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Israeli Air Force Experience In Bekaa Valley War

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

1. The whole world argues whether the fighting between Israel, PLO and Syrians during Beckaa Valley war should be seen as WAR or just one more tragic surge in violence in the decades-long struggle between Israel and the Palestinians/Arabs. However, the war fought by the three parties has a great impact on a lot of aspects such as technology, strategy and the method used to conduct the war. This paper studies the war in term of lessons learnt in modern air battle with central focus on Electronic Warfare (EW), phases of changes in Israelis tactic and capabilities and implication of the war on today’s modern air battle in term of training, intelligent, surprise, command control and communication (C3) and electronic combat. This also will help readers to have better and in-depth understanding on how Electronic warfare can be employed effectively and the importance of certain strategy assets for a nation to defend its self in future war or conflict. RMAF air power doctrine defined the role of RMAF during war. Roles played by the Israelis Air Force (IAF) during Beckka Valley war will enable readers to have better understanding of RMAF roles during war.


2. This aim of the paper is to study Israeli Air Force experience in Bekaa Valley war in term of application of modern air power and its relevant lessons to Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). In doing so, this paper pays particular attention to employment of Electronic Warfare (EW) during the war and its relations to roles of RMAF.


4. On 6 June 1982, Israel defense Force invaded Lebanon in a campaign which, would become the most controversial military action in Israel’s history. Operation Peace for Galilee or known as Beckaa Valley War was launched to meet five Israelis national strategy goals [1] :

a. Eliminate the PLO threat to Israel’s northern border.

b. Destroy the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon.

c. Remove Syrian military presence in the Bekaa Valley.

d. Create a stable Lebanese government.

5. The Israelis population consists of Jewish who practice the religion of Judaism while the Arabs on the other hand practice Islam as their religions. According to their bible (Tanakh) the Jewish were told that they will defeat their enemies and take control of this land no matter who is the enemy. In Koran the Islamic bible the Arabs also was promised the same land. In 1948, when the Jews formed the State of Israel, the conflict between Arabs and Israelis started and they have fought continuously throughout history [2] .

6. Lebanon a country comprises of two major religion groups Catholic and Muslims. It was part of Syria before the French separate it 1861. The Catholic wanted a pro western government; however the Muslim wanted a government based on Islam. In 1926 the Lebanese leaders came to a power sharing agreement that the President should be a Catholic while the Prime Minister a Sunni [3] .

7. People Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in Jerusalem in 1964, with main Objective to destroy the Israel and gain complete control of Palestine. In Lebanon, the PLO created “State within a state” gained the support of Muslim population and declared the constitution’s of power sharing agreement as obsolete. They collected their own taxes, funded its own school and organized a military that able to challenge Israelis northern border [4] .

8. The study of Bekaa Valley war must understand why the Israelis invaded. One of the main reasons for the Invasion was, PLO shelling of northern Israel from the end of 1973 till 1982. During this period PLO manages to launch 1,548 rocket attacks and killing almost 103 people. Usually, the Israelis responded with air raid, border raid and counter shelling as preventive measures. In 1978, Israelis started to lose patient on PLO as a result of failures of their preventive measure. March 1978, Israelis launched Operation Litani with purpose of driving the PLO north of Litani River in Lebanon and create a 25 KM buffer zone. The purpose of this buffer zone was the have an area of free PLO so that they could not launch any rocket attack [5] .

9. United Nation manages to pressure and forced the Israel to withdraw and replaced by its own force. The aim of UN was to maintain peace within the buffer zone and reestablishes the Lebanese government. However, the peace did not last long when the PLO starting to take control and began to continue their attacks on northern Israel borders. On 3rd June 1982, Shlomo Argov Israelis ambassador to the United Kingdom was shot by terrorist. The Israelis who needed a reason blamed the PLO and at 1100 on 6 Jun 1982 the Israelis defense force launched operation Peace for Galilee [6] .


10. The following question is examined while doing this paper:

a. What are the key factors to success of Israelis Air Force (IAF)?

b. What type off assets employed by the IAF to achieve success?

c. What strategy used to cripple the PLO and Syrian by IAF?



11. Israel Defense Force (IDF) planning for an invasion of Lebanon began in 1978. The lessons learned from the operation Litani formed the basis of the “Pine Tree” plan. The invasion plan comprised of three alternative plans. The first plan called for an invasion 40 kilometers into Lebanon. Its purpose was to destroy the PLO in the south and their ability to terrorize northern Israeli settlements [7] .

