"I would be very careful about coming to any conclusions about weapons that HA is using based upon IDF sources. The IDF has a natural desire to hype up HA’s weaponry as an excuse for their poor performance. It is unlikely, for example, that HA possesses many Kornets. Syria bought around 1,000 Kornets, but the chances they gave HA many of those Kornets is slim — they need the Kornets as a deterrent against Israeli armor for their own defense. Iran itself does not have Kornets in any great quantity (if at all), they are relying on their Sagger, Spandrel, and TOW clones, which they reverse-engineered or licensed and produce cheaply in their own factories. Iran is very careful about their arms purchases in order to get the best bang for the buck, and if they can make effective weapons locally (and the above-named are plenty effective if deployed in sufficient quantity and provided with upgraded warheads and guidance systems), they do not buy, they build.
I read a description of the Israeli attack upon Marjayoun by a Western reporter. He painted a picture of Merkavas slowly trudging along through a valley then suddenly HA appeared on the ridge lines surrounding them. As the Merkavas attempting to engage targets with their weaponry, HA missiles flew in from all sides. He saw a Merkava disabled, apparently by a missile that came from its hind quarter, which even on a Merkava is weaker than the frontal armor. The Merkava caught on fire, and its crew bailed and ran for shelter at another Merkava as the line of Merkavas started pumping out smoke everywhere to fend off further attacks.
I do not think possession of a Kornet (or not) would have made much of a difference in that situation. If HA is successfully drawing Israeli armor into kill boxes, you will see tanks killed, period, even if all HA had were the upgraded Saggers that I referred to earlier. It simply is impossible to armor a tank equally over its whole body, the tank would be so heavy as to be immobile. A tank will always have weak points, and if you can get tanks into a kill box like described above, you will have tanks getting killed.
As for what the Iranian Saggers, Spandrels and TOW’s cost to build, vs. a Merkava, think maybe $5,000 apiece, max, for the missiles if you have free labor (as Iran effectively does). A Merkava costs approximately $4.4 million dollars (or about the same as a M1A1). However, the Merkavas thus far disabled by HA have mostly not been cooked off, thus are salvageable and repairable. Merkavas are designed to be easy to repair, so it is likely that most of those "killed" by HA will go back into combat sooner or later.
In any event, as Pat has noted earlier, pay little attention to the technology that HA is using. It is not the technology that is making them effective. It is their training and dedication that are making them effective. And for that matter, Israeli incompetence — it is not so much that HA is fighting like supermen (they have obviously studied their art and are executing it, but if they were really the supermen they’ve been accounted to be, Israeli casualties would be much higher), as it is that the IDF is fighting extremely poorly. Tankers, for example, should never allow themselves to get into enclosed kill boxes where the enemy can fire down onto their less-armored top and rear parts. The fact that IDF tanks have managed to put themselves into exactly that position is a sign of incompetence on their part, rather than super-human competence on HA’s part. HA is just doing Warfighting 101. The IDF is doing… well, poorly."
"Bad Tux" is the "handle" of a frequent commenter on SST 2006. This is an informed analysis of IDF performance thus far.
BT is correct in observing that the IDF has not fought well in Lebanon so far. Tank/infantry coordination has been poor and the state of training and equipment of reserve units is not impressive.
Col. Lang: For us non-military types, could you explain what the IDF is spending its money on? I thought the Pentagon had cornered the market on spending more than $400 billion/year and still failing to outfit our troops with basic equipment.
I agree with author of this comment. In my opinion from 2000 israeli army doesn’t fight with any serious opponnet. I think that everybody can agree that operation against palestinian organisation can be called rather police action then war. Palestinian organisation despite bravery of their militiants aren’t serious opponent for IDF. I think too that case of such peformance of this army is that troops from private to generals think that noone arabic army can win with them so they doesn’t spend enough time for training. the same can be told about intelligence service.
I’m new here to your blog and I just want to say how very impressed I am (blown away actually) with your analysis of the situation in Lebanon. It may very well be the first great battle of the 21st century unfolding before us and I’m sure it will be studied for years and years to come. The implications surrounding this siege of Lebanon will be far-reaching and profound. I can almost feel the ground beneath my feet start to shift as the political/social/religious/military ramifications of this battle start to reverberate throughout the world. I think your really nailing the military analysis of it. Bravo, great work.
