Big Data Is Preparing the IDF for 21st Century Combat: Yaakov Lappin, JNS, June 18, 2017— In the not too distant future, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) battalion commander may stare out at the urban sprawl of a Gazan neighborhood.

Is This a Sneak Peek at the Israeli Army's New Tank?: Michael Peck, National Interest, June 16, 2017 — A small armored wedge with a remote-controlled turret: is this what the Israel Defense Force’s future armored vehicles will look like?

Crossing into ‘ISIS land’ with Givati Fighters: Yoav Zitun, Ynet, June 15, 2017— A group of children dangle their feet in a hidden pool, in the steep slopes descending from Kibbutz Meitzar in the southeastern Golan Heights.

Israel Is Still at War: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, May 4, 2017— After several military defeats, the largest and strongest Arab state, Egypt, signed a historic peace treaty with Israel in 1979.


On Topic Links


Yossi’s Private Tank War – 6×6 (Video): Jewish Press, June 18, 2017

Israel Aerospace Industries Launch Simulated Air Battle Training: Jewish Press, June 12, 2017

The Six-Day War Was a One-Time Event: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, June 5, 2017

How Israel Spots Lone-Wolf Attackers: Economist, June 8, 2017




Yaakov Lappin

JNS, June 18, 2017


In the not too distant future, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) battalion commander may stare out at the urban sprawl of a Gazan neighborhood. As the commander surveys the residential buildings, the locations of enemy gunmen hiding in apartments will be visible, marked in red by the augmented reality (AR) military glasses that he or she is wearing.


On the third floor of a building, the commander will see a hostile combatant crouching and pointing a shoulder-fired missile. On the fifth floor, he or she will know that two snipers are lying in wait, and that behind the building there are enemy mortar launchers. The battalion commander will pass on the coordinates of these threats to Israeli Air Force aircraft hovering overhead, and they will promptly destroy the targets.


The commander may receive an incoming alert message on a piece of eye wear; a terrorist cell is spotted moving in his or her direction from the Gazan coastline. With the push of a button on the screen of a tablet-like device, the commander could order an Israeli Navy missile ship — waiting in the sea, tens of miles away — to launch a precision strike on the target. And then the commander will lead his or her soldiers forward.


This is a fictional scenario today, but it could become reality soon, thanks to the high-tech revolution of the IDF’s network-centered warfare (NCW). The technology used in the above scenario will allow the IDF to adapt to 21st century Mideast warfare, where enemies appear and vanish in very little time, often in urban settings. This new environment is a far cry from the organized state militaries that the IDF faced in the 20th century.


Maj. Assaf Ovadia, head of the IDF’s Combined Operations Department, confirmed to … that several technological breakthroughs have recently occurred, paving the path for the formation of a digital military network that will significantly enhance the IDF’s capabilities. “The world is changing very quickly, both in the civilian and military spheres. So are the threats we are dealing with,” Ovadia said. “Our ability to handle big data means we can bring information very rapidly to the end user in the field. We are adding new abilities all of the time.” For now, this means that all three IDF branches — the army, navy and air force — are linked in a unified command and control network. A fourth member of the network is the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, which provides critical information in real time to field units conducting operations.


Following important combat lessons learned from the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the IDF’s C4I Branch (which stands for Computers, Communications, Command and Control) set up the revolutionary Network IDF, which allows all the military branches to share the same data infrastructure. In the past, each IDF branch had its own system for managing operations, which was ineffective and delayed the transit of critical, real-time information. “Now, nothing is transferred because everyone is sitting on the same infrastructure. Each one is contributing to the common picture, in line with their missions,” Ovadia explained.


Network IDF was launched as a concept in 2014, and quickly began changing the way that Israeli forces fight in battle. During the 2014 conflict with Hamas, a terrorist naval commando cell from Gaza swam north in the Mediterranean Sea and landed on Zikim beach on Israel’s southern coastline. What happened next represented “the first sparks” of the network, Ovadia said. “An observations soldier saw suspicious activity on the beach. She transmitted data in real time to ground and air units. Then a dialogue began between a tank commander and the air force. The units coordinated their firepower against the targets,” he recalled.


