IDF revives bridge-crossing exercises

Joint combat engineer/armored unit drill, not held for 5 years, prepares troops for crossing water barriers in future conflicts.

IDF live-fire display in the South 370 (photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
IDF live-fire display in the South 370
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
In a sign of the type of future conflicts Israel is facing, the IDF held a unique exercise last week aimed at preparing troops for the crossing of water barriers during ground assaults.
Overseen by Division 162 and including Merkava MK 4 tanks from the 401st Armored Brigade as well as troops from the Combat Engineering Corps’s elite Yahalom Unit, the drill along the Jordan River simulated a scenario during which combat troops and tanks need to cross a water body while in combat and facing an enemy force on the opposite bank.
Such an exercise had not been held by the IDF in nearly five years.
The IDF has reinforced its assault bridging capabilities in recent years, mostly with systems developed by Israel Military Industries (IMI) such as the 11-meter long Tandem Assault Crossing System which comes with a launch vehicle capable of releasing two bridges.
The IDF also recently took delivery of IMI’s Sectional Personnel Bridge, 36 meters of which can deploy in less than 10 minutes. The United States Army recently purchased the bridge as well for operations in Afghanistan.
The IDF did not reveal what terrain it was training for during the exercise but the military has been focused in recent years on operations deep inside enemy territory. “This is a major operational challenge that exists on a number of fronts and could even catch us in places we don’t expect it to,” explained Brig.-Gen. Agay Yehezkel, until recently commander of Division 162.
OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman revealed last week that the IDF was looking into the possible development of a miniature Iron Dome counter rocket defense system that can be used to intercept rockets during maneuvers in enemy territory.
The Iron Dome was originally designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4-70 kilometers. Each battery consists of a mini multi-mission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each equipped with 20 interceptors called Tamirs.
Turgeman said that the new miniaturized version will be carried by soldiers during a ground offensive and will use advanced radars to detect the launch site of rockets and transmit the location of the launchers back to rear command centers.