In an effort to improve the use of artillery fire in a future war, the IDF will hold an exercise on Thursday to test battalion and company commanders’ ability to detect enemy targets and engage them with artillery firepower.The two-day drill will be held by the 162nd Division, one of the largest formations in the IDF, which consists of a number of reserves brigades but also the Kfir and Nahal Infantry Brigades and the 401st Armored Brigade.Behind the drill is the Artillery Corps’s desire to increase its effectiveness in a future war and become more relevant on the modern battlefield. During the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, for example, the Artillery Corps fired 177,000 shells into Lebanon without impacting the rate of Hezbollah’s rocket fire into northern Israel.“There are two objectives when using artillery fire,” a senior corps officer explained this week. “One goal is to help forces maneuver in enemy territory by providing fire support and the second goal is to try and suppress enemy fire, which was not effective in 2006.”The drill will test the commanders’ ability to detect enemy targets and then to decide if and how to activate artillery support in maneuvering nearby or in attempting to destroy them. During the drill, corps officers will teach the commanders to differentiate between different artillery shells and to know how to decide which to use in various combat scenarios.The drill comes as the Artillery Corps is considering replacing its aging M109 155mm. self-propelled howitzers after decades of service. Israel received the American M109 howitzers in the 1970s and they debuted in the Yom Kippur War.They have since undergone a series of upgrades and today are fitted with air purification systems so crews can continue operating in the event of a chemical or biological attack, and they have a range of just under 30 kilometers.The decision to purchase new cannons for the Artillery Corps is part of a larger plan to upgrade its offensive capabilities that includes the procurement of new precision rocket and missile systems.Both systems under consideration are truck mounted, meaning they have high mobility and can move between different areas of operations quicker than the M109s. They also have greater ranges of over 40 km. and possibly most important is the smaller crews that they require – down from six crew members in the M109 to just two or three.