12. The second plan was a more ambitious version of the first. The IDF would advance as far north as the vicinity of Beirut. The advantage of this plan was that it would include the PLO training and operational base at Damour, some 12 kilometers south of Beirut [8] .

13. The third and most ambitious plan, called “Big Pines,” included war against both the PLO and the Syrians. This plan called for the seizing of Lebanese territory including Beirut. Civilian leadership generally favored the first plan. However, Defense Minister Sharon and some high-ranking military leaders favored the larger war of the third plan. The plan that was officially approved remains in question [9] .


14. Apart from planning the invasion the Israelis also started developing their assets as preparation for the invasion. Even though, Israelis dependent heavily on American technology. However, they manage to develop their own technology. The table bellows show the development of IAF assets from 1973 to 1982 (source the military balance 1973 and 1982).













Combat aircraft



F-4E Phantom



Mirrage III



A-4 Skyhawk










10 Hawk bty

15 Hawk bty

Table 1: Israelis rapid development of assets from 1973 to 1982


15. Air Power is defined as the “ability to project military force in air or from flatform or missiles operating above the surface” nation RMAF primary mission is to defend the sovereignty and integrity of the nation and its interests through the proper and effective use of aerospace power. In order to carry out this mission RMAF define its roles in air power doctrine so that employment of assets and manpower can be utilize to the fullest in war [10] .

16. RMAF air strategies fall essentially into four broad roles [11] :

a. Counter Air role.

b. Force Application role.

c. Force Enhancement role.

d. Force Sustenance role.

17. Tables bellow defined the roles in details [12] :







Airfield Attack

To attack Aircraft on ground, Ammo and Fuel dump, C4I, Airfield facilities.

Fighter Sweep

Seek and destroy airborne aircraft,


Destroy, neutralise, and degrade Radars and early warning systems, SAMs, AAA.



Intercept, Identify, Shadow, Intervene and/or Force down, or Engage enemy aircraft.



Protect FGA aircraft or HVAA.

Table 2: Examples of Counter Air roles and its operations and missions







To destroy, neutralise, degrade or disrupt;

COG and Vital points.

Destroy, neutralise and degrade HQ, key industries, and fielded forces and infrastructures.


To destroy, neutralise, degrade, disrupt or delay: LOC, War sustaining and military potential beyond the battlefield.

Destroy, degrade, delay supply depot, HQ.



Destroy, neutralise or delay land forces, LOC, war machines, bridges.




Detect, identify, neutralise, destroy, ships, mine laying,


Detect, locate, track, submarine, mine laying.


Opportunity targets within the battlefield.

Locating and attacking personnel, material and facilities.

Table 3: Examples of Force application roles and its operations and missions







Scheduled services.

Movement of personnel and supplies.

Airborne operations.

Airdrop of personnel or cargo.

Air logistic support.

Distribute or recover personnel and materiel.

Special air operations.

Insertion and extraction of special forces, leaflet drop, voice broadcast.

Aero-medical evacuation.



Towline AAR missions.

Provide air-to-air refuelling.

Trail AAR missions.


Early warning and Surveillance.

Provide information on enemy activity; provide air picture to AD forces C2, maritime surv.

Control of air operations

Control, monitor and direct OCA missions, manage AAR assets, coordinate rescue, assist in navigation.

Weapons control.

Control fighters, armed heli and GBAD.



Search, intercept, identify and locate EM emissions.


Electronic jamming, neutralisation or deception of en C2, EM capabilities, acquisition and targeting and combat capabilities, launching active decoys like chaff and flares.


Spoofing, inserting erroneous information.


Strategic recce.

Strategic warning, provide info for R&D and weapon systems acquisition.

Operational recce.

Weather and geographical recce, defining vulnerable and vital enemy elements.

Tactical recce.

BDA, combat assessment, tactical threat warning, target imagery.


Unconventional warfare, direct action, Combating terrorism, special recce, Civil affairs, PSYOPS, Information operations, Counter proliferation

Collect intelligence, sabotage, espionage, rescue, target laser designation, path-finding.

Table 4: Examples of Force Enhancement roles and its operations and missions







Base active air defence

Defend from air attack (SHORAD, AAA).

Base passive air defence

CCD, dispersion, air raid warning, reconstitution, recuperation.

Base security

Anti: sabotage, espionage, insertion, infiltration.



Receive, Induct, Special skills.


Provide ATC, airfield, rescue, fire fighting, wx and C4I services.


Supply, R&D, clothing, refuelling, ammunition transportation, rations.


Servicing, repair, testing, salvage, refurbish, manufacture.