Anyways, It seems like Israel is now making a desperate dash for the Litani river, even throwing out commando units far ahead in apparent hopes of grabbing positons and THEN agreeing to the ceasefire. Considering their less then stellar efforts so far at acquiring and/or securing much of anything in Lebanon over the past 5 weeks I was wondering what you thought of their chances of pulling this last second gambit off? And of HA allowing a ceasefire to go forward under such tactics by the IDF?
Keep up the great work.
Actually, most of the pictures I’ve seen in the Israeli press are not of TOW clones, but actual US-manufacture TOWs:
The production dates on the boxes are 2001–well past the Israeli delivery of TOWs to Iran in 1986 (as part of Iran-Contra).
I’ve seen one picture of what looked like a Kornet tube, but my ATGM identification skills aren’t so strong that I can tell for sure.
The Israeli government is threatened by a failure of confidence in the electorate concerning its competence. The long expressed demand by ground officers for a drive to the Litani is underway as a kind of minimal satisfaction of the goals that Israel said it had in the early stages of the war.
The IDF wants to do this because it, too, is facing a crisis of confidence, in their case, on the part of their troops, especially reservists.
In Re IDF attainment of the Litani phase line, this will prove nothing. Like the WH, the Israelis do not seem to be willing to understand that HA is a Lebanese force with its roots inthe villages that the IDF will bypass on the way to the Litani. A retired general commentator on Fox said yesterday that after reaching the river the IDF will “mop-up” behind itself in those villages.
The homes of the men that the IDF has been fighting are in those villages. Does Israel intend to de-populate Lebanon south of the Litani?
Nasrallah made it clear today that HA will observe the terms of the Resolution but will continue to fight the IDF as long as they are in Lebanon. He said nothing about disarming, but that HA would cooperate with Lebanese troops….
Matthew: I have no idea how the IDF have been spending their Money so poorly, but am sure that someone is going to tell us. pl
I found an article about light infantry, namely Australia’s 9th ID in North Africa, that strongly reminded me of IDF vs Hezbollah:
‘The third example, places light infantry in a static defense against armor. In April and May 1941 the German Afrika Korps met defeat when they encountered an outnumbered Australian unit at Tobruk. The 9th Australian Division was not operating in a high-intensity battlefield as defined today. However, considering the technology available in 1941 and the environment of the battle, it was high-intensity for its era. The 9th Division organized its defense as a strongpoint in depth with a mobile reserve. This division was well supported with separate brigades of armor and numerous anti-tank and field artillery battalions. The key to the success of this division was the close cooperation and coordination of inf antry, armor, artillery, and engineers.
The 9th Division used the depth of its defense to its advantage. It did not have sufficient forces to be strong everywhere along the front, so its commander chose to establish pockets of resistance. Enemy armor units were allowed to penetrate friendly forward units in preplanned areas so that they would be destroyed in designated kill zones within the strongpoint. The light infantry used aggressive, deep patrolling to deny the enemy close-in observation and maintained all-around security against surprise
attack by enemy armor.
The Australians learned two unique lessons from this experience. First, the artillery and the anti-tank guns are the nucleus of the defense. Second, these forces must be integrated with the infantry units and engineer obstacles. In support, the infantry must be organized to defend these weapon systems and the sectors of fire for the AT weapons must be established and maximum effective marked on the ground with reference points.
However, it should be noted, this process is time consuming and must take into account the preparation time for individual and crew-served weapon fighting positions. …
Light infantry forces stress high quality leadership, confidence, and self reliance. The result is a small unit that is decisive and offensively oriented. The chaotic environment of the battlefield will find individuals fighting not in mass formations, but in small disjointed groups working independently from one another, but toward a common objective. Groups of fighting men on foot will still reign supreme.’
Replace ‘anti-tank guns’ with missiles and RPGs and ‘field artillery’ with mortars and missiles you pretty much get the picture. The only thing Hezbollah is apparently lacking is an armor component that allows for a quick counterstrike – but then, maybe they have something else to make good for this. Their success is no miracle.
