Fast and accurate: will the next war in northern Israel look like this? Ofer Sidon joined the extreme teachings of the 401 th armored brigade of the Israel Defense Forces and returned with personal impressions and photographs.
What will be the next war on the Northern Front? It will most likely be different from the last two wars in Lebanon and, in all likelihood, will include a ground operation involving tanks. The Israel Defense Forces Command (IDF) believes that, unlike the Pillar of Fire operation in the Gaza Strip in November 2012, when the IDF limited themselves to only high-precision weaponsIn any scenario of a future conflict in the north, a ground operation will be inevitable.
Tsakhal is preparing for a confrontation on the Northern Front, which is likely to include firing on Israel’s territory by the enemy. It may also include the potential breakthrough of terrorists across the border into Israeli territory, within the framework of a possible future confrontation between the forces of Tsakhal and the militants of global jihad that have already taken positions along the Syrian border on the Golan Heights.
An example of the nature of the future standoff could be seen at the end of the winter of 2013, during the exercises of the 52 tank battalion, which was part of the large-scale exercises of the IDN armored brigade under the command of Colonel Saar Tzur. The exercises were held at the training ground on the Golan Heights, to which we joined.
The purpose of the exercise was to master the capture of the territories in which the missiles aimed at Israel were deployed. The 401 armored brigade under the command of Colonel Zur is armed with the latest IDF main battle tanks - the Merkava Mark-IV. In addition, the brigade’s tanks are equipped with the Raphael Trophy (Aspro-A) production defense complex, which protects them against anti-tank threats. Part of the tasks of the 52 th battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Udi was to develop combat operations with flexible, mobile infantry units equipped with anti-tank weapons.
This scenario does not constitute a classic war of tanks against tanks, but, in the opinion of the commanders, "the new Merkava tank is well equipped and adapted to new types of combat operations." Tank Merkava is maneuverable and has excellent characteristics of terrain. His KAZ Trophy provides effective protection against antitank threats. The tank's fire control system is efficient and accurate, it allows you to choose a target among tanks, capture it and hold the capture even during the rapid movement of the tank itself over rough terrain. Other systems allow crew members to analyze the terrain and choose in advance the optimal route of movement, preferably remaining outside the field of view of the enemy.
These aggregations of capabilities allow the brigade to fulfill the task set by the commander: to move quickly into the enemy’s territory, without stopping or delaying. The brigade's command believes that rapid advancement will minimize the loss of tanks and casualties among their crews and will allow them to catch the enemy unawares and quickly capture the territory.
Other elements of combat scenarios include the use of Skylark UAVs from Elbit Systems. A small, inconspicuous UAV, which is in service with the IDF artillery corps, quietly circling over the combat zone, provides units with real-time intelligence, including information about the enemy’s position. Armored forces receive additional support from an artillery battery covering various targets.
The exercise began with a night march through open areas, during which troops had to overcome obstacles, such as steep climbs, deep crevices and streams. During the night march the battalion was accompanied by a combat detachment of engineering troops that prepared the aisles for tanks in various obstacles. The culmination of the exercise was the daily attack and the seizure of the enemy village. This task involves a war in urban development, fighting almost from house to house in order to clear the village of enemy forces. To accomplish this task, an infantry company from the Nahal Brigade was included as an integral part of the target group of the battalion. The infantry advanced after the tanks on the M-113 armored personnel carrier, and after breaking through into the city building, they dismounted and independently made their way through the village.
Heavy tanks advanced along the outskirts of the village and along the main routes through it covering the infantrymen. In addition, heavy armored tanks were used to evacuate the wounded during the fighting. During the exercises, the commander of the Saar brigade issued various unplanned orders for the battalion commander Udi in order to study the battalion’s ability to adapt to the changing combat situation. In this context, the brigade commander removed some tanks from the battlefield as victims of the fighting, where it was necessary to quickly evacuate the wounded crew members from the damaged tanks and transport them to the battalion’s medical center. At the same time, the damaged tanks themselves were towed out of the combat zone by serviceable tanks. This task is now performed more efficiently: the tanks are equipped with a special device installed in their front end that allows you to quickly connect to the damaged tank and tow it away.
The exercise was under the scrutiny of the commander of the Northern District of the IDF, Major General Noam Tibon, and the Commander of the armored forces of Brig. General Ofer Tsafrir. They arrived to personally verify the capabilities of the brigade and conduct a "debriefing" taking into account the technical side of the use of tanks and systems installed on them, as well as assigned tasks and their actual implementation.