July 22, 2014

1967. Israel's Military Superiority in the Six Day War

The "State of the Art"
From Wikipedia: "Israeli Air Force officers next to a destroyed Egyptian MiG-21 at Bir Gifgafa."

TO John Lynch (ABC News memo)

CC Mssrs Sheehan et al

FROM Bill Downs

14 June 1967

Reports that the Israeli air force had a new and secret air-to-ground weapon which enabled them to shatter the bulk of Egyptian and Arab air power in the opening hours of the Mid-East war is strongly discounted by the Pentagon's air force experts.

Instead the officials are full of praise for what they call "the expert and efficient Israeli application of the state of the art as it exists today." This echoes Secretary McNamara's high praise for what he called the Israeli "executive and management techniques" which enabled Tel Aviv to mobilize the nation in less than 10 days and to win a major war in half that time."

US Air Force experts explain that the "state of the art" of destroying an enemy's planes and bombers by surprise and mostly on the ground involves a number of elements. The Israeli planes were equipped to employ optical, infra-red, radar and heat-seeking sighting devices. Depending on the conditions and timing over the target, they would use one or a combination of these elements to find their targets and attack.

For example, Israel's tracking radar scanners could spot the take-off of Egyptian planes from their bases at 6 a.m. and know for sure that they would have to return to their bases by 8:20 a.m. or crash because of a lack of fuel. Thus the Israeli air command could time the counter-attack for the landing time, and when they swept in their heat-seeking rockets would home in on the returned planes waiting to be fueled or during re-fueling. (This presumably happened in some of the Israeli attacks and accounts for the fact that the missiles hit the operation Migs while ignoring the dummy mockup of the next revetment.)

Pentagon officials point out that Israel's strategy in the war was mandatory and should have been obvious to the Arabs. The beach-head nation did not possess enough territory for large-scale maneuvers within her own borders. She HAD to carry the war outside that territory -- and to do that, she must attain early air superiority over the combat areas and also to forestall a possibly serious internal morale problem had the Arabs been able to bomb centers of Israeli population containing large numbers of the elderly. They stress the difficulty of effective camouflage in the desert and say that Israeli photo-reconnaissance over permanent Arab air force installations around Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and Amman must have had those bases gridded down to the last foot of ground. The dummy Migs were screened out in advance and the Israeli jet attacks could virtually have been plotted and directed by radar from Tel Aviv.

This is what the USAF means by maximum employment of "the state of the art." And this is exactly what the Israelis did. The weapons they carried in their jet fighters were mostly British made. We have worked closely with the British in the research and development of these weapons. To answer the obvious question: yes, we have similar or better weapons. We are using them in Vietnam with notable success when allowed. And because of the Vietnam experience, we have developed "the state of the art" to a higher level even than the Israelis.

Then there is the remaining element which contributed so much to the Israeli success and which differentiates so much the US aerial effort in Viet Nam. The Egyptian and Arab anti-aircraft defenses, if they really existed operationally, completely collapsed. This lack of opposition from the air or the ground greatly aids a pilot's accuracy and increases the efficiency of his technology and weapons.

Without in any sense denigrating the fantastic achievement of Israeli arms in last week's Middle East conflict, it still must be said, as General Dayan pointed out, that Israel was most fortunate in the choice of her enemies.