IDF Cheif of Staff Gadi Eizenkut with IDF commanders in a field excercise
The following article is based on public statements by Israeli defense experts, internet defense news outlets, but most of all it is based on my wild imagination.
Most wars between Israel and its enemies start without any advance warning, just like earthquakes; all of a sudden the war is there inflicting pain, fear, and destruction.
Unable to defeat it, most of the Middle East came to terms with the existence of Israel and learned to live side by side with the Jewish state, even if it is only a temporary situation until an opportunity to destroy it presents itself. The only active enemies of Israel these days are the Iranians, the Hezbollah, the Palestinians, and the Islamic extremist groups. Iran is the only active enemy who has the potential of dragging Israel into a major war.
In 2006, on a beautiful summer day, while visiting Israel with my family, we stopped at a nature park on the Israeli-Lebanese border. The border was as quiet and peaceful as the border between the US and Canada. The next morning the Second Lebanon War suddenly erupted and hundreds of Hezbollah rockets fired from Lebanon exploded in the same park that we visited the day before. If we had come to the park one day later, we would have been visiting a war zone instead of a peaceful park.
The 2nd Lebanon War turned out to be painful to both sides. The conflict started on 12 July 2006 and continued until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect in the morning on 14 August 2006. The war started because of miscalculation by Hezbollah about how Israel will react to the kidnapping of its soldiers. It was also a miscalculation by the IDF of how long and how difficult it would be to defeat Hezbollah who had been preparing for six years for this war.
Due to unprecedented Iranian military support to Hezbollah before and during the war, some consider it the first round of the Iran–Israel proxy conflict, rather than a continuation of the Arab–Israeli conflict.
The war lasted 34 days. Between 1,191 and 1,300 Lebanese people, and 165 Israelis were killed in the war. It severely damaged Lebanese civil infrastructure, and temporarily displaced approximately one million Lebanese and 300,000–500,000 Israelis.
Things shifts very quickly from peace to war in Israel. For that reason, the IDF is always in a rush to complete its preparation for the next conflict. Everyone knows that there will be another conflict, but no one can predict when and what will be the spark that triggers the fuse.
Most people are not aware of it. However, few weeks ago we were on a brink of another eruption:
An Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down by the Syrians, after Israel attacked a Syrian airbase, which was used by the Iranians to launch a spy drone into Israel. This time cooler heads prevailed; the incident didn’t trigger a war, but for few hours in Israel, people thought that war with Iran and its proxy Hezbollah was about to begin.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Israeli air force is not going forget the downing of one of its planes. There will be a price to be paid. Will this be the match that starts the fire? We will find out soon enough.
There are plenty of friction points between Israel and Iran:
- One of the friction point is the Iranian nuclear program, which Israel considers as a major threat to its existence.
- The ammunition shipments that Iran is sending to Hezbollah and Hamas, to be used against Israel when the time comes, is another friction point.
- The pro-Iranian militant groups in Syria, and the buildup of permanent Iranian bases in Syria, are the newest examples of how the Iranians agitate Israeli generals.
It’s only a matter of time until Israel says enough is enough. Israel may plan a local surgical attack on a specific target, but once the first shot is fired it’s anyone’s guess how the conflict will evolve.
Experts say that Iran is not looking for war, that Iran is just probing to see what it can get away with, but a strong Israeli response to Iranian provocations may inflict excessive pain, enough to cause the Iranians to lose control.
Israel is also probing to see what it can get away with:
It has been widely reported that Israel is routinely bombing Iranian/Syrian/Hezbollah weapon depots in Syria and Lebanon. Up to the downing of the Israeli F-16, there was no response to Israel’s attacks.
When things get out of control this is what we could expect:
It is pretty clear what the Iranians have in mind. If it was up to them, they would have left the actual fighting to Hezbollah and Hamas. According to this script, the Iranians would provide logistic support and advisors, while Hezbollah and Hamas would launch into Israel the tens of thousands of rockets that Iran gave them for this purpose. If the script of the 2006 war is to be repeated, all sides except the Iranians themselves will suffer death and destruction. This is the best outcome from an Iranian point of view.
