In the event of another war, only a full-scale ground offensive will achieve a convincing defeat of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a high-ranking IDF source said on Tuesday.
“It’s clear to the general staff that a ground maneuver is what’s needed” to extinguish the threat of mass rocket attacks, the source said. This view holds true despite the highly advanced capabilities developed in recent years by the air force, which enable it to strike a myriad of targets in a short space of time, he said.
The Ground Forces Command embarked on a series of upgrades designed to better prepare it for the day forces are ordered to storm hostile ground.
“The enemy is growing powerful” in its ability to rain down rockets and missiles on the Israeli home front, the source said, but it remains challenged by the IDF’s ability to launch ground offensive, which Hezbollah sees as an Israeli advantage.
One change under way involves an upgrade to weapons systems. Some 40 percent of artillery shells are being converted into precision shells that accurately strike targets as far as 40 km. away.
The shells come equipped with fins and other adaptations to make them accurate.
“It’ll prevent the need to place artillery forces deep into enemy territory. The new shells have 150% more range. This gives us more operational flexibility,” the source said.
This enables a battalion commander to request whatever firepower he needs and receive it within a few minutes.
“We don’t have to get the air force to drop 250kg. bombs on every target. Sometimes a shell going through a structure is enough,” the source said.
The remainder of the Artillery Corps’s shells – which are classed as statistical firepower – will be made more efficient, the source said. The IDF is in advanced stages of purchasing a new artillery gun to replace its aging M109 155mm. self-propelled Howitzers.
Ground Forces planners are taking into account an enemy that knows how to strike and “disappear,” while operating in closed spaces where much of the IDF’s firepower is more limited, the source said.
“They [Hezbollah] have many missiles and explosive devices [to target advancing IDF armored vehicles],” he said, adding that Hezbollah’s armament efforts are “unceasing.”
As a result, Ground Forces planners are aiming to inject units into the depth of Hezbollah’s territory.
“For us, that means we must restructure and prepare, and to stay ready for a clash that can occur tomorrow, in a few months, or a few years,” he said.
“A ground offensive has to be deadly, defensible, network- based and agile, with advanced firepower adapted to... a changing battlefield,” the source said. “It’s clear to us that we have to shorten a conflict. A ground maneuver will accomplish that.”
Other areas of improvement include working in conjunction with the air force and receiving and applying intelligence in real time.
Command and control tools, such as the Digital Ground Army, link up various forces to a computer-generated map showing target locations, the source said, describing such developments as the most advanced in the world.
“A tank gunner will see a target as it is seen by fighter jet pilot. Companies on the ground will be able to detect targets and place them on a [digital] map,” he said.
“We are developing a battle doctrine based on the need to operate in enemy’s depth. It is focused on how to get forces there, how to fight in closed spaces, destroy tunnels, and take on fortified targets.
It looks at how an [infantry] company enters a home to destroy a rocket launcher,” he said.
Structural changes to the Ground Forces are under way.
These include giving territorial army divisions greater autonomy.
If war breaks out with Hezbollah in the North, the Gaza Division in the South will be able to “solve its own problems” and formulate independent responses to rocket attacks from Gaza, freeing up the General Staff to deal with the Lebanese arena.
All-purpose divisions that can fight on multiple fronts (there are a few such divisions) have been enlarged with extra battalions, such as Engineering Corps units, the source said.
“We have to get to the enemy and strike its ability to fire on us. In the end, this creates pressure on it and on Lebanon, and this is an enemy that understands when it’s starting to lose,” he said.