The biggest challenge with the new system is securing the network against breach attempts, which could become a source of vulnerability for the IDF. Since the system’s inception, the IDF has worked to secure the network so that data can be shared safely with end users in the field. In 2015, Network IDF was declared fully operational, and today it continues to evolve. For the network to be truly effective, Ovadia said, it’s necessary to analyze the raw data, and turn it into useful knowledge. And the intelligence must be sent only to those who would directly benefit from it. “We don’t want a company commander to receive all [the information] Military Intelligence has. Similarly, a tank commander is only interested in the ten kilometers in front of him.” Higher ranking officers have access to far more data.


In today’s IDF, every end user, whether a tank commander or a senior officer in the general staff, has access to a command and control system, which includes a screen. Future plans include making these capabilities more automatic. And augmented reality is already being used in training. “We are dealing with augmented reality a lot. We are on the way to it,” Ovadia said. “In the future, we won’t want an observations soldier to merely say what she sees. We want the commander in the field to see what she sees.”       





Michael Peck                                                                                                        

National Interest, June 16, 2017


A small armored wedge with a remote-controlled turret: is this what the Israel Defense Force’s future armored vehicles will look like? The answer is . . . maybe. At a conference in Israel last month, the former chief of the IDF’s Armored Corps showed a simulation of what Project Carmel—the IDF’s effort to develop technology for the its generation of tanks—might produce. The virtual vehicle is wedge-shaped, with the hull sloping towards the front. The cannon-armed turret is set at the rear of the hull, with a machine gun mounted on top…


Israel is developing two next-generation armored vehicles. One is the Eitan, the IDF’s first wheeled armored personnel carrier and the chosen replacement for Israel’s fleet of old and poorly armored M113 APCs. Already in the prototype stage, the eight-wheeled Eitan somewhat resembles the U.S. Stryker. The thirty-ton Eitan will be paired with the much heavier Namer, an APC based on the chassis of the Merkava tank.


However, the simulated vehicle displayed at the conference by retired Brigadier General Didi Ben-Yoash, who is heading Project Carmel, is much more of a tank. It would be tracked rather than wheeled like the Eitan, and would weigh thirty-five to forty tons (compared to a sixty-eight-ton M-1 Abrams). With just two crewmen, the vehicle would mostly function autonomously, including “autonomous navigation and driving, target spotting, aiming, independent firing whenever possible plus other features,” according to Israel Defense magazine.


The “cockpit” of the Israeli vehicle will have space for a third crewman to operate drones and standoff weapons. The tank would also have an active protection system, such as Israel’s Trophy, to deflect antitank missiles and rockets. “The future armored platform will be light, agile, small, relatively inexpensive and simple to operate and designed primarily for operation in urban areas with the hatches closed,” Israel Defense said. The new tank will not replace the current Merkava 4, which is expected to remain in production until 2020. “Rather, it is a research-and-development program aimed at a state-of-the-art, medium-weight combat vehicle,” according to Defense News. “It won’t be Merkava 5,” an Israeli official told Defense News. “The operational requirement will be something entirely different.”


Much like the United States and its Ground-X Vehicle Technology project, Israel is aiming to develop smaller, lightweight tanks that can operate in urban terrain. In Israel’s case, the IDF is mindful of the lessons of Operation Cast Lead, the 2014 incursion in Gaza that saw Israeli soldiers challenged by a city with narrow streets and crisscrossed by tunnels. Also in line with U.S. thinking, the Israeli vehicle will be heavily networked into battlefield command and control systems.


The Below the Turret Ring blog offers a thoughtful analysis of what’s known about Project Carmel vehicle so far. The Israeli vehicle is considerably lighter than the forty-eight-ton Armata, which is Russia’s next-generation tank. Its active protection system might stop antitank missiles, but its armor won’t stop heavy cannon rounds from tanks such as the T-72. “The closest Russian counterpart to the Carmel might be the BMPT/BMPT-72 Terminator fire support vehicle designed by the Russian company UVZ,” the blog notes.


