With 40 damaged tanks and 30 tank crew members killed in fighting in Lebanon, the Armored Corps began Monday to gear up for its next battle - this coming October when it tries convincing high-school graduates to enlist in its ranks.
Thousands of antitank missiles were fired over the days of fighting at tanks and infantry forces in southern Lebanon. But while soldiers told stories of deadly missile attacks on tanks, OC Armored Corps Brig.-Gen. Halutsi Rudoy revealed Tuesday that out of the almost 400 tanks that operated in Lebanon, only a few dozen were hit by antitank missiles and only 20 were actually penetrated.
"The fighting was fierce and they fired hundreds and possibly thousands of missiles," he told The Jerusalem Post in his first interview since a cease-fire went into effect. "But if I compare the number of casualties in this war to the first Lebanon War in 1982 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973; then there were thousands killed in tanks and here only 30."
Rudoy said the antitank missiles soldiers confronted in Lebanon were some of the most advanced in the world. He said Hizbullah had thousands of Soviet-built Sagger, Cornet and Fagot antitank missiles, the French MILAN and the US-built TOW, all supplied by Iran and Syria. These missiles are usually fired by a two- or three-man team, the IDF has said.
But the missiles are not only used against tanks, despite their official title. Aware that in close-range combat the IDF has an advantage, Hizbullah fighters set up positions kilometers away from Israeli forces and also used antitank missiles against infantry forces. More than 70 infantry soldiers were killed in antitank missile attacks on the homes they had commandeered in Lebanese villages and as they moved throughout the hilly terrain.
Rudoy said it was possible new recruits might be scared to enlist in the Armored Corps, but he believed that when they were told the real numbers and how tanks were responsible for killing dozens of Hizbullah fighters they would come and serve.
"We were at war, and in war the soldiers and the tanks at the front are the ones that get hit the most," Rudoy said. "It could have been worse, and thanks to the high professional level of the tank crews, the damage was far less than what was expected in the beginning."
Referring to the Trophy, a Rafael-developed active protection system that creates a hemispheric protected zone around armored vehicles such as the Merkava 4 tank, Rudoy said he would demand that his tanks be fitted with the defense system once it was deemed operational.