Organising, Planning, Finance, Religious and Medical services, Welfare Discipline, Law and order and Accommodation.



Acquisition, Movement, Distribution, Storage, Maintenance, Disposition.


Movement, Evacuation, Medical care.


Acquisition, Construction, Maintenance, Disposition, Operation.


Acquisition or Furnishing.


Search, Locate and Rescue.

Downed Aircrew or Distressed personnel.

Table 4: Examples of Force Sustenance roles and its operations and missions



18. The lesson learnt from the previous conflict prompt the Israelis to have better preparation for the invasion during the Beckaa Valley War. One of their main preparations was training. The main objective of the training was to get the personnel to know in dept of what’s going to happen during the actual invasion. Massive training conducted at the borders involving numerous personnel and assets. Advancement in technology is key assets to IAF. However, in order to achieve success the IAF personnel need to understand and have experience in handling this equipment.

19. The IAF conducted extensive northern border training exercise which acted as rehearsal for incoming invasion. The exercise was conducted for the period of 13 months which include rehearsal of sorties against simulated SAM-6 target at northern desert. This countless rehearsals eliminate many problems that the planners did not see when drafting the invasion plan. This rehearsal also intended to create planed desensitization of the PLO and Syrians. Fearing the invasion is on the way the PLO and the Syrians reacted to first few training exercises. However due to the “alert fatigue” the PLO and Syrians ignored the following training exercises including the actual invasion.


20. Electronic Warfare (EW) involves action to control electromagnetic spectrum or directed energy; this action will impede the enemy capability or ability use the electromagnetic spectrum. Electronic signal Intelligent (ELINT) is a way to gather intelligent by use of electronic sensor. Signal identification is carried out by analyzing the collected parameters of specific signal to know its criteria, this data usually highly classified and protected. The gathered data usually pertinent to the enemy defense network especially the electronic part such as radar and surface-to-air missiles system.

21. As preparation for the invasion the IAF remotely piloted vehicles (RPV) overflew the area where the Syrians position their SAMs. These RPVs collected the intelligence which later used to develop the attack plan. The IAF use two assets in achieve the ELINT mission. The Mastiffs contained gyro stabilized television and high resolution camera which proven its effectiveness in photo reconnaissance. The Scouts is configured to carryout ELINT mission, picked up the radar emissions which enable the fingerprinting of the Syrians SAM radar. Both this assets able to deliver the information picked up directly to airborne or ground command post for immediate analysis.

22. Information gathered by the RPVs proven its effectiveness when the IAF manage to carry out their Suppression of Enemy Air Dense (SEAD) operation accurately and effectively.


23. Surprise depends on the initiative and is made more attainable by the versatility of the aerospace power. Where, when or how the enemy is struck is relatively independent of where and how and air force are postured Surprise is air power strongest advantage (air Power doctrine).

24. During Beckaa Valley war the IAF was able to achieve real surprise in the invasion because of Palestinians “alert fatigue” or “cry wolf” syndrome. The planed desensitization of PLO and Syrians worked when the IAF actually invaded Lebanon their ninth exercise and found that no real resistance from the PLO and Syrians. The PLO assume that, they had developed a deterrent to an Israelis invasion and the Syrians assumed that an attack to their SAM side is too risky for the IAF based on high losses that IAF suffered in previous conflict. Holding element of surprise in hand, along with good plan and precise intelligent IAF achieved success in Beckaa Valley war.


25. C3 technology encompasses the capability to acquire, process and disseminate information across the force. The capability must be reliable, provide secure multilevel access, and be protected from enemy attacks. This will require advances not only in computing hardware and software but in the interconnecting fabric of communications.

An important point to realize is that C3 is a human function. The method by which command and control is carried out is the C3 system, which serves to augment the cognitive functions of the individual engaged in command and control. A complex C3 system is an integrated combination of people, procedures, and hardware used to enhance the ability of the individual performing command and control.

26. IAF commanders proved that effective C3 is an important ingredient to successfully integrate combined armed effort. The IAF projected the role of C3 as the nervous system and the tactical commanders act as the brain. Two main assets that participate in C3 efforts was Israelis version of Boeing 707 and E-2C Hawkeyes. The Boeing 707 serves primarily as an electronic support measure (ESM) and electronic counter measure (ECM). ESM involves gathering of information while ECM involve in jamming and deception of enemy communication. The E-2C served as airborne command post, on this aircraft the tactical commanders was able to process real time intelligent, develop true picture of the tactical situation, coordinate its offensive assets with the proper timing, monitor the attack live and assess the effectiveness of the attack.


