’s more than a three-fold improvement, officers here said, from Israel’s traditional 1-kilometer safety range for fixed-wing CAS.
“Until this last operation, we attacked in ranges of about 1,000 meters,” said Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, Israel Air Force chief of staff.
In a Sept. 10 interview, Norkin said Protective Edge marked the first time fixed-wing fighters were used as dedicated assets to division- and brigade-level forces.
“Over the last year, we drilled in a very substantive way with the ground forces and we built a process where our fighters could attack at much closer distances … We did this hundreds of times during the operation.”
Brig. Gen. Oren Avman, head of Israeli ground force training and doctrine, said the latest operation validated joint processes born from lessons of the 2006 Lebanon War that were not yet mature in Cast Lead, Israel’s last ground war in Gaza in late 2008-early 2009.