TEL AVIV (Jul. 14)
The use of combat helicopters in Israel Air Force strikes against terrorist targets in south Lebanon was confirmed Sunday by Air Force Commander Gen. Amos Lapidot. He said the type used in last Thursday’s attack on terrorist bases near Sidon is regularly deployed in coordination with Israel Defense Force ground forces.
Lapidot did not identify the helicopters. But according to the latest edition of “The Middle East Military Balance” published last week by Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, the Israel Air Force has 20 Bell Cobra and 35 Hughes Defender attack helicopters.
Lapidot said the helicopters are used for routine patroling and as a deterrent. They are available to local ground commanders and can be sent into action within minutes if necessary, he said. He added that the helicopters are one of several options the Air Force has to employ in strikes against enemy targets.
The terrorists do not know where, when and how the next Air Force strike will be carried out and this keeps them off balance, Lapidot said. He described the raid near Sidon. “The attack was carried out by combat helicopters which hit the targets from a distance of several kilometers. We used very exact weapons which permitted direct hits, which achieved the goal of destroying the targets but not buildings, objects or people unconnected with the terrorist organizations.”
According to “The Middle East Military Balance, ” the Israeli helicopters can be armed with TOW antitank missile systems which are accurate and effective against buildings as well as tanks.
Lapidot said in reply to questions that the use of helicopters in the Iatest attack on terrorists “doesn’t mean we are making any special change” of methods of attack. “In each instance, regarding each attack, we analyze the target, analyze the problem and adapt the type of attack and weapon to that same specific target,” he said.
In response to another question, the Air Force Commander agreed that Syria’s deployment of Sam-2 anti-aircraft missiles near the Lebanese border expanded the area inside Lebanon protected by missiles. “We are forced to consider this new situation which, if we ignore, places us in effective range of the missiles,” he said.
However, Lapidot stressed, “We are not currently in a situation where we want to be dragged into a confrontation with the Syrians, with the Syrian air defense system, even though we have our own solutions.”
He added, “We cannot today point to anything special which indicates particularly aggressive intentions on the part of the Syrians. We haven’t heated things up too much and in the past few months, no special escalation has developed.”