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IAF Detection Unit Release date 09.01.2019
Located on a high hilltop, the IAF Detection Unit – now marking 40 years of sky protection - acts as the IAF's eyes in central Israel
Michal Ben-Ari

On top of an especially tall hilltop in the Judaean Mountains is an IAF base unlike any other. The IAF Detection Unit acts as the IAF's eyes in central Israel, and is responsible for handling the Control Division's detection systems. Recently, it has marked four decades of detection and control. "The Detection Unit plays a dramatic role in the air force", said Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar, Head of Training & Doctrine Division. "A lot has changed over the past decades, but what remains the same is the unit's challenging position. To the unit's service members – keep protecting us every day, at any time. The force's success is a result of your work".

Photography: IAF Detection Unit

New Goals
The detection unit provides technical abilities in the fields of detection, communications, electronic warfare and alert, all of which the IAF requires in order to withstand its many challenges of protecting Israel and its borders. The unit has metamorphosed throughout the years: it was established in 1978 as a control and radar detection unit whose findings were used in order to solve operational issues in the force. From 1982-1985, the unit was responsible for the airspace between Gedera and Hadera while handling air defense and air traffic control in the Judea and Samaria area.

In 1985, it was decided in the IAF that the country's airspace be divided into two units: the southern ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit and the northern ATC Unit. In 2002, the Detection Unit's controllers were transferred to another squadron and the unit took on a new goal: providing the IAF with aerial overviews and communication abilities through the unit's radars and systems.

Photography: IAF Detection Unit

The unit's new mission turned it from a unit operating according to interceptions and scrambles, to a technical unit, operating according to operational control systems. Air traffic controllers are replaced with shift supervisors operating the unit's radar, communication and electricity systems. This is a sort of detection "hotline": available 24/7, experienced in utilizing the control division's technological systems and responsible for handling malfunctions. In turn, the unit is one of the only ones to rely on technical department personnel as the mission's primary force.

"The unit's topographical location is of great significance", said Lt. Col. (Res') Yona Arbel, one of the unit's first commanders. "It is located at the highest point in central Israel. This is necessary for the mission of sky defense". However, the unit does more than mere sky defense. "During emergency, the unit becomes incredibly significant", said Maj. S', the Commander of the Detection Unit. "When necessary, we can provide the control units with valuable detection and communication systems".

Archive Photo

Seeing Ahead
Last year, a fitness & preparedness inspection was held in the unit, as part of which the need for a detection unit in the IAF was re-examined. "The IAF realized the importance of the unit and its capabilities", emphasized Maj. S'. Following the inspection, a multiyear plan was established for the unit, dealing with several fields: from providing the unit with a permanent water source and establishing new residences for the personnel, among others. "These investments are an essential process for developing the squadron. That which we implement now will be utilized by the unit even in its 80th year".

The unit's personnel deal with complex challenges alongside defense of the country's airspace: the weather is challenging, and snow often covers the hilltop. In addition, the unit is located in the only IAF base situated beyond the Green Line. Armored convoys are required in order to arrive at and depart from the unit, which handles dozens of security-related events every year.

Photography: Noam Nachum

"In order to handle the challenge posed by the location, the unit works day and night in order to defend the site and its assets as well as anyone who comes and goes", elaborated Maj. S'. "There are various threats – people throwing stones, Molotov cocktails, burning tires and IEDs. The unit's service members need to be vigilant. The soldiers understand that if our detection unit is located where it is, it must be very significant for the country. More and more technological measures are being integrated alongside traditional detection systems. This place will continue to serve the IAF for many years to come".

Photography: Noam Nachum

"The soldiers in our unit can read about IAF activity in the newspaper, but they won't always understand that it happened thanks to the fact that they were scrambled in the middle of night to fix a malfunction or bring a component from a different airbase", concluded Maj. S'. "Our role as commanders is to explain to the soldiers that they allowed for the interception of enemy UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) which entered Israel's territory. The unit's service members need to be proud of the fact that their service goes towards helping Israel's aerial superiority".