The Israel Air Force is preparing to face dozens of enemy drones and cruise missiles in the next conflict, Brig.-Gen. Shahr Shohat, head of the Air Defense Command, said during a security conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Speaking at a conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies, called Air Defenses in the Modern Era, Shohat laid out the new threats to Israeli security, and spoke of an "intensive arms race" unfolding in the region, as demonstrated by Israel's interception of an Iranian weaponsshipment last week that was intended to reach the Gaza Strip.
New weapons systems are arriving in the northern and southern sectors, Shohat said, referring to Lebanon and Gaza. This will allow terrorist organizations to fire more rockets, as well as GPS-guided projectiles, making the task of defending Israel's air space more complex, he added.
Terrorist organizations in Gaza fired 1500 rockets in one week during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, he noted, which represents a 33 percent rise in the amount of projectiles fired in the same period of time during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
"In the next war, we will face tens of thousands of rockets of all types, and dozens of drones, from both sectors," he added.
To meet the challenge, the IDF is creating a multi-layered air defense system that will cover Israeli air space, and be able to block a variety of aerial threat. But, he added, overt and covert efforts must also be made to prevent terror groups from arming themselves and attacking.
Shohat said cooperation with the United States military, which he described as deep and intensive, represents a crucial layer of defense.
This cooperation is based on joint training, information sharing, and discussing joint operational concepts, he added.
"In the coming months, the annual drill with the US will be held, and this also finds expression in the field of intelligence and technology," Shohat stated.
Israel's air defenses have earned an international reputation for their effectiveness, he continued, citing a track record that includes the interception of hundreds of rockets and the downing of more than 90 hostile aircraft.
"We are seeing great interest from other militaries interested in learning from us. I struggle to imagine the city of Ashkelon without the successful interception of five rockets a number of months ago.
The same is true for Eilat. These interceptions occurred without prior warning. There is no hermetic defense, and in the moment of truth, we will have to deal with [rocket] fire. We will minimize damage to the home front in order to maintain our daily life," he concluded.