tanks lined up 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Development of a weapons system that could have been used against Hizbullah during the second Lebanon war was halted in 2002 by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, then commander of the air force. Development of the system has now resumed on the orders of the current IAF commander, Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The system was being built by Israel Military Industries (IMI) until 2002, when the project's funding was cut by Halutz and his deputy at the time, Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehustan, today head of the IDF's Planning Division.
Development of the weapon was started in 2000 by then-OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal. Since the Ground Forces Command lacked the funds to develop the weapon, Ron-Tal joined forces with the IAF.
The system is not intended to harm civilians, and is being developed according the International Mine Action Standards.
"There is no doubt that this system would have assisted IDF forces during the Lebanon war," a former officer in the Ground Forces Command told the Post. "It could have stopped Hizbullah in their tracks and prevented the guerrillas from transferring weaponry and rockets from place to place."
According to another officer who was involved in the project, Halutz and Nehushtan decided to cut the funding due to a change "in their priorities." The Ground Forces Command, the officer said, then had no choice but to stop development.
But now, following the disappointing results of the second Lebanon war, IMI has once again been approached by the IAF, which has expressed what is being described as "extreme interest" in the weapon. The air force has yet to resume funding, but IMI sources told the Post they believed development would begin in the near future.
This is not the only time Halutz prevented the procurement of weapons that could have helped the IDF during the recent war. In August, Time magazine reported that as IAF commander, he rejected a US offer in 2002 to sell Israel "bunker buster" bombs capable of penetrating underground Hizbullah bunkers, saying that Israel had its own "superb weapons."
During the Lebanon war, however, Israel received an emergency shipment of bunker buster bombs from the US after its own weapons failed to destroy Hizbullah installations.
Following the war, IMI head Avi Felder appointed Dan Peretz, VP for research and development, to head a committee to study the IDF's future needs.
The panel concluded the technology existed to produce a variety of weapons that could have assisted the IDF, and possibly even changed the outcome of the war, but that for various reasons the military had decided not to purchase the weapons.
One example was the IMI system. Another weapon, development of which was stopped by the IDF before the war and has now been restarted.
The IDF has purchased several models for elite units and is now considering equipping all its ground forces with the advanced weaponry.
Another weapon the military declined to purchase from IMI before the war was a cluster bomb that self-destructs if it does not detonate upon impact, unlike the ones the IDF receives from the US.
"Had the IDF bought our cluster bomb it would have spared Israel a major diplomatic crisis," Dan Peretz said in reference to US intentions to impose sanctions on Israel for using American made cluster bombs against international regulations.
"The bottom line," Peretz concluded, "was that all of the technology was there. It was just that the IDF wasn't equipping itself with the necessary platforms and weapons."â€¢