Beyond mobilization of Hezbollah and Hamas, the Iranians are limited by what they can do:
Because the geographic distance and the condition of the Iranian army, the Iranians do not have the capability of launching a ground attack against Israel. A significant attack that would end in victory. The Iranians wouldn’t do that even if they could. The Iranians need their army at home to ensure that the domestic opposition doesn’t topple the regime, and that the Saudis won’t take the opportunity to attack strategic Iranian assets in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. The Iranians only other option is firing long range missiles at Israel, something that Israel should be able handle with its anti-missile defense system.
It is unlikely that Israel will let the Iranians have the initiative and dictate the rules of the war.
It is not that clear what Israel will do in response. However, one thing is certain Israel has no intention of playing a war of attrition with Hezbollah and Hamas. The Israeli public won’t let the government to get away with a message that the nation needs to whether the storm while the army is locating and destroying the rocket launchers one by one. Once rockets start falling on Israeli cities and there are casualties. The public will demand a decisive and fast victory.
Israel has the means to do that, but it comes with a cost that Israel doesn’t like to pay; the world public opinion. As it is, Israel suffers from isolation in the UN and other international organizations. Inflicting heavy blows to an enemy that hides behind civilians always involves the unintentional killing of innocent people.
What is being said by Israeli defense experts again and again is that in the next round Israel will go immediately after the leaders. This means that Israeli special forces in cooperation of the Mossad will be operating far behind enemy lines in places such as Beirut, Damascus, Bagdad, and maybe Teheran.
Those who follow military news must have noticed that foreign media outlets report that Israel is in the midst of a major upgrade of its military capabilities, both on defense and on offense. Such a concentrated effort is beyond normal replacement of worn-out equipment. The Israeli army that Hezbollah will face in the next war is nothing like the army it faced in 2006.
Israel has developed a sophisticated anti-missile defense system capable of shooting down enemy rockets in mid-air. It is perfecting its tunnel detection system, a method of attack intended to allow undetected crossing of the Israeli border. Israelis are convinced that in the next war this method will be used by Hamas and Hezbollah.
Israel routinely conducts drills for its civilian population. The army is practicing recapturing Israeli towns taken by enemy forces in surprise attacks. It builds defense walls on the Lebanese border to protect Israeli towns near the border.
Every so often the Israeli air force bombs targets in Syria. Targets that are suspected of being ammunition depots and weapon convoys intended for Lebanon.
Lastly, if we are to assume that the same techniques Israel is applying against Hamas are also implemented on the Lebanese border, then the Israeli intelligence community has assembled a targets rich book for the army. A plan of attacking Hezbollah command centers must have been developed and ready to be executed. If a war broke out today, Hezbollah would have found that many of its attack plans cannot be executed because key personnel, equipment, and access points have been destroyed.
As published in various newspapers, one component of Israel’s strategic defense system is still under construction in Germany; the naval corvettes, which are designed to protect Israel’s gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea. Germany will provide four advanced Sa’ar-class corvettes to the Israeli navy. The corvettes will provide “Umbrella” missile defense. Four new German-built Sa’ar 6 corvettes due to arrive starting late 2019. Until then, the IDF is planning to protect strategic maritime assets with existing ships, equipped with the Iron Dome anti missile defense system.
Israel just announced that its new air force squadron of F-35 jet fighters became operational. The media reported that the Israeli version of the F-35 is equipped with additional external fuel tanks. There’s only one reason Israel would equip its stealth fighters with additional fuel. These new jet fighters are capable of entering Iranian air space undetected.
Another long-range arm of the IDF, that could infiltrate Iran undetected, is its submarines fleet. Israel ordered three new submarines from Germany. If there was a war with Iran, submarines could be used for troop transportation, or as launching pads for Israeli missiles.
Israel is building a massive drone fleet to provide a birdeye view of the battle field to the high command in real-time, and to be used to attack targets, deep in enemy territory. The drones ability to stay in the air undetected for long periods of time, make them great tools in fighting unconventional enemies.
One of the shortcoming of the Israeli army in the 2006 war is that it was predictable. Hezbollah anticipated its moves and developed means to stop it. In the 2006 war Israel used the Merkava tank to clear the way for the rest of the army in the narrow streets of the Lebanese towns. The Merkava was not designed to fight in this environment and was an easy target for enemy fighters with anti-tank missiles.