27. Once the training rehearsal completed, sufficient intelligent was gathered and setup of effective C3 is done the IAF went into action. To make a way for easy air battle it’s important to IAF to launch SEAD operation which is divided into 3 phases.

28. The first phase involve deception which stimulate the Syrians radar into action. The IAF launch RPVs over the target to re-verify the location of the SAM sides and their radar frequencies. The slow speed of the RPVs did not generate interest of the Syrians who thought another training rehearsal is ongoing. Combined with the ground forces the IAF launches Samsons and Delilahs decoys which received attention of Syrians because of the size and speed of this decoys similar to attacking aircraft when viewed on radar screen. IAF also launches these decoys in the direction of the sun to degrade Syrians optical guidance system which leaves them to relay on their radar. The Syrians took the bait as the launch their missiles towards the incoming decoys and increase their vulnerabilities to anti radiation missiles (ARM). The Boeing 707 sensor confirms the Syrians radar was fully activated and when they were on first reloads cycle the second phase was launched.

29. The second phase involved a lot of activities into effective harassment and suppression operation. The Boeing 707 now uses its ECM capability start jamming the Syrians radar. The jamming activites is not only carried out by the Boeing 707 it also involves ground based jammers and airborne jammers located on attach helicopters. Artillery fire with the aim of the targets adjusted by image from the RPVs started to harass the SAM operators. The SAM site also bombarded with 105mm Howitzer cannon and the same time the IAF launches chaff dispensing rockets to emphasis the jamming technique. With radar screen blinded and the operators harassed by the artillery fire, the IAF went into action. The F-4E launches Shrike and standard ARM missiles which homed in on the radar antenna. Once the attack was completed the tactical commanders was able to determine the remaining SAM that need to be destroyed.

30. The final phase of the SEAD operation concentrated on destroying the remaining Syrians SAM. E-2C Hawkeyes now vectored the IAF F-16s, A-4 and Kfir through undefended area to carry out attack on surviving radar vans and SA-6 missiles launchers. The IAF use multiple ammunition in this attack such standoff ammunitions, cluster bombs and general purpose bombs. The Syrians tried to fight back with launching the remaining missile, but due to the jamming effect their missiles lack of target acquisitions and target tracking the was ineffective towards IAF high maneuverable aircraft.


31. The Israelis again utilize RPVs, Boeing 707 and E-2C Hawkeyes for the air battle. When the Syrians MiGs takes off from their air field the Israelis commander was able to watch live image feed through the RPVs loitering over head Syrian airfield. The E-2C Hawkeyes also was able to watch the MiGs takeoff using APS-125 radar which able to detect and track target up to 250 miles and ALR-59 passive detection system able to detect and classify target up to 500 miles. Using this advance technology the controller on board of the E-2C Hawkeyes vectored IAF F-15s and F-16s fighter to intercept the Syrian MiGs. The Syrians used Russian fighter tactic which highly dependent on ground controlled intercept (GCI). However, when the Syrians radar and communication line was jammed they were literally become sitting duck for IAF F-15s and F-16 fighter.



x. Counter air defined as the use of air power to deter, contain or defeat the enemy air forces. It assures the friendly use of the environment while denying its use to an enemy. Counter air roles can be divided into the following roles.

x. Offensive counter air (OCA) – To destroy, disrupts or confines enemy air power at their source and prevents them from conducting their own counter air campaign.

x. Defensive counter air (DCA) – Employ interceptors, escorts, armed helicopters or GBAD against enemy forces threatening to engage own forces or facilities or infiltrate our airspace.

X. During the Beckaa Valley war the Israelis demonstrated how to apply counter air role in war. They showed how OCA able to achieve air superiority and open a getaway for DCA operation where they carried out the SEAD operation.


x. Armed Reconnaissance is part of operation that carried out for force application roles. Mission is designed to for the purpose of locating and attacking targets of opportunity. It is a form of interdiction against opportunity targets in a designated area or along lines of communication within the battlefield. Control of the electronic spectrum showed how an integrated plan using RPVs, decoys, chaff and anti radiation missiles (ARM) can be used to terrorize the enemy. The ability to control electronic spectrum also will tremendously reduce the losses of friendly aircraft.


