Twelve years after the last war between Israel and Hezbollah, the IDF is drilling for another round of conflict with the Lebanese terror group with new technology and tactics.
“There has been incredible progress in our abilities,” said IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot while visiting troops who took part in the drill in the North. “If you look 150 km. around us, you will not find a brigade or corps as strong as these in their capabilities.”
Troops from the 7th Armored Brigade, Golani Brigade, the Combat Engineering Corps and others, participated in the drill where they went up against “Hezbollah” fighters, training the Israeli security personnel on new threats developed by the enemy.
“The enemy has changed and therefore so has the IDF,” said a senior officer in the ground forces, adding that “if we will fight differently we need to train differently.”
According to the senior officer, soldiers and commanders must be able to fight the enemy on four fronts – underground, on land, in the air and online.
While the enemy has increased its cyber capabilities, the IDF has increased the bandwidth of the military’s Internet to "100 megabytes, 100 MHz,” the senior officer said, adding that the IDF’s electronic warfare capabilities have also significantly improved, both in terms of intelligence gathering and attacks.
If in previous wars troops could visualize the enemy in one clear location, Hezbollah has become much harder to visualize, with fighters who arrive, attack and retreat within seconds.
The Gideon Shield (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The IDF therefore needs to be able to “close the circle” on Hezbollah militants faster than ever – and with more precise weapons to ensure the least amount of civilian casualties.
According to the officer, the drill saw troops from the Golani Brigade’s 13th Battalion fire a new precision-guided 122 mm. mortar shell which has flight control capability and accuracy of up to five meters.
Troops have also practiced using the Namer heavy armored personnel carrier (APC) fitted with a turret armed with a 30 mm. gun. The shortened cannon allows the APC to be more maneuverable, and gives it the ability to provide firepower to infantry soldiers with less dependence on other units to provide firepower.
“If a brigade is more independent, more flexible and more effective, it will be stronger,” said another senior ground-forces officer who took part in the drill. “We see the increase of our firepower and manpower boosting our effectiveness to neutralize the enemy as fast as possible.”
The army has also invested a significant sum to upgrade its autonomous logistical fleet, which was used during the drill and allowed infantry soldiers to be more independent on the battlefield.
While the new technology allows for greater independence, the drill also focused on troops learning a shared language to improve the collaboration between the different branches and corps on the battlefield.
The Gideon Shield (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
“If a company commander goes into battle, all the capabilities of the IDF must go with him,” the senior officer said. “We want to create a situation in which the brigade troops do not fight the battle alone, but rather [receive] backing from all the capabilities of the army, including air capabilities that are under the responsibility of the ground forces.”
According to him, every maneuvering brigade will have an air-control unit which will manage everything that happens at an altitude of up to 1,000 feet. Anything between 1,000 and 3,000 feet would be the joint responsibility of the ground and air forces, and anything more than 3,000 feet would be the sole responsibility of the air force.
In the years since the last conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the group has gained immeasurable fighting experience in Syria as well as new advanced weaponry from their patrons in Iran.
According to the senior officer, the ground forces will need to be deployed to conquer enemy territory and destroy its weapons stores, especially rocket launchers to minimize the number of missiles and rockets the enemy can fire onto the home front.
One of the new technologies practiced during the drill was “Gideon’s Shield,” a system which will protect ground troops against heavy mortar shells as well as enemy drones or quadcopters.
The use of drones by the Islamic State group against Syrian and Iraqi troops has been studied by the IDF which believes that a future conflict with Hezbollah might see similar uses.
While Hezbollah has used drones in the past against Israel, last week the Lebanese news site An-Nahar said the group may also have acquired air defense weapons, which the site claimed downed an Israeli reconnaissance drone in the town of Beit Yahoun in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon.
Israel said the drone fell due to technical malfunctions.
Since the last war between Israel and Hezbollah, the border has been relatively quiet. Nonetheless, the IDF sees this border as the most explosive one, with troops ready for the quiet to be broken at any instant.
Israel’s defense establishment has stated that any outbreak of conflict on the northern border will not be confined to just Lebanon or Syria, but will extend along the entire northern front.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for the disarmament of Hezbollah, the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, the deployment of the Lebanese army and an enlarged UN force in the South.