The U.S. provided Israel with information about Syrian air defenses before Israel attacked a suspected nuclear site in Syria, Aviation Week & Space Technology is reporting in its Nov. 26 edition.
The U.S. was monitoring the electronic emissions coming from Syria during Israel’s Sept. 6 attack, and while there was no active American engagement in the operation, there was advice provided, according to military and aerospace industry officials.
The first event in the raid involved Israel’s strike aircraft flying into Syria without alerting Syrian air defenses. The ultimate target was a suspected nuclear reactor being developed at Dayr az-Zawr. But the main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border.
The radar site was struck with a combination of electronic attack and precision bombs to allow the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace unobserved. Subsequently all of Syria’s air-defense radar system went off the air for a period of time that encompassed the raid, U.S. intelligence analysts told Aviation Week.
However, there was “no U.S. active engagement other than consulting on potential target vulnerabilities,” a U.S. electronic warfare specialist says.
Elements of the attack included some brute force jamming, which is still an important element of attacking air defenses, U.S. analysts say. Also, Syrian air defenses are still centralized and dependent on dedicated HF and VHF communications networks, which made them vulnerable.
The analysts don’t believe that any part of Syria’s electrical grid was shut down. They do contend that network penetration involved both remote air-to-ground electronic attack and penetration through computer-to-computer links.
“There also were some higher-level, non-tactical penetrations, either direct or as diversions and spoofs of the Syrian command and control capability, done through network attack,” one U.S. intelligence specialist says.
These observations provide evidence that a sophisticated network attack and electronic hacking capability is an operational part of the Israeli Defense Force’s arsenal of digital weapons.
Despite being hobbled by the restrictions of secrecy and diplomacy, Israeli military and government officials also confirm that network invasion, information warfare and electronic attack are part of Israel’s defense capabilities.
These tools have been embraced operationally by key military units, but their development, use and the techniques employed are still a mystery even to other defense and government organizations. It remains “a shadowy world,” an Israeli Air Force general confirms.
Israel is not alone in recent demonstrations of network warfare. Syria and Hezbollah revealed some basic expertise during the Lebanon conflict last year.
“Offensive and defensive network warfare is one of the most interesting new areas,” says Pinchas Buchris, the director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. “I can only say we’re following the [network attack] technology with great care. I doubted this [technology] five years ago. But we did it. Now everything has changed.
“You need this kind of capability,” he says. “You’re not being responsible if you’re not dealing with it. And, if you can build this kind of capability, the sky’s the limit.”