In that sense, Project Carmel sounds less like a main battle tank that can replace the Merkava or Abrams in a turret-to-turret armored slugfest. A small tank protected by medium armor and armed with an autocannon and missiles, it would seem to have its own niche as an infantry support vehicle.          






Yoav Zitun

Ynet, June 15, 2017


A group of children dangle their feet in a hidden pool, in the steep slopes descending from Kibbutz Meitzar in the southeastern Golan Heights. The ravishing image is completed by the nearby meadow, with cows and horses and the trickling water from the Yarmouk and Ruqqad rivers. An IDF tank shields the children from above, as the new fence on the Israel-Syria border, just a few dozen meters way, winds southward to the border triangle with Jordan. The view from the armored forces soldiers’ post is breathtaking. The calm sounds nothing like the artillery fire which is heard here on an almost weekly basis.


On the other side of the border, as the Israeli children bathe undisturbed in a hidden jewel of nature, a Syrian boy from the nearby village of al-Sharaf learns how to fire an assault rifle, guided by an Islamic State member, in an improvised shooting range between an abandoned United Nations post and the slopes of the Ruqqad River. “Everything here is green, people hike here and enjoy the nature and the amazing landscape, and only several kilometers away there is total chaos,” says Lieutenant Colonel Nir Ben Hamo, commander of the Givati patrol unit, who has been responsible for this area in the past few months. The same view—from two different worlds.


While the heart of Ben Hamo’s regiment belongs in the south, keeping one eye on Gaza at all times, and his forces are constantly preparing for war in Givati’s home zone, for several months in the past year Lt. Col. Ben Hamo and his soldiers were in charge of the most dangerous and explosive region, where they had complete lack of control and limited intelligence on the enemies. This time, it was neither the familiar Hamas nor Hezbollah, which remains the army’s primary scenario, or even 1,000 ISIS fighters scattered across a huge area in Sinai, who the Egyptian army is working to crush.


Only last week, Arab media reported on an attack—likely the first of its kind—of ISIS posts on the Syria-Israel-Jordan border, which was most probably carried out by the international coalition’s aerial forces. According to foreign sources, Israel has been helping the forces that are fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq for years, providing intelligence on targets, and it’s quite possible that it did the same this time too. Nevertheless, the explosive tensions and the incomprehensible discrepancy between the pastoral view and the moment that everything could blow up continue as the forces move northward along the border fence.


Israel is not taking in Syrian refugees yet, but they are already knocking on its door. In the past year, refugee encampments have been slowly piling up near and north of Har Chozek, close to the orchards of the Druze town of Buq'ata, a few tens of meters from the fence. The IDF has also institutionalized the handling of wounded Syrians: The field hospital in the northern Golan Heights has been shut down, and military teams have been trained to provide quick care on the ground and examine every wounded person in an armed and secured booth on the fence, before evacuating them into Israel.


The fighters along the border not only hear the sounds of explosions and bursts of gunfire, but they also read press reports sometimes about alleged Israeli attacks and targeted killings of Hezbollah and regime supporters who are active in the Syrian Golan Heights. “These incidents definitely prompt us to raise the alertness and tension level among the fighters, out of a common sense that the Syrian regime may react against us,” explains Lt. Col. Gidi Kfir-El, commander of the 9th Battalion of the 401st Armored Brigade, who is responsible for the central and northern Golan Heights area.


 “The perception of our activity in the defense mission,” he adds, “has become just like our activity vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip: Regimental combat teams of the engineering, armored, infantry and canine forces, with combat intelligence gathering and aerial guidance if necessary. We are capable of getting a tank ready for action within minutes, and like in Gaza, it has possible targets beforehand for a counter-attack over a spillover from Syrian fighting.”


