Israel may be a small country but it fields one of the most capable military forces in the world. It has been ranked 18th by the Global Fire Power review for its military strength in 2020.
Formed two weeks after the founding of the State of Israel in 1947, the Israeli Army has ever since seen combat in every decade, fighting wars in the defense of the county against different enemies, mostly its neighbors. Today it is one of the most powerful forces in the world and the strongest in the Middle-East.
As per defense and security writer for National Interest Kyle Mizokami, Israel cannot be beaten, at least in its neighborhood, and has some of the most modern equipment like Merkava Main Battle Tanks, Spike Missiles, Namer Armored Personnel Carrier, Tavor Assault Rifle, and “Smasher” Multiple Rocket Launcher System to name a few.
The Merkava is Israel’s first and only indigenous main battle tank armed with a locally produced 120-millimeter smoothbore gun. Over 2000 Merkavas possessed by the US-allied nation are among some of the first armored vehicles to be equipped with active protection systems against guided missiles.
The Israeli Air Force has been instrumental in providing air superiority to Israel, close air support to ground forces, and performing strikes against targets deep in the enemy’s homeland. The air force has undertaken a counterterrorism role, using airstrikes to assassinate terrorist leaders and destroy caches of weapons from Tunis to Sudan in the last three decades.
Israel’s estimated fleet of 648 aircraft comprises of F-15 Eagle fighters with the record of shooting down five MiG-21s in a single engagement, four more MiG-21s in another attack in 1979, and in 1976, the country’s F-15s shot down 58 enemy planes with zero losses at the end of 1982 Lebanon war.
Other fighters in Israel Air Force’s fleet are F-15I Ra’am (“Thunder”), F-16I Sufa (“Storm”), and AH-64 Seraph (“Winged Serpent”) besides the stealth F-35 jets.
Furthermore, Israel’s Jericho III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile is the third missile to serve as Israel’s land-based nuclear deterrent. It has a range between 4,800 and 6,000 kilometers and is capable of carrying a 1,000-kilogram warhead.
Israel has proven its mettle in the early decades of existence when a six-day war with Arab nations changed the map of the Middle East. Israeli jets fitted with rockets neutralized six air bases of Egypt within 30 minutes in June of 1967, badly crippling the enemy’s defense forces.
By the end of the six-day war, Israel had won 42,000 square miles of extra territory which made it three and a half times the size it was on 4 June. In less than one week, the Arabs lost Sinai, West Bank, Golan Heights, and most important of them all, Jerusalem.
Israel’s dominance over its Arab enemies had threatened the Soviet Union’s influence in the region. Soviet Union’s presence in the region was of immense importance to Moscow for its goals to monitor American submarines and aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean.
At the height of the 1970 war, Moscow feared that Israel may wipe out the Russian military presence in Egypt and thereby hurt its ability to neutralize the American nuclear threat. Now the War of Attrition was the first time that Israel faced a superpower as its enemy.
Boris Dolin, who wrote on Soviet-Israeli battle, told Haaretz – “To the Soviets, the threat of a foreign power – Israel – that was close to a hostile superpower – the United States – began to hand over their facilities, and “to threaten, to some extent, the homeland’s survival.” Dolin has authored “The Suez Wall – The Story of the Secret War between Israel and the Soviet Union”.
Israel was somehow subdued by the Soviets, but it was not without a tough fight. In July 1970, the situation escalated into a dogfight between Israeli and Soviet planes. Describing the dogfight, Dolin wrote in his book: “The jet engines roared, excited shouts filled the communications network and the missiles that were fired pursued their targets.”
“The Soviets were in trouble; they couldn’t get the Israelis in their sights and discovered that Phantoms or Mirages were sitting on their tails. The battle lasted six minutes and by the end of it, five Soviet MiGs had crashed in the Egyptian desert. Three Soviet pilots were killed and two ejected before their plane became a heap of scorched metal,” he writes.