The IDF is increasing the use of unmanned aircraft. During Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IDF managed to destroy rocket launchers using drones. The establishment of a dedicated unit with advanced drones heralds a new era on the battlefield, but it is not enough to stop Hezbollah. Israel must prepare for the war of the future, and UAV's may be a key to success. Moshe Reuveny, from Young Diplomats, analyzes the situation and gives us both context and insight.
The difficult and bloody battle in Binat Jabal from the Second Lebanon War is deeply ingrained in the Israeli public. This is due to the heroism and courage of Golani combat soldiers who were outnumbered, in a tactically inferior position- surrounded by Hezbollah fighters. The price was heavy: eight Golani soldiers were killed as well as 23 wounded. Along with the commendable heroism of the soldiers, the incident could have ended completely differently without the intervention of then-Golani Battalion Commander Tamir Yedi, who was in the command bunker in Malkia. Thanks to a drone that filmed the incident, and despite the difficulty to identify the source of the shooting, Yedi noticed that most of the Hezbollah members were stationed near the mosque that was close to colliding. Yedi immediately summoned Air Force fighter jets, which assisted in the elimination of several terrorists.
As mentioned, this is one of many examples of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft in the IDF. According to Dr. Uzi Rubin, an expert in missile threats and missile defense, the use of unmanned aircraft began as early as the middle of the 20th century. According to him, the modern UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is an Israeli production. Its source is toy planes, on which ordinary commercial cameras have been installed, to gather intelligence about the Egyptian army's deployment in the west bank of the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition. Rubin added that the fame that the Israeli UAVs gained came in the wake of Operation Mole Cricket 19 during the first Lebanon war, which led to the almost complete destruction of the Syrian air defense system. As a result, there has been a growing demand in various armies around the world for this industry.
In Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IDF and Israel's defense establishments succeeded in severely damaging Hamas' strategic asset: the "metro," which included tens of kilometers of tunnels, thanks to quality intelligence. Contrary to Hamas' attempt this week to present business as usual on the metro, the IDF has managed to torpedo the strategic weapon that the organization has been working on for many years (at the expense of Gaza residents of course) which included combatant lodgings, command and control systems, military equipment, weapons, and even rocket launch sites that include mortar shells and anti-tank weapons, intelligence gathering capabilities, the possibility of sniping, and the preparation of explosives.
In addition to destroying the metro, the IDF eliminated 200 reported terrorists, including senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad figures. In addition, the IDF severely damaged Hamas' production capabilities and damaged both regime structures and terrorist infrastructure. Moreover, according to an IDF spokesman before the operation, Hamas had autonomous submarines that could carry explosives weighing tens of kilograms and were intended to hit Israel's gas rigs and damage Israeli Navy ships. During the operation, the IDF managed to hit the naval force, which also included a unit of divers and speedboats. Needless to say, quite a few of these capabilities were under Iranian aid and guidance.
During Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IDF managed to destroy rocket launchers using drones, which prevented Hamas from launching rockets into Israeli territory. Unlike the Second Lebanon War, this was not done through a senior commander and from a remote bunker, but near the border by a specially trained company of soldiers, whose whole purpose is to expose the enemy before firing, and attack just before he disappears using UAVs that do not endanger human life (fighter pilots or fighters in the field). Furthermore, the tiny aircraft are dozens of times cheaper to operate. However, their increasing use has not yet helped neutralize the power of Hamas and the Jihad to stop the massive firing on Israel.
And perhaps here lies the difference between a clear decision and a vague victory and temporary deterrence over the terrorist organizations. The purpose of Operation Wall Guard was to deprive Hamas of its capabilities as much as possible and bring about deterrence. Israel entered the current round against Hamas reluctantly and therefore did not intend to overthrow the organization. According to IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi, during the operation, Israel severely damaged Hamas and Islamic Jihad and denied these organizations many capabilities, including in the field of missile production capability.
Such a strategic decision has a price and means that Hamas' launch capability cannot be eliminated from the air alone since its rocket array (similar to that of Hezbollah) is in underground tunnels. That is, Hamas copied Hezbollah's model that the IDF faced in 2006. To harm the functional continuity of the organization and eradicate the Strip from the terrorist nests and thousands of rockets still in the organization's possession, a massive ground entry is required.
In 2007 as part of the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War, The National Emergency Authority (Reshut Heyrum Le'umit or "Rachel" for short), was established under the Ministry of Defense, with the role of uniting all the organizations involved in dealing with the home front in an emergency. In addition, in 2012, "Rachel" was merged with the Ministry of Home Front Defense.
The next government, in coordination with the Ministry of Defense together with "Rachel", must prepare the ground for the public, for what may happen in the next confrontation in the north. The current round against Hamas will be seen as a child's play in comparison with Hezbollah, which has an arsenal of 150,000 missiles.
Meanwhile, the establishment of a dedicated unit with advanced drones heralds a new era on the battlefield that should, among other things, prevent casualties among our forces. However, it is not enough to stop Hezbollah during an armed confrontation with it. The only way it will be possible to stop the barrage of missiles that will fly non-stop towards Israel is through a wide military maneuver.
Images Source: Moshe Reuveny, Young Diplomats