Air Operations in Israel's War Against Hezbollah

Learning from Lebanon and Getting It Right in Gaza

by Benjamin S. Lambeth

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Abstract

In response to a surprise incursion by Hezbollah combatants into northern Israel and their abduction of two Israeli soldiers, Israel launched a campaign that included the most complex air offensive to have taken place in the history of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). Many believe that the inconclusive results of this war represent a "failure of air power." The author demonstrates that this conclusion is an oversimplification of a more complex reality. He assesses the main details associated with the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF's) campaign against Hezbollah to correct the record regarding what Israeli air power did and did not accomplish (and promise to accomplish) in the course of contributing to that campaign. He considers IAF operations in the larger context of the numerous premises, constraints, and ultimate errors in both military and civilian leadership strategy choice that drove the Israeli government's decisionmaking throughout the counteroffensive. He also examines the IDF's more successful operation against the terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009, to provide points of comparison and contrast in the IDF's conduct of the latter campaign based on lessons learned and assimilated from its earlier combat experience in Lebanon.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Highlights of the Campaign

  • Chapter Three

    Key Israeli Air Accomplishments

  • Chapter Four

    Problems in Air Employment

  • Chapter Five

    The Winograd Commission's Findings

  • Chapter Six

    A Second Chance in Gaza

  • Chapter Seven

    The Second Lebanon War Reconsidered

  • Chapter Eight

    Conclusions

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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