This is not how the Israeli army will fight the next war. The mighty Israeli tank Merkava IV that Israel counted on to do the heavy lifting in 2006 is being replace by the Namer, Eitan, and carmel, modern Armored Personnel Carriers designed for urban combat. The new APCs will provide Israeli soldiers mobility, speed, and the protection they need to negotiate obstacles successfully in urban and rural areas.
Israeli front-line infantry units are being equipped with short range drones that could be launched on the battle fields and provide aerial view of the city block in which infantry soldiers engaged in fighting. Israel is equipping its artillery units with fast firing, accurate guns to provide close support to its ground units.
If Israel feels that it fights for its survival, it will attack Iran directly. Most-likely it will begin with a single missile, or a localized aerial attack, to signal to the Iranians that enough is enough. If the Iranians do not respond fast enough, they’ll find themselves in a fire storm like they never seen before. An example would be the leveling of the Hezbollah controlled neighborhoods in Beirut by the Israeli air force during the 2006 Lebanon war.
Lastly, there is one component of the Israeli defense system that no public statements were made about; the mighty Israeli Mossad. It is logical to assume that the Mossad has been working in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, identifying targets and preparing to take out the enemy leaders when the time comes. If an all-out war with Iran broke out today, Iran will find out the same thing that Egypt, Syria, and Jordan learned long time ago. A war with Israel is a mistake. It’s better to make peace.
“Likely Syrian miscalculation of Israeli commitment to “red lines” over Iranian expansionism raises war risks
- The launching of an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle into Israeli airspace (the first such incident recorded) was likely a test of Israeli reaction.
- The scale of Syrian air defences’ response to the initial Israeli air strikes was unprecedented and probably reflects Syria’s longstanding strategy in its civil war of drawing its backers into ever greater support by escalating against its enemies.
- This dynamic indicates a rising risk of war that would see significant damage to Israeli infrastructure and residential areas, as well as crippling damage to Lebanese and Syrian infrastructure and government targets.
Israel claimed on 9 February that an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle entered Israeli airspace and was shot down. In response, Israeli aircraft carried out strikes on targets in Syria, in the course of which an Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft was brought down.
Israel claimed that the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was Iranian-manufactured and was launched from the Tiyas Air Base (T4 airbase) in Syria’s Homs governorate. The UAV was allegedly shot down by an Israeli helicopter; however, the Iranian and Syrian authorities denied any incursion into Israeli air space. Israel retaliated by carrying out airstrikes on the T4 airbase. Israeli aircraft were engaged by what appears to have been dozens of anti-aircraft missiles.
One Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft was brought down, with its pilot and co-pilots ejecting inside Israeli territory. Israel responded to the downing of the aircraft by attacking 12 additional targets in Syria. These included four unspecified Iranian military bases and three Syrian air defence bases. Israel claims that almost half of the Syrian army’s air defences have been destroyed.
The Israelis have since attempted to draw a line following their latest airstrikes, reportedly following a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.” Janes.com February 12, 2018
“Some 40% of the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hizbullah’s personnel and capabilities have been ‘directed outside of Lebanon’ to fight wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot told a conference on 2 January. Speaking at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Lt Gen Eisenkot said there were assessed to be about 8,000 Hizbullah fighters; 10,000 fighters from other Iranian-backed Shia groups, most of them Iraqis and Afghans; and 2,000 Iranian military experts currently in Syria. He said Hizbullah had gained significant combat experience in the fighting, but had ‘paid a very heavy price’ with 2,000 of its fighters killed and 10,000 wounded in the past four years. ‘It is facing very difficult internal questions in Lebanon about [its] role and why Shiite youths are shedding their blood [in Syria],’ he said.
While Hizbullah claimed its military capabilities were needed to defend Lebanon, it had ‘found itself in the past four years mainly fighting as an Iranian proxy in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen’, the Israeli chief of staff said.
