Ofer Zidon, Israel Defense
What will the next war on the northern front look like? It will look nothing like the past two wars in Lebanon, but
in all probability, it will include a ground maneuver carried out by tanks. The IDF command estimates that a ground maneuver will be inevitable in any conflict scenario in the north, unlike Operation Pillar of Defense in the
Gaza Strip (November 2012), in which the IDF only employed precision, stand-off fire.
The IDF is preparing for a confrontation on the northern front that will, in all probability, include enemy fire into Israeli territory. It may also include the potential intrusion of terrorists across the border into Israel, as part of a possible future confrontation between the IDF and Global Jihad operatives, who have already taken up positions along the Syrian border on the Golan Heights.
A sample of the nature of the future confrontation could be seen near the end of the winter of 2013, during a training exercise of the 52nd tank battalion, which was a part of a large-scale exercise by the IDF Armored Corps 401st brigade, under command of Col. Sa’ar Tzur. The exercise was conducted in the fire practice zones on the Golan Heights, and we joined it.
The objective of the training exercise was to practice the capture of areas in which rockets and missiles aimed at Israel are deployed. The 401st armored brigade, under Col. Tzur, employs the latest Main Battle Tank of the IDF — the Merkava Mark-IV. Additionally, the brigade’s tanks are fitted with Rafael’s Trophy (Aspro-A) suit, which protects them against antitank threats. A segment of the profile practiced by the 52nd battalion, under command of Lt. Col. Udi, simulated combat encounters with agile, mobile infantry detachments equipped with antitank weaponry.
This scenario does not represent classic armor-versus-armor warfare, but in the commanders’ view, “The new Merkava tank is well equipped and adapted to the new type of warfare.” The Merkava tank is fast and has excellent trafficability characteristics. Its Trophy system provides effective protection against antitank threats. The tank’s fire control system is efficient and accurate, enabling assignment of targets among the tanks and locking on to a target and maintaining the lock-on even while advancing rapidly over difficult terrain. Other systems enable the crewmen to analyze the terrain and select the best route of advance, preferably one not visible to the enemy.
This aggregation of capabilities enables the brigade to execute its task, as specified by the brigade commander: to advance swiftly into the depth of the enemy territory, without stopping or delaying. In the brigade commander’s
estimate, this rapid advance will minimize damage to the tanks and casualties among the crews and make it possible to take the enemy by surprise and promptly dominate the territory.
Other elements of the combat scenario included the employment of an Elbit Systems Skylark UAV — a small, low signature UAV operated by IDF Artillery Corps personnel, which provided