The problem with ISIS in the Golan Heights is that it is largely based on locals—a few thousand ISIS-supporting residents in villages in the southern Golan, who are trying to increasingly wear out the Al-Nusra Front organization, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, which is considered more moderate and which still controls a considerable part of the border strip with Israel. In between, there are a number of small outposts which still belong to the army of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who recently fought back and succeeded in regaining control of a few parts of the northern Golan Heights. The southern part remains black, painted in ISIS colors.


“It is for a reason that the IDF constantly stations the regular reconnaissance units here, the finest units with specific patrol, antitank and destruction abilities,” says Lt. Col. Ben Hamo, who during Operation Protective Edge replaced his commander, Major Benaya Sarel, who was killed near Rafah while chasing the kidnappers of Lt. Hadar Goldin. Ben Hamo asks his fighters to exercise quite a lot of restraint and intelligence against the enemy. “In a regimental or even company region,” he says, “there could be a few rules of engagement, sometimes for the same fighters, in accordance with the type of gunmen they see. In this region, we get to exercise our specific abilities excellently. We see members of Shuhada al-Yarmouk (the ISIS organization’s name in the Syrian Golan Heights) attacking more areas controlled by the other rebels. They have diverse weapons, Western arms, antitank missiles, explosive devices and even some armored vehicles, including a few tanks.”


Lt. Col. Ben Hamo prefers to hold his peace when he is asked if wounded Syrians are offered humanitarian aid in his region as well. Up until recently, Israel took a lot of pride in this activity, but then it apparently decided to keep a low profile for some reason. The field hospital that was built on the border in the northern Golan Heights halted its activity, the official reason being an optimization of the way the wounded are evacuated to Israel. In the southern part of the Golan Heights, which is controlled by ISIS, the IDF prefers to keep mum on the humanitarian issue.


The IDF refers to the Syrians who live in the Golan Heights as “locals,” and has detected that they prefer to keep the war as far away from their villages as possible. Nevertheless, the army does not approve of the southern villagers’ support for ISIS, which was implemented about nine months ago when mortars and gunshots were fired at a Golani force that was in the middle of conducting an ambush operation as it crossed the fence while remaining in an Israeli enclave in the southern Golan Heights. There were no casualties among the soldiers, but the IDF launched a quick response: Tanks and aircraft killed the cell members and destroyed a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force post, which was used by the Shuhada fighters…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]






Prof. Efraim Inbar

BESA, May 4, 2017


After several military defeats, the largest and strongest Arab state, Egypt, signed a historic peace treaty with Israel in 1979. The defection of Egypt from the anti-Israel Arab alliance largely neutralized the option of a large-scale conventional attack on Israel, improving Israel’s overall strategic position. Yet Cairo refrained from developing normal relations with the Jewish state.  A “cold peace” evolved, underscoring the countries’ common strategic interests but also the reluctance of Egypt to participate in reconciling the two peoples.


Jordan followed suit in 1994, largely emulating the Egyptian precedent. Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel also reflected common strategic interests – but was commonly referred to by Jordanians as the “King’s peace,” indicating a disinclination for people-to-people interactions with the Jews west of the Jordan River. The inhibitions in the Arab world against accepting Israel should not be a surprise. Muslims seem to have good theological reasons for rejecting the existence of a Jewish state. Moreover, the education system in the Arab countries has inculcated anti-Semitic messages and hatred toward Israel for decades. Unfortunately, the dissemination of negative images of Jews and Israel has hardly changed in Arab schools and media.


This is also why the euphoria of the 1990s elicited by the “peace process” with the Palestinians, and propagated by the “peace camp”, was unwarranted. Indeed, the peace negotiations failed miserably. The process did, however, allow the Palestinian national movement a foothold in the West Bank and Gaza. As a large part of the Arab world is in deep socio-political crisis and another fears the Iranian threat, it is the Palestinian national movement and the Islamists that carry on the struggle against the Zionists.


