Daily Briefing: Is the IDF Equipped to Win a War Against Iran? (November 5,2019)

Israel Defense Forces Emblem (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

The Coming Middle East Conflagration:  Michael Oren, The Atlantic, Nov. 4, 2019
Is Israel Equipped To Win A War Against Iran?:  Anna Aronheim, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 29, 2019
What Happens to Iran if Israel Attacked with Nuclear Weapons?:  Robert Farley, The National Interest, Oct. 26, 2019
Israel, Bracing for Iranian Assault, Studies Recent Attack on Saudi Oil Facility:  Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Oct. 7, 2019


The Coming Middle East Conflagration
Michael Oren
The Atlantic, Nov. 4, 2019

The senior ministers of the Israeli government met twice last week to discuss the possibility of open war with Iran. They were mindful of the Iranian plan for a drone attack from Syria in August, aborted at the last minute by an Israeli air strike, as well as Iran’s need to deflect attention from the mass protests against Hezbollah’s rule in Lebanon. The ministers also reviewed the recent attack by Iranian drones and cruise missiles on two Saudi oil installations, concluding that a similar assault could be mounted against Israel from Iraq.

The Israel Defense Forces, meanwhile, announced the adoption of an emergency plan, code-named Momentum, to significantly expand Israel’s missile capacity, its ability to gather intelligence on embedded enemy targets, and its soldiers’ preparation for urban warfare. Israeli troops, especially in the north, have been placed on war footing. Israel is girding for the worst and acting on the assumption that fighting could break out at any time.

And it’s not hard to imagine how it might arrive. The conflagration, like so many in the Middle East, could be ignited by a single spark. Israeli fighter jets have already conducted hundreds of bombing raids against Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Preferring to deter rather than embarrass Tehran, Israel never comments on such actions. But perhaps Israel miscalculates, hitting a particularly sensitive target; or perhaps politicians cannot resist taking credit. The result could be a counterstrike by Iran, using cruise missiles that penetrate Israel’s air defenses and smash into targets like the Kiryah, Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the Pentagon. Israel would retaliate massively against Hezbollah’s headquarters in Beirut as well as dozens of its emplacements along the Lebanese border. And then, after a day of large-scale exchanges, the real war would begin.

Rockets of varying calibers and payloads would rain on Israel; drones armed with payloads would crash into crucial facilities, military and civilian. During the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the rate of such fire reached between 200 and 300 projectiles a day. Today, it might reach as high as 4,000. The majority of the weapons in Hezbollah’s arsenal are standoff missiles with fixed trajectories that can be tracked and intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. But Iron Dome is 90 percent effective on average, meaning that for every 100 rockets, 10 get through, and the seven operational batteries are incapable of covering the entire country. All of Israel, from Metulla in the north to the southern city of Eilat, would be in range of rockets launched from Lebanon.
But precision-guided missiles, several dozen of which are in Iranian arsenals, pose a far deadlier threat. Directed by joysticks, they can speed toward their targets or change destinations mid-flight. The David’s Sling system, developed in conjunction with the United States, can stop them—in theory, because it has never been tested in combat. And each of its interceptors costs $1 million. Even if it is not physically razed, Israel can be bled economically. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Is Israel Equipped To Win A War Against Iran?
Anna Aronheim
Jerusalem Post, Oct. 29, 2019

As tensions mount between Israel and Iran, with senior defense officials warning of increased threats posed by the Islamic Republic, does the IDF have what it takes to win the coming war? In an attempt to degrade Iran’s weapons, Israel has been carrying out a “war-between-wars” campaign since 2013 against Iranian and Hezbollah targets. This past year saw the most operational activity in that campaign since it began, on all borders and beyond.

While the campaign has been effective, the increased instability in the Middle East, as well as Iran’s continuous progress on its long-range precision missile project, has led the IDF to reassess the chances for direct confrontation.
Despite the fact that Israel’s enemies are not interested in war, the IDF has “increased its pace of preparations” for confrontation, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told journalists on Wednesday. “On both the northern and southern fronts, the situation is tense and fragile, and could deteriorate into a confrontation.”

In response, Israel has increased its defenses. The IDF has also published its new multi-year plan, called the “Momentum Plan,” which aims to make the military deadlier, faster and better trained to go up against the threats facing it. The IDF is planning to procure significant amounts of precision guided missiles and mid-sized drones, as well as additional air defense batteries, using the $3.8 billion a year defense allocation Israel receives from the United States under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding.

But the heavy cost of the multi-year plan needs a budget to pay for the new weapons and defensive systems. And with no government sitting in the Knesset, the Finance Ministry has not approved the necessary budget increase. The IAF – the strongest air force in the region – needs to procure new fighter jets, helicopters and refuelers to win a war against a foe more than 2,000 km. away. The majority of the IAF’s aircraft are between 30 to 50 years old, and a deal to purchase new planes will reportedly cost $11 billion.

First used by the IAF in 1969, the Yas’ur helicopters are the IAF’s primary helicopter used regularly to transport soldiers and equipment. While the aging helicopters have been upgraded with 20 new electronic and missile defense systems, the IAF will still need to replace them by 2025, when they will be more than 50 years old.

In March, the annual State Comptroller’s Report recommended that the IAF replace the aging aircraft as soon as possible, as “prolonging the life of the Yas’ur is liable to endanger human life and may have significant operational implications and substantial maintenance costs.”

