Security and Defense: Preparing for the unexpected
In an uncertain region, the IDF practices rapid deployment of ground forces to multiple fronts.
IDF soldier takes part in Golan maneuvers Photo: IDF Spokesman
The IDF is intensively drilling the speedy deployment of its forces from the
West Bank and Jordan Valley to potential war fronts, as the region continues to
be shaken by deep instability.
In every direction Israeli military
planners look, new threats are emerging in varying degrees. On the Lebanese
border, Hezbollah is constructing sophisticated subterranean rocket-launching
sites and command and control centers. Ground forces will be required to take
out these underground facilities in any future confrontation.
Sinai Peninsula and Syria, al-Qaida-inspired groups are mushrooming. In Gaza,
Hamas together with Islamic Jihad and a host of smaller Palestinian jihadi
organizations have built a heavily armed Islamist base which is on a long-term
collision course with Israel.
Beyond the growing guerrilla-terrorist
challenge, the IDF may yet have to quickly enter Syria to neutralize the threat
of loose and mobile chemical weapons. And, of course, any strike on Iran’s
nuclear weapons program will almost certainly set off a regional
These developments are what led Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen.
Yair Naveh to warn in mid-October that for the first time in years, Israel must
be ready for unexpected security developments on multiple fronts.
will have to be flexible and responsible in following the changes in the entire
area,” Naveh told 375 new army officers during a ceremony held at Mitzpe
These changing factors are also behind comments by the army’s head
of Technology and Logistics Branch, Maj.-Gen. Kobi Barak, who said that the
chances of a “narrow or wide” armed conflict involving the IDF have grown
recently, Against this background, the IDF has stepped up drills involving
mobilization of armored vehicles, ground troops, and all their logistical and
communications support units from the center of the country to the north or
Few know the true size of Israel’s ground forces, but it is safe
to say that the IDF is one of the largest modern armies around.
now for IDF commanders is to ensure that the army’s devastating firepower and
ability to seize territory quickly through overwhelming force can be directed to
any front within hours.
To that end, the past weeks and months have seen
a marked increase in IDF exercises aimed at the mobilization of military forces
from the IDF’s Central Command to the south and north.
In recent weeks,
for example, an IDF tank battalion in the Jordan Valley surprised its soldiers
with an exercise aimed at getting the tanks to a war front within a day.
Conscripted soldiers and reserve troops took part in the exercise – the first
time this has happened.
Supporting infantry units were also called in to
the rehearsal, as they would be crucial in any speedy land maneuver.
“enemy” in this exercise was played by IDF soldiers pretending to be guerrillas
armed with anti-tank missiles; just the sort of asymmetrical conflict that may
The live-fire drill, held at a large base in the
Jordan Valley, featured Israel’s Merkava 4 tank, which is one of the most
technologically advanced and deadly tools available to the ground
The Merkava 4’s capabilities have been bolstered further by a new
anti-rocket shield installed in the tanks. Called Wind Jacket, the system
provides 360- degree protection to the tank and intercepts incoming anti-tank
missiles (of the type held by Hezbollah) in midair, thereby allowing the tank to
proceed on the battlefield unhindered.
The commander of Battalion 9,
which held the drill, said his force would be one of the first responders to a
A few days before that, the IDF’s largest
communications battalion held a war drill in which it tested how long it would
take it to get to a battle front. The drill was based on the understanding that
achieving battlefield victory is not only about getting to the front and moving
into enemy territory; ground forces must practice working with one another and
coordinating their activities under fire. Hence, the communications battalion
tested out a new command and control system called Digital Ground Army
This system allows field commanders to track (in real time) all of
the ground units on an interactive screen, communicate with the units, and issue
In September, artillery units were airlifted without
warning from their regular patrols in the West Bank to the Golan Heights to
practice their response time to a sudden Syrian conflict. The troops had to take
up their firing positions and open fire at targets as quickly as
Furthermore, field commanders have increased their exposure to
intelligence on Israel’s enemies.
Recently, ground forces commanders traveled to an intelligence agency’s headquarters in Israel and received an
in-depth briefing on Hezbollah, Hamas and other threats. The aim is to have the
intelligence filter down to the lowest ranks, giving the whole of the ground
forces access to an updated intelligence picture on who will be waiting for them
in the next round.
Many of these preparations are the results of lessons
learned during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The IDF’s senior echelons have vowed
that the indecisive outcome of that conflict will not repeat itself.