Barak: Future IDF ops will be 'broader'

Defense minister hails army's ability to face challenges; PM: Lebanon War lessons learned.

barak, netanyahu army drill 248.88 (photo credit: GPO)
barak, netanyahu army drill 248.88
(photo credit: GPO)
The army's future campaigns will be "wider in scope" and present more dangers than January's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned a group of soon-to-be IDF officers following an extensive military drill held in the South on Tuesday. The nation's leaders will "do our best so that these tests don't come, but when they do arrive, you will be ready for them and you will know how to win," Barak said. The defense minister spoke after an exercise was staged by battalions from the Infantry, Engineering, and Armored corps, together with the Air Force and the Artillery Corps, under a scorching desert sun. The combined forces staged a mock invasion of a Syrian village, and held a complex drill that included jet and combat helicopter bombings, tank maneuvers, and an infantry assault. Deafening explosions and heat blasts could be felt and heard during the lengthy exercise. It emphasized the IDF's doctrine of integrative combat, which relies on close collaboration between the military's branches. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel also attended the drill. "The smell of explosives and marching on the ground reminds me that only yesterday, the defense minister and I were young fighters and officers," Netanyahu said. The prime minister added that the IDF had "learned many lessons" since the Second Lebanon War of 2006, and was "qualified to deal with the great security challenges that face us." He praised the patriotism and dedication shown by the military during Operation Cast Lead, adding that the IDF today was marked "by the same spirit of the founders of the country, but [now had] a significant increase in capabilities." During his speech to the officer cadets, Harel warned that Israel's "rivals are trying to enter the sphere of nonconventional warfare." Israel faced "the security challenges of a superpower," he said. The key to winning future battles was "the ability of a battalion commander to engage terrorists in a building, while directing tank fire to upper floors, which happened during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in an eight-story building. It is you, the commanders, who make this possible. In two to three weeks, you will take up your commands. I expect you to lead your people from the front during operations and to build up your units during routine time," Harel said. During the drill, radio communications between a command and control room and attacking aircraft, tanks and infantry were heard via a loudspeaker. "Prepare to receive target," a controller commanded an air force pilot. "You're clear to attack." Second later, two F-16 warplanes roared overhead, and dropped two 250 kilogram bombs on targets in the distance. Later, the crowd flinched as the thunderous blast of a tank shell exploding on a target behind the "Syrian village" could be heard. The sound of bullets striking metal echoed as snipers hidden in the desert sand opened fire with high powered M-24 rifles. The Engineering Corps built bridges over sand dunes that were then used by tanks to enter the "village." Helicopter gunships opened fire on targets planted in the sand. "During the past two wars, we have learned that there is no alternative to integrated combat," a commentator explained to observers via the loudspeaker as the simulation unfolded.