It multiplies the combat effectiveness of air and surface forces and increases the ability of these forces in non-combatant roles. The main operations applied at Beckaa Valley are Airborne Early Warning & Command (AEW&C) which employed using Boeing 707 and E-2C Hawkeye aircraft. Intelligent, surveillance and recce used the RPVs to carry out the mission. Employment of EW using various method, technique and equipment determine the success of IAF

The Israelis demonstrated how the proper combination of air and land operation can cause devastating defeat of the enemy. Land based support through jammers, artillery, rocket, and missiles not only contribute but the cause huge damage to Syrian e SAMs. This action shows how important for the nation armed forces to concentrated all the weapon system available to achieve one goal.

x. Israelis manage all the assets available to them through effective use of 3C; they demonstrated in any war the access or denial of C3 can make huge difference to determine the success of the mission. Having access to real-time intelligent benefited the Israelis to have better situational awareness and denial the Syrians of C3 create confusion within the Syrian forces and this is become the key for Israelis success at Beckaa Valley.

x. Capability of having advance technology compare to your enemy will determine the success of any war. During Beckaa Valley the Israelis is well equipped with advance technology from the Americans. Even tough, the Syrians are equipped with the Russian technology but it is well known that the Russian was never fully transferred their full capability or technology to any country. The F-15 and F-16 is way much superior fighter compare to their adversary the Migs 21 and 23. Losing the C3 causing the MiGs lost direction and become practice target for the Israelis fighter.


“It is easier and more effective to destroy the enemy’s aerial power by destroying his nests and eggs on the ground than to hunt for his flying birds in the air.” –

Gen Giulio Douhet

x. The Beckaa Valley war is an operation launched to achieve the Israelis national goal. To achieve this goals the Israelis demonstrated how a proper training, outstanding C3, intelligent gathering, control of electromagnetic spectrum and advance technology able determine the success of a war.



x. As proven during Beckaa Valley war a proper training will determine the success of the war. RMAF has to plan the training according to the future needs especially paying particular attention into the electronic warfare. EW had to be implied to all officers and others ranks; starting from the basic training, EW should be included in training syllabus of recruits and cadet officers.

x. Theory training must continue with practical training so that when the actual conflicts take place the personnel knows what to do. Currently RMAF are conducting EW training at Pusat Latihan Peperangan Khas (PLPE). However, the training which divided into basic and advance training lack of practical training. Lack off assets is a factor contributing factor for lack of practical training. RMAF had to revise the procurement plan so that it will include more EW assets and proper training can be carried out utilizing these equipments.


x. EWSC was set up in 1995 to support the HAWK fleet EW operation. However the operations have not achieved its goal due to insufficient equipment. The F-18D has the capability of airborne self protection jammer but this equipment is only operating within the F-18 fleet. The latest procurement of sophisticated fighter the Su-30MKM incorporates the advance EW system; again this system is operating within the Su’s. RMAF will not achieve success on EW if the current trend of buying is not changed. Every proposal of new EW system need to be studied thoroughly by EWSC and ensure the procurement can be integrated to all RMAF platforms

x. EWSC must play more critical role during peace time. Analysis of data captured is critical for usage during conflict. Proper equipment has to be procured to support more advance function of EWCS. Interoperability between aircraft needs to be improved and RMAF had to make a clear requirement for the future needs so that it will tally by the way the war in future will be fought.


x. When we talk about assets for future conflict before we make any recommendation let’s look of what our neighbors have;

Country (Singapore) – EW equipment


Ground SIGINT Operation

Capable of comprehensively and systematically monitor communication out to 2,000 KM around the Island

Airborne SIGINT Operation

2 x C-130 equipped with Israelis technology to carry out SIGINT, COMINT, ELINT mission

6 x Fokker-50 Maritime Enforcer Mark-2 maritime patrol aircraft equipped with modern SIGINT system

Able to carry out EW mission from Australia, Andaman sea, west coast of Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

40 X Searcher Mark II

Israelis made Scout UAV

Able to carry out task/mission that risk to human pilot, slow speed and low penetration will avoid radar detection and carry out SIGINT, ELINT and COMINT mission.

Airborne Early Warning

4 X E-2C Hawkeyes

Better coverage compare to ground radar and able to become airborne command post.

Table 2; Singapore EW capability.

x. Based on the table above can we determine where do we stand in term of EW? Are we able to defend our nation if we are under attack? These are some of the question that will hunt RMAF if we do happen to have conflict with our neighbors. Current RMAF assets are not capable of conducting EW campaign, even though we do have some EW elements on HAWK, F-18s and Su-30MKM but the usage is very limited. We recommend that RMAF to look into the future procurement list and start listing the following EW assets if we want to achieve success on EW conflict;

x. UAV

x. Airborne Early Warning & Command System.

x. Ground base or airborne based jammer system.

X Protection of our communication line through Frequency hopping systems

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