IDF's second pilot to integrate women into armored corps to begin

Decision on the program is expected by mid-2022

Israeli female soldiers walk in front of a tank during an exercise at the end of their tank instructors course at Shizafon base (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Israeli female soldiers walk in front of a tank during an exercise at the end of their tank instructors course at Shizafon base
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Almost a year after the military announced that the pilot program to integrate women into the armored corps would be extended, the next round is set to begin on Tuesday.
Those who will take part will first join the infantry corps and go through two weeks of basic training, after which the 20 women will be chosen to take part. They will then begin four months of training with troops from the Karakal Battalion.
The second part of training will see them specialize in operating a tank and operational missions. They will be trained by commanders from the Border Defense Array, who have undergone specialized training in the Armored Corps.
The entire program is set to last 18 months.
The military has also increased the height (1.65 meters) and weight (60kgs.) requirements of women who want to take part and has lengthened the time that women will be deployed on operational missions along the borders with Egypt and Jordan.
The training will be conducted at the Shizafon military base in southern Israel, and operational activities will be under the command of the 80th Edom Division.
“We are determined to provide them with the best training that will not compromise on standards,” said Brig.-Gen. Amit Yamin, the commander of the Border Defense Array, adding that the training scenarios have been adapted to the mission of border defense, while individual indices of those in the armored corps have remained the same.
Once the women have familiarized themselves with operating tanks and with infantry combat, they will be stationed with the Paran Brigade, where they will be deployed to protect the country’s southern borders.
“It is precisely along these borders that we need integrated protection,” Yamin continued, adding that “we need continuous multi-dimensional readiness – infantry, armor, and reconnaissance capabilities. This combination is necessary and has been yielding results in the field for years. “
At the conclusion of the training period and the operational activities, another assessment will be held and a final decision will be made whether to continue with the program some time in mid-2022.
The IDF has always held that should the pilot scheme be deemed successful, there would be no mixed-gender tank crews, and female tank crews will not be part of battalions that would operate in enemy territory; they would, instead, only be deployed to the borders.
The initial push to integrate women into the armored corps and the pilot program was ordered by former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, but it only got going under current IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
The IDF announced in June 2018 that the military had successfully completed an initial pilot program to train women on tanks, with two-thirds of those who started finishing the program, including four who became tank commanders.
But in April 2019, the military announced that despite the successful experiment, women would not be able to serve in the armored corps and it changed direction last year, shortly before the High Court was ready to hear two petitions against the military for that decision.
Last year, Kochavi decided following detailed discussions with officers in the General Staff and other senior armored corps officers that while the pilot showed the true potential of women, there were also several issues, including difficulty in loading heavy shells.
According to the military, the decision to freeze the project was taken based on an assessment by the Ground Forces, which found that the next stage of the pilot program “would require significantly more manpower and resources to undertake” and that it was decided instead to bolster other existing co-ed combat units.
The decision to stop the program was appealed by two of the women who completed the pilot, Osnat Levi and Noga Shina, along with Afik Shema, one of the officers who accompanied their training.