The Palestinians are at the forefront of the war on Israel, despite their lack of tanks and airplanes. They use terror, and pay the terrorists captured by Israel as well as their families. The use of force against Jews is applauded, and killed perpetrators are awarded the status of martyrs. They use missiles against Israel’s civilian population. The limits on their firepower are the result of Israeli efforts to cut off their supply of armaments.   The Palestinian national movement denies the historic links of the Jews to the Land of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority (PA) demanded of the UK that it apologize for the 1917 Balfour declaration, which recognized Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel. There are endless examples in Palestinian schools and media to sustain the conclusion that the Palestinians are not ready to make peace.


Moreover, the PA cannot conclude a “cold peace” like Egypt or Jordan. Those two countries take their commitment seriously to prevent terrorism from their territory. In the West Bank, the PA – established by Yitzhak Rabin on the premise that it will fight terror in exchange for the transfer of territory – refuses to honor its part of the bargain. It encourages terror by subsidies to jailed terrorists and by innumerable steps to eulogize the “martyrs” and honor their “heritage.” The ruling Palestinian elite in Gaza, Hamas, formally refuses to give up armed struggle against Israel. The “Oslo process” was an attempt by Israel to push the Palestinian national movement into a statist posture and to eventually adopt a statist rationale along the lines of that of Egypt and Jordan, which led them to a “cold peace” with Israel. But the religious and ethnic dimensions of the conflict with Israel have overcome any underdeveloped statist Palestinian instincts. The ethno-religious impulses of the Palestinians nurture their continuation of violent conflict.


So far, no Palestinian leader who has adopted a statist agenda, prioritizing state-building over other Palestinian aspirations, has garnered popular support. Salam Fayyad, who was admired in the West for his attempts to reform the PA’s bloated bureaucracy, seemed to tend in this direction. But his level of support among the Palestinian public never rose above 10%. Palestinian society is becoming more religious and radical, similarly to other Arab societies. This trend benefits Hamas, which is becoming more popular. The ascendance of Hamas further feeds hostility towards Israel. A drive to satisfy the quest for revenge, and, ultimately, to destroy Israel – which would be an historic justice in the eyes of the Palestinians – overrides any other consideration.


A renewal of negotiations leading to Israeli withdrawals is extremely unlikely to result in a durable and satisfactory agreement any time soon. Israel will need to maintain a strong army for many more decades to deal with the Palestinian challenge. Moreover, changes within neighboring states can be rapid. Unexpected scenarios, such as a return of the Muslim Brotherhood to the helm in Egypt or the fall of the Hashemite dynasty, might take place, and a large-scale conventional threat might reemerge. Finally, the Iranian nuclear specter is still hovering over the Middle East. Israel must remain vigilant and continue to prepare for a variety of warlike scenarios. The understandable desire for peace should not blur the discomforting likelihood that Israel will live by its sword for many years to come.




On Topic Links


Yossi’s Private Tank War – 6×6 (Video): Jewish Press, June 18, 2017—The IDF released a series of 6 videos, stories of personal heroism during the Six Day War. This video is the story of Yossi Lepper, a tankist who found himself alone with his tank in Gaza during the war.

Israel Aerospace Industries Launch Simulated Air Battle Training: Jewish Press, June 12, 2017—Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will provide the EHUD®, ACMI system to the Israeli Air Force to be used by the corps’ training between combat aircraft and the Lavi training airplanes.

The Six-Day War Was a One-Time Event: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, June 5, 2017—In many ways, the 1967 war was a “secondary tremor” from the tectonic earthquake of WWII. It used many of the same doctrines and tactics, and the same, or similar, military platforms (the main exception being fighter jets that replaced propeller air force planes).

How Israel Spots Lone-Wolf Attackers: Economist, June 8, 2017—His last Facebook post was perhaps the only clue of Raed Jaradat’s yearning for vengeance: it showed a Palestinian teenager lying dead with her headscarf soaked in blood and the message “Imagine if this were your sister.” Dania Irsheid, 17, had been shot by Israeli security forces in October 2015 at the entrance to the Ibrahimi mosque (Jews call it the Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron. Police said she had tried to stab Israelis; Palestinian witnesses say she was unarmed.