Iran’s objective in Syria is not just to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power, but build a presence in the country that threatens Israel, according to Lt Gen Eisenkot. ‘The Iranians wish to consolidate their presence in Syria on land, in the air, and at sea. They are building intelligence facilities. The threat to us is significant,’ he said. ‘Our effort is directed at preventing this consolidation.’
He said it was possible that the relative quiet that had prevailed since Israeli’s 2006 conflict with Hizbullah could continue for many more years, but maintaining the status quo would not take priority over ‘remov[ing] advanced Hizbullah capabilities and preventing the arrival of Iranian-[backed] Shia militias at the Golan Heights'”. Janes.com January 2, 2018
“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) successfully certified the latest version of its Tzayad command-and-control (C2) system during its largest training exercise of the past 19 years, service officials have confirmed. The 10-day Exercise ‘HaDagan’ was conducted across the IDF’s Northern Front in early September and included the participation of 20 brigade formations from across the infantry, armour, and artillery, as well as special operations, air force, navy, and Intelligence Directorate elements. ‘The enemy is developing greatly in warfare, learning, and understanding combat. There’s a significant threat to the IDF and especially to the home front,’ the spokesperson added, while describing how the exercise demonstrated a series of ‘advanced technology’ for the first time.” Janes.com December 1, 2017
“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed a tunnel dug from the Gaza Strip into Israel after detecting it with “ground breaking technology”, a military spokesperson said on 30 October. IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said Southern Command detected the ‘active’ tunnel in Khan Younis and destroyed it on the Israeli side of the border fence. He did not say how the tunnel was detected or destroyed, but the IDF has announced that it has developed new ways of detecting tunnels since they emerged as a significant threat during the war with the Gaza-based group Hamas in July–August 2014. These include the construction of an underground wall with electronic sensors to detect digging, but Lt Col Conricus said the technology used to find the latest tunnel ‘has not been used before'”. Janes.com October 30, 2017
The Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and the US Missile Defense Agency test fired the Arrow 3 anti-missile system in the early hours of 19 February, sending its interceptor into space from a missile test base in central Israel. The IMDO described the trial as a success, adding that the interceptor simulated striking a symbolic target representing a future threat to Israel. The trial is part of larger Israeli preparations to hold additional tests from Alaska later this year. Moshe Patel, head of the IMDO, said the symbolic target simulated a hard target that the system will be directed to shoot down in future tests conducted from Alaska.” Janes.com February 19, 2018
“Lockheed Martin has been contracted to deliver Israeli-specific upgrades for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as part of a wider Block 3F+ software package. ‘The contract provides for the procurement of Israel-unique weapons certification, modification kits, and electronic warfare analysis in support of the F-35 Israel system design and development (SDD) to provide [Block] 3F+ fleet capability for the government of Israel under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme,” the DoD notification said. While the contract does not note the specific nature of the Israeli-unique systems to be delivered for the F-35 (named Adir in national service), according to Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft: In Development and Production the aircraft will feature a plug-and-play feature added to the main computer that facilitates use of Israeli-designed electronic equipment and weaponry. This will permit Israel to employ its own external jamming pod and also allow internal carriage of indigenous air-to-air missiles and guided munitions.The Israeli Air Force (IAF) declared the F-35 Adir to be operationally ready in December 2017 (the first international operator to do so), a milestone that was marked by the arrival in-country of the ninth aircraft out of a currently planned 50 (although this number could rise to between 75 and 100). In IAF service, the F-35 is flown by 140 Squadron ‘Golden Eagles’ from Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel’s Negev Desert. A second squadron expected to be stood up at the same location and a third likely to be located elsewhere as deliveries continue.” Janes.com February 05, 2018
“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Artillery Corps is upgrading its radar systems and acquiring a new radar as part of a programme to provide an integrated, networked aerial picture that tracks all incoming enemy artillery fire. Major Ran Kotek, head of the Rocket and Radar Department in the Artillery Corps, told Jane’s that the programme also includes providing the Artillery Corps with the ability to track all ‘blue on red’ (i.e. friendly on enemy) fire as well.” Janes.com February 21, 2018