Badtux, while I agree there is nothing supernatural about HA, even if they are getting the nickname of the “ghost army” I don’t their acheivement should be measured by the number of casulties they inflict but by their ability so far to stop the march of the IDF. Ironically, I dont beleive even Nasrallah and the HA war council expected the fromtline to last as long as it has because he stated in an earlier speech that their goals were exactly the opposite when he said “geography doesn’t matter, casulties do”, meaning he fully expected them to advance but to take casulties. I think you’re right that IDF tactics have meant their losses have been kept to a minimum but so have their gains. I think you can conclude that either the IDF command is not fully signed up to this campaign (US Neo-con involvement?) or that they thought it would be much easier than it turned out and had no plan B.
Col., An accurate and succint analysis. As I said previously, HA’s goal now is to stop the war to end the suffering. All demands made of them by UN resolutions have loopholes you can drive a tank through (as may I add all demands of Israel). You can’t monitor redeployment of a guerilla force especially not, like you say, they want those guerillas out of the very areas they live in.
pl asks: “Does Israel intend to de-populate Lebanon south of the Litani?”
Yes, they are preparing for this and most of the population is gone. The irregation channels are bombed away. Some towns have been hit with thousands(!) of 155mmm. There will nothing to go back to for those who flead.
On Bad Tux piece on data point:
“Day 32 of fighting claims lives of seven Israel Defense Forces soldiers: Seven fighters were killed Saturday and 84 were injured, 11 of them sustaining serious wounds, in a series of fire incidents in southern Lebanon.
A group of fighters were hurt early Saturday in an accident in the eastern region, when an IDF tank which accompanied the infantry forces reversed and accidentally hit them.
IDF sources noted that the accident apparently happened due to lack of coordination between the infantry force and the tank team.”
Bad coordination between tanks and infantry is lack of training. One needs to train this on and on.
The German tanks I used to ride have a phone at the rear end for communicating with acompaning infantry. Do Merkava’s have such?
A number of Israeli commentators have recently written about the unpreparedness of the IDF ground forces for actual warfare.
One of them, writing in Ha’aretz, noted that the IDF had not held large unit exercises for several years, and that performance measures were based more on numbers of Palestinians detained than on more military parameters.
If this is the case, then this would seem to call for a reorganization of IDF ground forces into a more paramilitary organization, trained to deal with internal security and counterterrorism; and a field–or strike–force to train against external and more conventional threats.
The former force would be made up of conscripts and reservists, the latter of long-serving volunteers.
On the problems the IDF is so assiduously demonstrating, I would highly recommend, “The Sword And The Olive: A Critical History of The Israeli Defense Force,” by Israeli defense maven Martin Van Creveld. Although written in 1998, before the Second Intifada and the pullout from Lebanon, Van Creveld charts the downward spiral of the IDF in its later years due to becoming an expensive Police Force, predicting their current inadequacies. He quotes Lao Tsu: “A sword, plunged into salt water, will rust.”
Van Creveld warned: “Among the commanders, the great majority can barely remember when they trained for and engaged in anything more dangerous than police-type operatons; in the entire IDF there is now hardly an officer left who has commanded so much as a brigade in a REAL war. Taking the behavior of the Argentines in the Falklands as our example, one shudders to think what IDF commanders and troops would do if under full-scale attack by real-life soldiers armed not with rocks and knives but with missiles, cannons and tanks.”
The IDF reminds me of the Argentine Army that fought in the Falklands: very good at fighting unarmed civilians, but not so good at fighting professional soldiers in a real war.
The incredible mistake that Israel made was spending the first week or more of the war “Looking For Mr. Good Shlepper”. Did they really think French troops would relieve them in mid-battle to fight the “terrorists”?
Once it became clear that the Israeli’s were not terribly interested in fighting their own battle, I don’t think Hezbollah took them very seriously anymore.
Recall the importance of the first battle, as in the Civil War.
Matthew: “For us non-military types, could you explain what the IDF is spending its money on?”
It looks like its spent on lots of tech and “high concepts.” There’s a fair amount of information here:
I think a minor but perhaps not negligible cause of their sluggish performance over the last month may be that the IDF runs on a Windows platform.
“The system accommodates sophisticated weapons’ sights, the VIPER an integrated weapon based fire control system, command and control system, which can run on laptop computers and ITL’s new wearable computer, to support battle planning, tactical movement, target acquisition, task allocation, situational awareness, and post mission debriefing. Hundreds of such units, controlled under computer based command and control systems are operational with the IDF … After evaluating several options and fielding an initial XP based system, ITL decided opted [sic] to use the power saving Windows CE to drive their computer, taking advantage of its efficiency and modest power consumption.”
