IAF Commander: "Space is strategic depth"

Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel addressed the role of space activity in dealing with the changing nature of Israel's security threats, speaking at International Space Conference

Date: 29/01/2013, 10:06 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

"The Air Force depends very significantly on Israel's activities in space, as it helps [meet] its intelligence, communications and defense needs," said Commander of the Israel Air Force Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, speaking at the eighth annual International Space Conference today (Tuesday, January 29).

The event was held in honor of Israel's first astronaut, the late Ilan Ramon.

Maj. Gen. Eshel addressed the effects of the changing geopolitical climate in the Middle East on the type of threats that Israel faces. "The weakening governance in neighboring countries heralds greater exposure to hostile activity – Syria is the best example of that. We must deal with a wider array of enemies and adversaries than ever," Maj. Gen Eshel said.

According to the IAF Commander, the scope of the IAF's interests and activities has grown drastically in the past decade to match the changing nature of warfare in the region. "We are dealing with weapons of every sort and type," Maj. Gen. Eshel said. "While in the past we addressed threats and challenges on our borders and on the fences, today the situation is essentially different: The threats can come from the front line, or [they can come] from the strategic depth to the front in the form of UAVs, cruise missiles, and non-conventional weapons."

The IAF chief explained that the obligation to conduct offensive, defensive and intelligence efforts to prepare for any possible future developments necessitates close cooperation between the various security forces and the intelligence community.

Maj Gen. Eshel explained that because some operations are fought at a significant distance from home, the IAF is often the first to be called upon for duty. "The IAF – due to the nature of its aerial strength, its availability and flexibility, response readiness and long reach – is in most cases almost the only tool," he said, while expressing confidence in the IAF's ability to complete any mission required of it.

"If a threat appears in the long, medium or short range," the head of the IAF stated, "the Israel Air Force has the ability to exercise force almost instantly, and [implement] almost unlimited options at almost any location."

Discussing regional trends, Maj. Gen. Eshel explained that conventional border fighting has shifted to a much broader form of warfare.

"The Middle East has remained the same for five thousand years; only the enemies and configurations have changed," he said.

"The traditional threats have largely decreased; invading ground divisions do not pose a threat to the State of Israel," he noted, though warning that other threats pose significant challenges "extending to far larger areas than what we faced in the past."

Maj. Gen Eshel maintained that the IAF would continue to deal with every possible threat that Israel faces. "We work every day in order to lessen the immediate threats, to create better conditions so that we will be victorious in future wars. This is a struggle in which the Air Force is a central player, from here to thousands of kilometers away, and thus our capabilities in space are critical."

The Air Force Commander concluded by stressing the importance of space in defending Israel, saying, "Space is strategic depth, and it clearly reflects the preservation of our qualitative advantage, which is the basis for [our] ongoing preservation in the future. Our capability as a state in space is a key ingredient in our warning capabilities, and it will allow [us] to use this capability at every range and medium, covertly and without violating sovereignty."