I found this very interesting article about three young Israeli officers, each serving in an anti-missile unit, discussing their experiences in engaging incoming threats. Here’s an excerpt.
Ron, Dima and Chen are the face of a new brand of warfare. They may talk shyly, sometimes a bit too quietly, and smile with embarrassment when talking about their accomplishments, but they, along with the IDF’s cyber warfare unit, are at the forefront of the battle against the threats Israel faces today.
They are the interceptors. Being a combat soldier nowadays doesn’t necessarily require gun-in-hand and knife-between-the-teeth, but rather advanced technological knowhow and the courage to green-light—with only seconds to decide—the Iron Dome, Patriot or the Arrow missile-defense systems to intercept incoming projectiles. That is true for present threats and even more so for the dangers the future holds.
Each of the three is responsible for a recent, notable missile interception.
. . .
Second Lt. Chen Shaked was also a part of something extraordinary. He fired an Arrow interceptor—a missile system that is very rarely used—on March 17, and it even earned him a new nickname. “I no longer have a name; I’m addressed only as ‘The Interceptor’,” he says. “They also won’t let me wash the finger I used to push the button to intercept.”
. . .
“It was during the night between Thursday and Friday. I started my shift at 2am—a regular shift. I got a rundown, and everything was going as it should. There was no intelligence warning; there was nothing special. Then, all of a sudden, a target moving towards Israel appeared on the screen.”
That must have been stressful.
“We train for this a lot, so I knew what I had to do, despite being young. I had drilled this, and I know that when I make a decision—in accordance with orders, of course—I’ll have full backing.
“In this case, I simply identified a ballistic threat to the State of Israel, and we immediately called in the team we needed for interception. It was very quick. Fourteen seconds after we called the team in, everyone was ready to intercept when given the order. Then I made the decision to do it.”
Did you have no one to consult with?
“No. It was just me, on my own, against the missile. In my system, the window of time for making a decision is very small, and you have no one to talk to. By the time I take this upstairs, the missile could hit. There’s not much you can do about it besides knowing it’s down to you. And then you make a decision based on the orders.”
So you pressed the button.
“Yes. And a second or two later, my commander happened to enter the room. I pointed to the board and told him, ‘Look, Arrow has been launched.’ I was told I stuttered, but I don’t remember that. I do remember that he looked at me and said, ‘Well done.'”
In those initial moments, before the debriefing and investigation, and before the army officially determined the interception was justified, did you think that perhaps you didn’t act correctly?
“I knew that I had done the right thing. My target identification was very clear. But there was this feeling of uncertainty.”
And how did others react? After all, an Arrow interception is rare.
“In the first few seconds, the room went quiet. I don’t know why; it just went silent. You expect that when something like this happens, that there would be noise, shouting. The Arrow was launched, that’s not something that happens every day. But it was quiet. Only a little while later, we started smiling and told each other, ‘Way to go!’ and ‘You’re the man!’ There wasn’t a deep conversation about it.”
. . .
“This kind of interception is something that stays with you. A week after that, we went on a large-scale training exercise, the kind we do every four months, and the reserve soldiers started asking around about the interception. I happened to be there, and they told me, ‘It’s you? You kid, we’ve been waiting for 20 years to do this, and you got to?'”
There’s much more at the link.
The article makes very interesting reading in this age of missile warfare, when reaction times must be measured in seconds rather than minutes, and a mistake can mean the loss of many civilian lives.