Not all that reliable and certainly not all that secure.
Israeli dissidents have long railed against the occupation citing its corrosive effects on the moral and legal fiber of the new nation. Now we see the corrosive effects on the military itself.
Another fundamental change in Israeli society has been the fading of the old Labor-Zionist model of equality and collective sacrifice. It has been replaced by privatization and the mentality of “I’ve got mine.” Israel’s biggest domestic problem is an exploding poverty rate (Peretz ran well on this issue in the last election).
The individualistic, market-oriented culture seems not to fit well with an army based around universal service and reserves. A shift to a professional army is long overdue.
But then, it wouldn’t make sense to use professionals to police the West Bank–draftees and reservists are cheaper. We’re back to that pesky problem of the occupation.
The occupation represents a mortal danger for Israel; their elite was partway to realizing this…now they’ll just get distracted again.
Col. – I looked at a contour map of south Lebanon, and it appears to be pretty rough country, as suggested by the description of Merkavas being fired on from hillsides and from behind. I was a tank platoon leader and company commander in the 60s, and I’ve forgotten a lot, but I can’t imagine a tank unit going into a confined or rugged area without lots of infantry support. Even reservists would know that would be awful risky. Are the Israelis really that untrained? What am I missing?
Very interesting post and comments. I am still amazed, as a non-maven in military matters, that the IDF is as hollow as it appears. Moving tanks into a “kill box” sounds like such an elemental mistake. And if you do it early in the war, shouldn’t you have modified your tactics by now?
The idea that the IDF is rusty because all it’s been doing is police work is also very interesting. But how does an army stay sharp? No one want Israel fighting a full-scale war every decade.
Col. Lang writes “The Israeli government is threatened by a failure of confidence in the electorate concerning its competence.” Yes, indeed. I expect the present government to fall within a year, probably sooner. And I see Netanyahu’s name cropping up more and more in news accounts.
I had hoped his political career was about over, but he may be the next PM. And there will be another war with Hezbollah in the next few years, unless Hezbollah mutates into a peaceful Lebanese governing party, which I doubt.
The Argentineans were also surprised by their enemy. But they were fully aware that the British troops especially the RMC the Paras and the SAS were exceptionally able.
The British Governments, politically motivated, will to resist after years of signaling total disinterest in the Falklands or any of their former colonial projects that was unexpected.
I’d make another parallel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Isandlwana a far greater defeat of an arrogantly confident colonial army confronted with an army they regarded as racially inferior but that happened to be lead by more able tacticians. I’d also note it was a pyrrhic victory for the Zulus.
I wouldn’t be so sure about Netanyahu, from what Im reading Tzipi Livni isn’t coming out of this too bad.
In Haaretz, Ari Shavit has an effective indictment of Olmert. (“Olmert Cannot Remain in the Prime Minister’s Office,” Aug. 11.) Among Shavit’s charges is this:
“He mistakenly gambled on air operations, was strangely late with the ground operation, and failed to implement the army’s original plan, much more daring and sophisticated than that which was implemented.”
Does anybody know what the army’s original plan was? This seems to bear on how decrepit or effective the IDF really is these days.
The captured missile in the picture http://www.hnn.co.il/images/albums/967_16248.jpg does not look like a Kornet tube (see, for example, http://img.lenta.ru/news/2005/04/15/missile/picture.jpg).
It appears to be a Metis-M AT-13 (http://worldweapon.ru/images/strelok/metism/metism_02.jpg) , an older and less capable wire-guided missile, or even the original Metis AT-7. Tube attachments on Kornet are spaced closer together, I think.
I think TA’s characterization of “incompetece” is a little too harsh. That being said, the quality of the IDF has always been a little overestimated, since people have tended to judge by its past sweeping victories over generally badly-trained and badly-led opponents.
As for “rust” and “police work” issues, these relate in part to having learned non-transferable combat tactics against the Palestinian intifada.
Palestinian militants tend to be equipped with little more than small arms, IEDs, and a very limited of RPGs and ineffectual home-made anti-tank weapons (in Gaza). In such an environment, tanks and heavy APCs (such as the Achzarits one tends to see operating in south Lebanon, which are converted T-54/55 tanks) are largely impervious to Palestinian fire, unless they drive over a very large IED.
