Air Force holds exercise simulating skyjacked planes flying into Israel from the east; Gulf flights pose higher risk due to proximity to Iran.
Israel’s defense establishment is preparing to counter a terrorist takeover of commercial flights arriving from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. An annual Air Force exercise simulated for the first time a terror incident involving a plane arriving from the Persian Gulf, Ynet reported.
The IDF and security services simulated the gravest threat scenario of hijackers plotting to crash an airliner into an urban area, the report said. Defense officials fear that flights from the Gulf pose a higher risk due to the immediate proximity to Iran and danger that Tehran will exploit this to orchestrate an attack.
Notably, Mossad and Shin Bet are already setting up elaborate measures to prevent acts of terror in the Emirates and Bahrain. However, Israel has no control over the security arrangements of foreign airlines.
IDF scrambles F-16 jets
During the drill, Israel tested the coordination protocols of defense and civilian agencies. The annual exercise normally simulates a skyjacking of a an airliner from Europe or the US, Ynet said. Officials modified the regular test plan as a plane flying in from the east, via Jordan, will pose different challenges.
As part of the drill, the Air Force scrambled F-16 jets to engage planes imitating a possible hijacking situation. IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi was tasked with making the ultimate decision on whether to intercept the aircraft. In a real-life scenario, Israel’s prime minister will be making the call.
A senior officer told Ynet that several detection mechanisms are in place to identify hijacked airliners long before they reach Israel. The Air Force will likely receive sufficient warning to mobilize jets and attempt to divert a plane without shooting it down.
Air Force faces new threats
Israel’s airspace is monitored from a new command center at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, the report said. The Air Force will soon discuss whether to increase the number of aircrews on emergency standby given the growing number of flights coming in from the Gulf.
The Air Force has been dealing with various new threat scenarios as of late, including the possibility of missile or drone attacks from Yemen. As part of its preparations, the army upgraded the Iron Dome air defense system to enable it to intercept more sophisticated weapons.