The summer 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict holds lessons for military and civilian leaders, especially for practitioners of air- and space power, Benjamin Lambeth, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles on Nov. 16. The conflict evolved from an Israeli punitive air and “standoff firepower” campaign against Hezbollah to a full ground conflict over the course of several weeks, he said. “Major mistakes were made by the military and civilian government,” but Israeli airpower did not fail—as initial assessments claimed, said Lambeth. Then Israel Defense Forces head Gen. Dan Halutz, a career fighter pilot, understood the limitations of airpower in the context of the conflict, realizing there was little chance that air assets alone could halt Katyusha rocket attacks, said Lambeth. But the Israeli government had quickly committed to a strategy involving Hezbollah’s eradication in southern Lebanon, and ground forces were not prepared for sustained combat, he explained. “The Israelis learned, as we should have learned from Kosovo, that even the most capable air weapon . . . can never be more effective than the strategy it is asked to support,” said Lambeth.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.