By contrast, Hizb can and does use weapons (TOWs, RPG29s as well as plentiful RPG7s) capable of immobilizing and even penetrating the heavier armour, especially in flanking shots. This has meant that tanks and embarked infantry are much more, not less, vulnerable as they would be in the WBG. Indeed, it appears as if many IDF infantry have been disembarking APCs well short of their destinations and marching to contact with APCs held back because of this.
As BT notes, Hizb’s anti-armour kills also relate to morale, their deployment in dug-in and well camouflaged positions (in some cases, attached to shelter tunnels), their willingness/ability to operate in very small units without wavering (2-4 man anti-tank teams seem to operating semi-independently), and their willingness to hold terrain once they are bypassed, and then “pop up” and shoot when the tactical situation is suitable. In most armies, a small number of guys stuck behind enemy lines would withdraw, not go to ground and wait for a good shot.
As others have noted, Israel’s unwillingness to take significant military casualties has also led them to a slowly-slowly warfighting strategy on the ground, which has left Hizb forces in the south intact longer than might otherwise be the case.
Don’t let the POTUS do it, or I’ll be laughing at pictures of retreating, bloodied Americans soon.
I am new here, I don’t know as much about battle tactics or weapons as most of you, but I have been writing software for the last 15 years. The IDF engineers made the right choice about Windows CE. CE is not the same thing as the Windows XP you have on your desktops; it is a fairly decent (and completely different) realtime system. I would imagine it is a fairly good choice for light battlefield tasks. (Jokes about Windows notwithstanding.)
The questions about the quality about the IDF may be besides the point. In our new global village, parity is coming in many forms. Watching our beloved USA waste billions in Iraq while our infrastructure continues to erode and our Chicken Hawks want us to fight an endless series of colonial wars could bring the whole American Experiment down. I doubt the UN will ever let us starve a country into submission before we de-fang it, like Iraq. Our political culture, with its glorification of air-power war and “liberation” conflicts, needs to adjust to a new world. My sister went with a group to Russia recently. She left with the impression that many Russians would love to us humiliated. And I mean, love to see us damaged. God only knows what they are selling to the Iranians right now….
And sometimes not so high tech systems fail you. Remember those pictures of Israeli soldiers with llamas? Robert Parry over at consortium.com had this explanation:
“One Israeli plan to use llamas to deliver supplies in the rugged terrain of South Lebanon turned into an embarrassment when the animals simply sat down.”
LLAMAS? Every army in the world has used mules and they have given good service once you train qualified muleskinners.
Why must the Israelis constantly try to re-invent the wheel?
In the last 24 hrs a wobbly Olmert and Halutz to redeem their political standing and shore up their credentials launched a major offensive into south Lebanon before the clock apparently “runs out” Mon at 7AM.
But just like the multiple times they took Bint Jbail this major assault to get to the Litani came with a price.
Looks like the IDF plan was to:
While HA’s leader reportedly stated:
In the next days to weeks it should become clearer who is in the “killing box” – IDF or HA or the yet to arrive UNIFIL force. It will also become clearer in the next couple days if this is a real cease of fire. It should be in Israel’s interest to implement the cease-fire to prepare the After Action Report and Lessons Learned and prepare for the next settling of scores. Similarly, it would seem that it is also in HA’s interest to allow some respite to the Lebanese population and enable humanitarian activities. But with no decisive victor and the core issues remaining wouldn’t it be likely the IDF and HA will just continue the fight? Will the French get in the middle of ongoing combat? Will Bush exercise leadership?
Bolstering your point about IDF performance.
Israeli television Channel 2 reported Friday night that several of the country’s most senior military officials wrote a letter to the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, complaining that war plans were in chaos and did not conform to the combat training soldiers and officers have been receiving.
Israeli newspapers are filled with reports of soldiers complaining about food, water and equipment shortages in southern Lebanon. The military was having so much trouble moving supplies over the rough terrain that it experimented with using llamas as pack animals. The experiment failed when an entire train of llamas sat down on the job, forcing the military unit to abort an expedition, according to several news reports.
The Israeli military has allowed few journalists to accompany troops into southern Lebanon. Nahum Barnea, one of the country’s leading political commentators, has been reporting the misfortunes of a unit he accompanied into southern Lebanon.
