Is the Israeli Air Force Losing Its Edge?

    Asia Times

    Security, Middle East

    The shootdown in Syria may be a sign of things to come.

    Israel has been bombing targets within Syria with impunity since the country descended into a hellish civil war in 2011. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has executed bombing runs throughout the region, even as far away as Sudan without suffering consequences for decades. It has taken its aerial superiority for granted and built its strategy on it. That made the events of Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, all the more shocking for Israel.

    An Iranian drone entered Israeli aerospace and was destroyed. Israel attacked the site from which the drone was launched. An Israeli F-16 fighter was shot down by anti-air missiles. The pilot and navigator parachuted (both survived but were injured) and Israel responded with its usual lack of subtlety, bombing targets in Syria and possibly killing Iranian soldiers.

    Pro-Iranian militia Hezbollah hailed the downing of the aircraft as the beginning of “a new strategic phase” that puts an end to the violation of Syrian territories. Hezbollah is known for hyperbolic rhetoric, but this time they may have a point. The last time an Israeli fighter was shot down during an operation was in Lebanon in 1983, when the Middle East was a completely different place.

    This latest incident may be a harbinger of a new strategic era in the Levant. The F-16 was probably shot down by a Russian made SA-5 Gammon medium-to-high altitude surface-to-air missile. Syria uses the missiles to cover an area in which Russian troops operate in support of the Assad regime.

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