The IAF plans to buy some 20 new heavy-lift helicopters – in other words, one squadron – to replace the current CH-53 Sea Stallion squadron at the Tel Nof base, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion, the same maker of the Yas’ur, and Boeing’s CH-47F Chinook helicopter. But the decision hasn’t been made yet. The longer it takes to sign a contract to replace the Yas’ur, the possibility of a failure in the platform increases. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

What Happens to Iran if Israel Attacked with Nuclear Weapons?
Robert Farley
The National Interest, Oct. 26, 2019

Key point: It would fundamentally alter the Middle East and the world.
Israel’s nuclear arsenal is the worst-kept secret in international relations. Since the 1970s, Israel has maintained a nuclear deterrent in order to maintain a favorable balance of power with its neighbors. Apart from some worrying moments during the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli government has never seriously considered using those weapons.

The most obvious scenario for Israel to use nuclear weapons would be in response to a foreign nuclear attack. Israel’s missile defenses, air defenses, and delivery systems are far too sophisticated to imagine a scenario in which any country other than one of the major nuclear powers could manage a disarming first strike. Consequently, any attacker is certain to endure massive retaliation, in short order. Israel’s goals would be to destroy the military capacity of the enemy (let’s say Iran, for sake of discussion) and also send a message that any nuclear attack against Israel would be met with catastrophic, unimaginable retaliation.

If a hostile power (let’s say Iran, for sake of discussion) appeared to be on the verge of mating nuclear devices with the systems needed to deliver them, Israel might well consider a preventive nuclear attack. In the case of Iran, we can imagine scenarios in which Israeli planners would no longer deem a conventional attack sufficiently lethal to destroy or delay the Iranian program. In such a scenario, and absent direct intervention from the United States, Israel might well decide to undertake a limited nuclear attack against Iranian facilities.

Given that Iran lacks significant ballistic missile defenses, Israel would most likely deliver the nuclear weapons with its Jericho III intermediate range ballistic missiles. Israel would likely limit its attacks to targets specifically linked with the Iranian nuclear program, and sufficiently away from civilian areas. Conceivably, since it would be breaking the nuclear taboo anyway, Israel might target other military facilities and bases for attack, but it is likely that the Israeli government would want to limit the precedent for using nuclear weapons as much as possible.

Would it work? Nuclear weapons would deal more damage than most imaginable conventional attacks, and would also convey a level of seriousness that might take even the Iranians aback. On the other hand, the active use of nuclear weapons by Israel would probably heighten the interest of everyone in the region (and potentially across the world) to develop their own nuclear arsenals. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


Israel, Bracing for Iranian Assault, Studies Recent Attack on Saudi Oil Facility
Stuart Winer
Times of Israel, Oct. 7, 2019

Israel’s defense establishment is analyzing last month’s strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, which is being blamed on Iran, to learn how to protect the country from a possible similar assault, Hebrew media reported Monday.
The September 14 combined drone and cruise missile barrage on two facilities knocked out half of the kingdom’s oil production, and impressed Israeli analysts in that it succeeded in penetrating Saudi defenses, which include the Patriot air defense system that Israel also uses, Channel 13 news reported.

Although Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, the US, Britain, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of being behind the attack. Tehran denies the allegation.

A senior officer in the IDF’s Military Intelligence unit, who could only be identified by the first letter of his Hebrew name, ‘Yud,’ told Channel 13 that the Iranians showed an impressive ability in hitting Saudi Arabia. “They get a high mark, too high,” Yud said of the Iranian attack, but stressed that Tehran would “absolutely” not succeed if it attempted to launch a similar assault on Israel.

Israel, he said, is assessing the threat in “a very informed and very balanced way.”
“The army is prepared for any developing scenarios in the northern arena,” Yud continued, and noted that this included countering a possible barrage of cruise missiles and drones.

Also Monday, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi warned that any attack on the country would be met with an aggressive response. “We will not allow an attack on Israel and if it happens we will respond forcefully,” Kohavi said at a memorial service for fallen paratroopers. “We are keeping our eyes open, having daily situation assessments, and taking professional decisions that lead to attacks and the thwarting of threats.”

Channel 12 news reported that defense officials who have studied the weapons used in the attack on the Saudi facilities concluded that a similar assault by Iran on Israel, if it came, would likely be launched from western Iraq, where there is a strong presence of Iran-backed militias. Unlike ballistic missiles, which usually fly through a high arc on the way to the target, cruise missiles and drones fly at low altitude, making them harder to detect.

Israel’s defenses against a missile attack, and in particular a cruise missile attack, begin with a network of radar systems around the country to detect an incoming threat. In addition, Israel has begun deploying the David’s Sling system, which is designed to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles at ranges of 40 to 300 kilometers. Several David Sling batteries are already deployed by the air force. Another system, Barak 8, provides maritime protection for Israel’s natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

Israel’s Secret (Nuclear) Weapon in a War Against Iran: Its Forgotten Navy?: Mark Episkopos, The National Interest, Oct. 5, 2019 — Iran’s bold summer offensive, involving military support for Houthi insurgents in Yemen and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia, has alarmed Jerusalem to the prospect of an Iranian surprise attack.

Israel Submarine Capabilities:  NTI, Oct. 16, 2019 — Based at Haifa, the Israeli Navy (IN) currently operates five modern diesel-electric Dolphin-class submarines. All were designed and constructed by Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW).

IDF Chief of Staff Warns of Potential Security Deterioration in Both North and South Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Oct. 24, 2019 — The IDF released its new five-year plan of operations on Thursday, with its chief of staff warning, “The situation is fragile in the north and south — and may deteriorate into a confrontation.”

Book Review | Israel’s Long War with Hezbollah: Military Innovation and Adaption Under Fire:  Rob Pinfold, Fathom Journal, Apr. 2019 — The old adage that ‘generals are always prepared to fight the last war’ encapsulates the on-going exchange of threats between Hezbollah and Israel. Both sides almost always refer back to the 34-day ‘Second Lebanon War’ in 2006, which ended with both Israel and Hezbollah claiming victory.