By David A. Fulghum, Robert Wall and Amy Butler
Aviation Week & Space Technology
Nov 25, 2007
The U.S. was monitoring the electronic emissions coming from Syria
during Israels September attack; and-although there was no direct
American help in destroying a nuclear-reactor there was some advice
provided beforehand, military and aerospace industry officials tell
Aviation Week & Space Technology.
That surveillance is providing clues about how Israeli aircraft managed
to slip past Syrian air defenses to bomb the site at Dayr az-Zawr. The
main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar
site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border. It was assaulted with
what appears to be a combination of electronic attack and precision
bombs to enable the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace.
Almost immediately, the entire Syrian radar system went off the air for
a period of time that included the raid, say U.S. intelligence analysts.
There was no U.S. active engagement other than consulting on potential
target vulnerabilities, says a U.S. electronic warfare specialist.
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, which made them vulnerable. The analysts dont
believe any part of Syrias 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, nontactical penetrations, either
direct or as diversions and spoofs, of the Syrian command-and-control
capability, done through network attack, says an intelligence
These observations provide evidence that a sophisticated network attack
and electronic hacking capability is an operational part of the Israel
Defense Forces arsenal of digital weapons.
Despite being hobbled by the restrictions of secrecy and diplomacy,
Israeli military and government officials confirm that network invasion,
information warfare and electronic attack are part of Israels defense
Theyve 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,
says an Israeli air force general. Israel is not alone in recent
demonstrations of network warfare. Syria and Hezbollah showed 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, director general of the Israeli defense
ministry. I can only say were 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. Youre not being responsible
if youre not dealing with it. And, if you can build this kind of
capability, the skys the limit [for sophisticated intelligence gathering
and clandestine operations].
So far, the most sophisticated example of nonkinetic warfare is the
penetration of Syrian air defenses by Israeli aircraft on Sept. 6 to
bomb a siteanalyzed as a nascent nuclear facilitywithout being engaged
or even detected. Commercial satellite pictures of the target on the
Euphrates (about 90 mi. from the Iraq border) taken before and after the
raid show that a large building (the suspected reactor building) in the
center of the site has disappeared and the ground has been bulldozed
The incident is attracting attention because the Syrians have an
extensive air defense system that theyve been building for decadessince
the  Six-Day War, says an Israeli defense planning official. It
may be the largest in the world.
That ability of nonstealthy Israeli aircraft to penetrate without
interference rests in part on technology, carried on board modified
aircraft, that allowed specialists to hack into Syrias networked air
defense system, said U.S. military and industry officials in the attacks
aftermath. Network raiders can conduct their invasion from an aircraft
into a network and then jump from network to network until they are into
the targets communications loop. Whether the network is wireless or
wired doesnt matter anymore, says a U.S. industry specialist (AW&ST Nov.
5, p. 32; Oct. 8, p. 28; Feb. 19, p. 31). Now development of the
technology in Israel is being confirmed.
The raid on Syria was a strategic signal, not a threat, says a retired
senior military official who flew combat in the region for decades. This
[raid] was about what we perceived are their capabilities [for
developing weapons of mass destruction] and about deterrence more than
He contends that Syrian procedures even contributed to the successful
Part of the vulnerability of the Syrian facility was that they kept it
so secret that there werent enough air defenses assigned to it, the
Israels capabilities are similar to the Suter network-invasion
capability that was developed by the U.S. using the EC-130 Compass Call
electronic attack aircraft to shoot data streams, laced with
sophisticated algorithms, into enemy antennas. The passive, RC-135 Rivet
Joint electronic surveillance aircraft then monitored enemy signals to
ensure the data streams were having the intended effect on the target
sensors. Israel duplicated the capability when it fielded its two new
Gulfstream G550 special missions aircraft designs. Both were modified by
Israel Aerospace Industries Elta Div. in time for the 2006 Lebanon war.
The ground surveillance radar version can provide data streams from
large active, electronically scanned array radars, while the
intelligence version provided the signals surveillance and analyses.
Copyright 2007 Aviation Week, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies.
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