Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot, head of the US Central Command’s Air Force, visited Israel at the end of February. His host, Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, took him up personally on an F-15 Eagle for a bird’s eye view of Israel’s borders. The three-star general was also treated to an unprecedented tour of the subterranean operations and control center of the Israeli air force. As Norkin was briefing his guest underground, things were heating up at street level. A rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel’s south, Israel and Syria traded rockets in the north, and other launches were detected elsewhere. The giant map of the air force operations headquarters lit up and Norkin assured Guillot that this was not a show put on for his benefit. This is live, it’s happening in real time, Norkin told him.
The visiting general was exposed at once to the capabilities of Israeli intelligence, its ability to deal with every rocket launch in real time, to know just where each will land and to synchronize the response of all the anti-missile interception and radar units from one single nerve center. Overflying Israel on the F-15 tactical fighter, Guillot was surprised by the country’s very small size and narrow “waistline” — central Israel, which measures fewer than 20 kilometers (12 miles) in width (not counting the West Bank). It took the plane minutes to traverse the entire State of Israel from east to west.