Artillery Corps hopes growing northern role will tempt more recruits

The Corps is becoming a dominant force on Israel's border with Syria, where it directs lethal surface-to-surface missiles at enemy positions.

An IDF artillery vehicle on the Golan Heights 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson Unit)
An IDF artillery vehicle on the Golan Heights 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson Unit)
With a new precision rocket battalion coming into service soon, the Artillery Corps, which maintains the Ground Forces’ only drone unit, is hoping that its growing role will attract more young recruits.
The Artillery Corps is becoming a dominant force on Israel’s border with Syria, where it occasionally directs lethal surface-to-surface Tamuz missiles at Syrian army positions when Israeli targets are attacked by cross-border fire.
On Tuesday, the corps is set to learn how many Israeli youths from the November round of draftees signed up with the Artillery Corps.
“We’re investing a lot to bring combat soldiers to us,” Brig.-Gen. Roy Riftin, chief artillery corps officer, told The Jerusalem Post this week. “We want those in the Corps to feel that they’re where they want to be, and for them to spread the word and bring more friends.”
“Our artillery units are increasingly characterized by unique capabilities, that are gaining the interest of potential recruits,” Riftin said.
Examples include the new Romah rocket battalion set to enter service in 2014, whose soldiers will fire rockets that can demolish a two-story building used by terrorists, or strike targets in an open area, at a range of 25 to 32 kilometers.
“It strikes targets very accurately, and is a breakthrough for us,” Riftin said.
The rocket battalion is designed to join an IDF ground maneuver force and provide an additional layer of long-range fire as it advances into enemy territory. Riftin also cited the Artillery Corps’s final preparations to receive an upgraded version of its Sky Rider drone, an unmanned vehicle that relays combat intelligence in real time to a range of ground forces.
“This tactical drone unit is expanding,” he said.
Riftin said that currently, the motivation levels among recruits “is not where we want it to be,” adding, “But on the other hand, we are reasonably meeting the goals of our [recruitment] plan. We’re not in a situation in which the gaps are too big.”
“What’s interesting is that motivation for higher command levels, from company commander onwards, is huge,” he added. “We’re in an age where it’s tough to choose the next commanders, due to so much choice. This is unusual.”
Last week, 56 female soldiers joined the Artillery Corps, a number Riftin described as being relatively high.
“I hope they join the drone and precision guided weapons units,” he said. “My soldiers are excellent, and we are meeting our challenges well,” Riftin added, pointing to the performance of Artillery Corps units during continuous security missions in the West Bank.
He also referred to the Palestinian bulldozer attack on an Artillery base near Ramallah in October, during which soldiers on base shot dead the attacker who tried to run them down, and earlier counter-terrorism arrests and clashes with Palestinian rioters in Kalandiya.
Next year, he said, the corps will unveil a system of small tactical radars called Wind Protector that will serve future ground offensives and provide alerts on incoming enemy projectiles, fired on army forces gathered in staging areas or during an advance.
The Artillery Corps is also in the process of choosing a new flagship cannon, which has not been changed in four decades.
“We want a cannon that will enable us to decrease the number of cannons and firepower units,” Riftin said. “We’re seeking more power and less forces, a system that can create enough firepower to do this.”