Israel Lays its “Tefen” Procurement Plans
Authors like Victor Davis Hanson note that one of the strength of societies with accountable governments is that they prepare and fight as they live, allowing mistakes to be set right more quickly. Since war is often a matter of making the fewest or least important mistakes rather than winning through brilliance, this is an important advantage. Rome’s legions were annihilated at Cannae, but within a year they had restored their capability in full – and soon learned how to beat Hannibal. In that spirit, “Iran-Syria vs. Israel, Round 1: Assessments & Lessons Learned” offers some post-mortem assessments of the inconclusive 2006 conflict in Lebanon.
With rumors of another round in the air, and Iranian nuclear efforts advancing, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that the Israeli Defense Forces have done a lot of thinking, and laid their “Tefen” procurement plan to face whatever comes next. Highlights reportedly include…
- Another reservist division (and possibly 2).
- Continued production of Merkava Mark IV main battle tanks; this had been in question.
- “Anti-missile defenses” in the Merkava Mk IVs and also in many of the Mark III and Mark IIs. This is almost certain to be RAFAEL’s Trophy active defense system, which had been cut from previous budgets. Post-motems found that too many Israeli tanks were successfully penetrated by advanced dual-warhead Russian RPG-29s and AT-13 and AT-14 anti-tank missiles, despite the widespread use of explosive reactive armor protection and other measures; an Aug 25/06 Jane’s Defense Weekly article said that of 50 IDF Merkava Mk 2, 3 and 4 MBTs hit, 21 were penetrated (45%). Most tanks returned to the fight even when penetrated, but too many tank crewmen did not.
- “Hundreds” of new armored personnel carriers, including the new Namer (“Leopard”) heavy tracked APC. Namer is based on the Merkava tank chassis; Merkava tanks already have an unusual and very useful rear door feature that allows them to swap out ammunition storage and fit 2-3 troops, so the modification wasn’t as much of a stretch as you might think. Israel already had experience, too, after turning captured Soviet T-54/T-55 tanks into Achzarit APCs.
- “American-made Stryker-wheeled fighting vehicles… will also be procured in large numbers.” Surprising finding, given the Golan’s availability; we’ll see.
- Continue development of a next generation anti-ballistic missile system, based on the Arrow system, as well as Rafael’s Iron Dome/ Cap system for countering short-range Katyusha and Qassam rockets. An Aug 18/07 report, however, was far more skeptical, noting funding failures.
- The Ha’aretz report also says that “By 2012-13, Israel expects to begin receiving into the ranks of its air force a squadron of stealth-capable F-35 Strike Fighters, capable of reaching deep into Iran. While the aircraft are not due to arrive for five to six years, the air force will begin the necessary preparations soon.” Actually, the F-35’s mission radius will be shorter than the F-15I Strike Eagles Israel already deploys, and the F-22’s superior stealth against aircraft and air defense systems, and vastly better combat characteristics, have already led Israel to request an export version of the F-22. Meanwhile, Israel is busy improving its existing F-16 and F-15 fleets, and remains an observer in the F-35 program with plans to buy around 100 F-35As to replace some of its F-16s.
- No fence planned at present along the Egyptian border with Gaza, which has become a highway for arms smuggling; the rest of the security fence around Gaza and the West Bank will receive priority instead, presumably including their unmanned weapons stations.
- The IDF is also planning to undertake a series of steps toward greater efficiency, mainly through the sale of real estate assets to raise revenue.