TEL AVIV ø Israel's military has changed its training and weapons
development concept over the last two years to adapt to the current
Palestinian insurgency war.
Military commanders said the war, well into its fourth year,
has resulted in the acceleration and merging of processes in training,
weapons development and procurement. They said the aim has been to ensure a
rapid response to the changing tactics of Palestinian tactics.
"We started out as one army," Maj. Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, chief of the
military's Ground Forces Command, said. "Now, we have an army with several
totally different sets of capabilities."
Addressing the command's LIC-2004 conference and exhibition on
Wednesday, Ron-Tal pointed to a series of changes in the military meant to
address the continuous conflict with the Palestinians. The general said that
2002 the Ground Forces Command changed its training doctrine to ensure that
troops could enhance capabilities even while they maintained operational
duty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This has resulted in the decrease in
training to two periods per year.
"Until two years ago, we had a separate operational period and a
training period," Ron-Tal said. "Now we have integrated training in areas of
mission. You have to prepare yourself during your operational mission."
Other commanders discussed the training of armored and artillery forces
in infantry duties. They said these forces as well as their
commanders have undergone additional training to fulfill infantry missions
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in an effort to increase manpower
Commanders said the military has drastically shortened its period of
weapons development and procurement. They said that in some cases the period
of development of weapons and systems has taken as little as four months.
Lt. Col. Yoram Abecasis, chief of LIC in the Weapons Development and
Procurement Department, said the acceleration of weapons development was the
result of a new organizational structure in which field commanders played a
key role in decision-making. Abecasis said the result has sometimes been the
introduction of uncertified and even unsafe weapons in the field for
In one case, Abecasis said, an unspecified remote-control system was
introduced into operations after six months of development. The system was
further development after an unspecified period in the field.
"We are taking a risk in safety," Abecasis said. "But we are achieving
operational capability very fast."
Commanders also initiated a development program to eliminate the
vulnerability of the Merkava main battle tank to snipers and attackers.
Commanders said the Ground Forces Command installed a sniper position on the
Merkava Mk-3 and Mk-4 tank to prevent attacks from the rear of the tank.
Col. Yossi Turgeman, head of doctrine at the Armored Corps, said
commanders had complained that their tanks were vulnerable to snipers and
unarmed civilians when the hatches of the vehicles were closed in urban
warfare operations. He said the commanders warned that they could neither
see threats from the rear of the tank nor swerve its turret in the narrow
streets and alleys of urban areas. Turgeman said the sniper position ø
meant to be manned by a member of the infantry forces ø was established
from the escape hatch in the rear of the tank. He said the development
project sought to armor the proposed sniper position.
The rapid development of weapons also reflects a close cooperation with
Israel's defense contractors, commanders said. They said the intimate
relations between the military and the defense industry has resulted in
crash development programs even before full funding was obtained.
"The development and fielding of weapons in record time takes advantage
of the unique relationship with the defense industry," Ron-Tal said. "We
call ourselves one family."
Ron-Tal said the army has created new units to focus on the Palestinian
war. He cited the establishment of three battalions for reconnaissance. He
said the Ground Forces Command also established special forces units as well
as those to operate the armored D-9 bulldozer.
The changes in organization and doctrine have been the result of an
assessment by the General Staff that the Palestinian war would continue for
another few years. Commanders said the military will be required to fight a
continuous war while maintaining its conventional capability.
"The main challenge is to build up while fighting," Ron-Tal said.