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Thursday, November 25, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel upgrades artillery after poor performance vs Hizbullah in 2006 war

TEL AVIV — Israeli military sources said the General Staff has approved plans to enhance the range and firepower of the Army's Artillery Corps.


They said the effort was meant to reduce the load on the Air Force for air strikes on tactical ground targets. "In wartime, we cannot rely on the Air Force to attack enemy ground targets," a military source said.

The sources said the Artillery Corps, for years based on the U.S.-origin M109 howitzer, has received a range of new and indigenous artillery rockets and radars that have significantly increased capabilities. They cited the Raz radar, enhanced Multi-Launch Rocket System as well as plans to acquire the Accular rocket.

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Raz, a phased-array radar, has been produced by Israel Aerospace Industries, and the 160mm Accular, with a circle error of probability of less than 10 meters, by Israel Military Industries.

The modernization of the Artillery Corps was launched in wake of the Hizbullah war in Lebanon in 2006. The corps fired nearly 120,000 artillery shells toward suspected Hizbullah positions without causing significant damage.

"It was a wake-up call that the job was not being done," the source said.

As a result, the General Staff approved an upgrade of both platforms and training to improve firepower accuracy and range. The sources said the plan was meant to ensure that the corps could destroy enemy targets within 40 kilometers of the Israeli border as well as work with infantry units.

The sources said the corps established a unit called Meitar assigned to use artillery to destroy major enemy targets, including critical facilities. They said Meitar, which trains in the Golan Heights along the border with Syria, was preparing to receive some of the new indigenous weapons produced by IAI and IMI over the last decade.

A key challenge for the Artillery Corps has been training to support counter-insurgency warfare, particularly against Hamas and Hizbullah, which fight from villages and towns. The sources said most of the platforms in the unit, including the enhanced MLRS, proved ineffective in urban areas. The Thunder Battalion has been operating the U.S.-origin MLRS, produced by Lockheed Martin and enhanced by IMI.

The corps has also been procuring advanced cluster bombs from IMI meant for urban warfare. The sources said the munitions contains a self-destruct mechanism that would ensure that they could not explode after the end of the conflict.

Over the last two years, the General Staff has also expanded the responsibilities of the Artillery Corps. The sources cited the unit's operation of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, including the Skylark-1 developed by Elbit Systems. The inauguration of the corp's first UAV unit, called Sky Rider, took place on Oct. 10.

"We need to be able to hit targets accurately," Chief Artillery Officer Brig. Gen. David Suissa told the Jerusalem Post. "This is why the Artillery Corps is progressing to become a force that relies much more on precision-strike capabilities."

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