Amid intelligence predictions that war is not imminent but could break out in the coming year, the IDF plans to use 2010 to replenish munitions and ground-based platforms ahead of a potential conflict, according to the military’s work plan for this year.

The emphasis will be put on filling a gap that the IDF has discovered in its ground forces in light of the threats it is facing from Hizbullah in Lebanon and Syria. This will include the production and procurement of additional Merkava tanks, Namer armored personnel carriers and Trophy active protection systems for tanks.

The work plan is based on the Tefen multi-year plan that was approved in 2007 by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

Referring to the lull in terror attacks against Israel in 2009 and the relative quiet achieved on the Gaza front following Operation Cast Lead, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz said that Israel cannot count on the quiet.

“We cannot be misled by this quiet,” Gantz said. “We see threats that are increasing on different fronts and while we do not identify an interest on the other side to fight, as an army we need to be prepared. We hope this quiet will stay but if not we will be ready.”

The IDF is also expanding the Tzayad digital army program to two additional divisions alongside two others that already operate the system which enables information sharing regarding the location of friendly and enemy forces.

In the air and as part of an effort to increase its intelligence gathering capabilities, the IAF will in the coming months establish a new squadron of Heron TP Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), called “Eitan” in the IAF and made by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The Heron TP is the largest Israeli UAV, with a 26 meter long wingspan, the same length as a Boeing 737. It weighs 4,650 kilograms and can fly at an altitude of up to 45,000 feet.

The IDF also plans to complete a deal to purchase a new C130 J-model Hercules transport aircraft as well as the upgrading of three Apache helicopters to the Longbow version, which comes with advanced radar and targeting capabilities. It will also establish close to a dozen more teams of Sky Rider UAVs, which operate drones for infantry battalions.

The military also plans to deploy by the middle of the year two batteries of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which following a series of tests was recently proven successful against barrages of Katyusha and Kassam rockets.

The IDF has also setup a multi-year plan that will begin this year to boost missile early warning systems across the country. The plan will cost an estimated NIS 180 million and will include the deployment of additional radars throughout the country as well as the procurement of a revolutionary system which sends text messages warning of missile attacks to individual cellular phones.

The Home Front Command is also establishing a new search-and-rescue battalion – called Kedem – with an emphasis on operations in areas infected by chemical and biological weapons.

The force building will also include the procurement of a first squadron of the 5th generation stealth Joint Strike Fighter jet – if a deal is reached between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon – as well as new missile ships and mid-air refueling tankers.

The plan also calls for increased joint training exercises between the Air Force, Ground Forces and the Navy.

To meet the challenges, the government has approved a slightly increased defense budget of NIS 49 billion shekel, which includes several advances from the budgets of 2011 and 2012. As a result, the budget will slightly decrease in 2011.

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