“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are set to introduce a new portable command, control, and information (C2I) system for its ground forces, which for the first time will serve all field officer ranks, from platoon to brigade commanders. Called Shaked (Hebrew for ‘almond’), the new system will take the form of a smartphone and smartwatch that together will provide real-time information to officers on the location of friendly and hostile forces, as well as analysis of the situation in the area and route suggestions.” Janes.com January 18, 2018
“The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) Givati Brigade will be the second brigade to be fully equipped with Namer heavy armoured personnel carriers (APCs), the IDF announced on 28 December. ‘The operationalisation of the first Namer battalion of the Givati Brigade will take place during the fourth quarter of 2018 as part of the brigade training plan,’ the IDF stated. The Golani Brigade is the first to be equipped with Namers, which are now being fitted with the Trophy active protection system.” Janes.com December 28, 2017
“The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) Center of Computing and Information Systems (CSIS) has created a computing cloud to enable information sharing, according to the centre’s commander. Colonel Talya Gazit, commander of the CCIS, which is a part of the C4i and Cyber Branch, said the first version is now operational. ‘We have gone strongly into the cloud platform,’ she told Jane’s .The IDF’s cloud aggregates data for relevant forces in a common operations area, allowing commanders to access it using applications and receive information such as enemy target co-ordinates. It also enables commanders to order strikes from available firepower platforms, whether aerial, ground, or sea platforms.” Janes.com December 11, 2017
“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on 27 November that the Rafael C-Dome naval point defense system – the maritime version of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system – is fully operational.” Janes.com December 1, 2017
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has ordered more than 1,000 Spike LR II missiles, manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems announced on 24 October. ‘The addition of the Spike LR II will enhance both its infantry engagement range and its lethality against a large variety of targets,’ Rafael said in a statement. Like the original Spike LR, the new version can be launched from a man-portable tripod, aircraft, or weapon stations mounted on ground vehicles and naval vessels. Rafael says it has a maximum range of 5.5 km when fired from the ground – 1.5 km further than the original – and 10 km when fired from a helicopter.” Janes.com October 25, 2017
“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has taken into service the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) TopGun course correction fuze, IAI’s Brigadier General (rtd) Benny Mehr told the IPQC Future Artillery Conference in London on 22-24 May. He said the IDF has ordered 5,000 units and the system will be fully operational by 2019. Attached to standard 155 mm artillery rounds where the fuze is normally screwed in, the TopGun is essentially an add-on guidance kit that also performs the role of a fuze. IAI says it uses a GPS receiver to adjust the trajectory of the shell in flight and is capable of achieving a circular error probable (CEP) of 10 m at up to 40 km with a unit cost of USD20,000. Mehr said the IDF’s requirement was for a munition that can operate in a degraded GPS environment, but declined to provide further details of the TopGun’s anti-jamming capabilities. The fuze has been designed for all 155 mm guns with 52 calibre-long barrels. IAI has announced that it will shortly be producing a version that can be fitted to standard 122 mm Grad-type artillery rockets.” Janes.com May 24, 2017
“The Israeli Navy expects its Saar 6-class corvettes to enter service between 2020 and 2022, it emerged during a 7 February ceremony marking the start of construction by German company ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS). According to the navy’s planning estimates, TKMS should have completed the fourth by the end of 2020 so that its weapons and systems can be installed in Israel by mid-2021” Janes.com February 12, 2018
“The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has expanded its fleet of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the manufacturer announced on 7 February. As noted by IAI, the additional platforms will feature new undisclosed capabilities. Neither IAI nor the IAF have revealed how many Heron TPs are currently in service, nor how many new platforms are to be delivered beyond it being a “significant’ number. IAI did, however, say the new aircraft will lead to a 70% increase in flight hours. Having first entered service with the IAF in 2010, the Heron TP is the service’s largest and most sophisticated UAV with a wingspan of 26 m and an all-up weight of 4,650 kg. With a stated operating altitude of 45,000 ft (although it is believed it can fly higher), the Heron TP is reported to have a 40-hour endurance. Although the Heron TP’s range figures have not been disclosed, the platform’s satellite communications (SATCOM) enable over-the-horizon operations.” Janes.com February 9, 2018
Arrow 3 Anti Missile Defense System
C Dome Anti Missile Defense system
Jericho Intercontinental Balistic Missile