Exclusive: Former pilot says Israeli Air Force remains dominant force in the region

“The downing of a plane can take nothing away from the overall aerial superiority of the IAF in the region,” says retired IAF Lt. Colonel Danny Grossman.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

While Israel lost a fighter jet to Syrian anti-aircraft fire over the weekend, the quick downing of an Iranian drone and the subsequent attack on the Iranian-operated drone base shows that Israel continues to dominate the skies over the Middle East.

The downing of an Israeli F-16 fighter jet this past weekend by Syrian anti-aircraft fire was the first loss of a plane at the hands of the enemy since 1983. The jet was hit during an otherwise successful attack on the Iranian drone command center in Syria that followed the first known incursion by an Iranian drone into Israeli air space.

The drone remained inside Israeli air space for no longer than 90 seconds before being shot down by an Israeli Air Force (IAF) helicopter. The drone was recovered, and IAF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar says the army will take advantage of the opportunity to study the Iranian UAV.

The IAF promptly responded to the provocation by targeting the drone’s command center in Syria with a squadron of fighter jets, and the F-16 was downed by Syrian surface-to-air missiles. Two pilots had to bail out, but landed inside Israeli territory, crashing into a field near Kibbutz Harduf in the Jezreel Valley. One remains in serious condition at Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

Retired Israeli Air Force Lt. Colonel Danny Grossman told World Israel News, “The downing of a plane can take nothing away from the overall aerial superiority of the IAF in the region. The air force is highly professional with capabilities that allow it to do many different jobs to keep Israel safe. That includes missions that can involve enemy fire.”

“The loss of an aircraft does not in any way take away from Israel’s deterrent capabilities. I am confident that the men and women of the IAF will learn the necessary lessons from this operation. The pilots in the IAF are as determined as ever to guarantee the safety and security of the Israeli people,” Grossman said.

‘Iranian drone was a very advanced model’

IAF Commander Tomer Bar said on Saturday, “The Iranian drone was a very advanced model. The Syrians have a lot of nerve to fire missiles at us, and we therefore operated in a very wide-scale and comprehensive fashion. The IDF response constitutes a severe blow to the Syrian air force’s defenses. We hit their fire control center, communications systems, and Iran’s listening centers.”

The IDF spokesman said that Israeli planes struck the Tiyas Military Airbase, from where the Iranian UAV was launched. Located in the Homs Governorate, the T-4 Airbase has been used by Iran for the past several months.

According to the IDF, the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards has been operating at Tiyas for a long time, backed by Syrian army forces and with the approval of the Syrian regime. In recent months Iran has been using the base to coordinate efforts to transfer weaponry to be used against Israel.

Footage of the Iranian UAV that was shot down shows it heavily resembles a US stealth drone that was downed in Iran in 2011. After being captured in Iran, the United States asked for it back, but the request was rejected.

According to US magazine The Aviationist, the drone was a model built on the basis of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel aerial reconnaissance UAV. The drone has advanced intelligence-gathering systems for electronic signals, images, communications and radar systems.