Infantry: Speeding Towards Success

 

Since the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel has implemented many military reforms. One of the less noted areas of change is what happened to the infantry. Lots of little things, that all contributed to making the infantry faster, both for moving, planning and fighting. This process starts close to the skin, with new uniforms that are more comfortable in hot weather. Israel had been noting all this kind of stuff being developed for American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was pretty easy to pick the most suitable items and issue them to Israeli troops. Next to the uniform there’s a new, lighter, protective vest, designed to more comfortably hang all the weapons and gear infantry normally have hanging off them. An Israeli army supplier also came up with an ingenious way to cope with the enormous weights of gear infantry troops sometimes have to carry. It’s a frame that can go on the back, but if its carrying a lot of weight (up to 80 kg/176 pounds), you take it off, snap into position a rugged wheel, and then pull the frame and load behind you. This requires a lot less effort than having it on your back.

There are also new weapons, like the 8.6mm HTR 2000 sniper rifle (effective at over 1,000 meters), the Negev Commando light machine-gun and Matador shoulder fired anti-structure rocket. There are new communications and navigation devices. Other changes are simpler. For example, the infantry can now carry small explosives, for blowing open doors, or through walls. Formerly, only the combat engineers could use this stuff. But there is also something else that’s new, the way of thinking of these light infantry operations against foes like Hamas and Hezbollah. No army in the region wants to take on the Israeli army, but these Islamic radical groups are all pumped up and think they have a chance.

Because of all these reforms, Israeli military commanders are anxious to go back into Gaza, feeling that they have new tactics and equipment that enable them to tear Hamas apart without losing many troops. During the 22 day campaign in 2008-9, the Israelis only suffered four dead from fighting Hamas (plus ten friendly fire fatalities). Meanwhile, Hamas lost over 500 of their fighters. There is a sense of urgency to get back in, because Hamas is working on techniques to nullify the Israeli tactics. The more time Hamas has, the more useful ideas they will come up with to increase Israeli losses, and reduce their own.

The Israelis learned much from the U.S. experience in Iraq. American and Israeli commanders have long exchanged ideas, and the U.S. depended a lot on Israeli tactics developed during over a decade of battling Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza. But the Americans saw a lot more combat in Iraq, and developed techniques that the Israelis borrowed.

Infantry: Speeding Towards Success

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