“The battle between the IDF and Hezbollah is reminiscent of the famous Tom and Jerry cartoons by Hanna-Barbera,” Barnea wrote, using the abbreviation for Israel Defense Forces. “Tom is a strong, ambitious cat. Jerry is a weak but clever mouse. Jerry teases Tom. Tom fights back. In every conflict between them, Jerry wins.”
Llamas on strike? Maybe they did not get fed or their orders!
I think we’ll see the IDF very publicly address its quality problems after this poor show not least because all Arab militaries will have been noting the weaknesses demonstrated. You won’t find an Israeli making the excuse that you go to war with the army you have.
Creveld was right about the corrosive effect of using the IDF for population control. They’ve been doing this for decades now and not very well either. We’ve seen it all fail here; it’s not just the IDF’s tactical errors, the self defeating policy of collective punishment has been used against Lebanon on a grand scale. We’ve seen the result: the cedar revolution has been crushed and Nassrallah’s star has risen.
I come to you from Billmon out of Juan Cole, so to speak, and congratulate you on a fascinating and informative site.
This is just to let you know – in case you didn’t – that Seymour Hersh’s latest article is up on “Vanity Fair:”
It details extensive Israeli/American pre-planning of the Israeli aerial assault on Lebanon, arguing that top Administration officials like Abrams, Cheney and Bush see it as a military dry-run for a US aerial assault on Iran.
Depressingly, he argues that despite the obvious failure of this Israeli project, this is no guarantee that the guys at the top of the White House will read it this way, but rather, in true Panglossian mode, see it as a runaway success. (Intensive intelligence pruning/stove piping similar to that practised in the lead up to the Iraq War seems to be giving them this rosy picture).
He suggests that Rumsfeld is ambivalent about the whole Lebanon intervention, fearing it will spill over into Iraq.
Le Monde is saying that the Lebanese government and Israel have agreed on a cease-fire for 7AM on Monday (tomorrow).
I didn’t know they were at war.
What I’ve heard is that Hezbollah and Israel are at war.
“The German tanks I used to ride have a phone at the rear end for communicating with acompaning infantry. Do Merkava’s have such?”
Merkava 1 and 2 at least were supposed to have it.
The thing is that judging from the drawings it is not in a pretty position. If the tank decides to back suddenly and you do not have very good reflexes
you will be turned into thread grease.
In general I suspect that they want to trade tanks losses for infantry losses to reduce human casualties.
I do not know how much valid such strategy would be.
I found Uri Avnery making a very good point about the almost comical infighting in Israel.
‘To justify himself, Olmert added a significant sentence: “From the first day of the war, the government has not refused the army a single request!” In other words, it is the chief of staff who makes policy and conducts the war, while the political leadership just rubber-stamps everything that the army “requests.” ‘
Israel’s prime minister just tells us he’s not running the show. Didn’t Klausewitz argue that war is the continuation of politics with violent means? If we take Olmert by his word, them something is seriously wrong in Israel. Then they have reached the point where the military determines foreign policy goals and imperatives. A receipe for disaster.
The most recent example for this is IMO the still pretty recent US policy that was simply focused on justifying, and making possible, the already decided on military action in Iraq. Like Schlieffen’s plan that (wrongly) accepted the violation of Belgium’s neutrality as a military inevitability, and tasked policy to live with it. Just look where it has positioned the US, as opposed to mid 2001. They are outcasts as far as foreign policy is concerned. Israel will be going down the same route. Maybe the neocons are encouraging Israel because it’s so lonely out in the cold.
From the pool of German ideas, Israel instinctically seems to have picked the worst: The idea of Palestine as their ‘Lebensraum’, ‘ius sanguis’ (resulting in a two class citizenry; Israel is not exactly a model democracy) and ‘blood for soil’ (at least for the settlers), a heavy dose of militarism and paranoia about two-front wars.
When I was a boy lieutenant I had the same problem. Our tanks had a phone on the back as you say, but the moment in which you walked up to the tank and picked up the phone was a “dicy” one.
People do not understand how fast a tank can move and as you say a tank in reverse and turning will turn an infantry leader into a grease spot. pl
Aside from the easy shots at the Ayatollahs of Redmond, it’s surprising to me that the IDF wouldn’t have a proprietary platform. If one wanted to interfere with their control and communications, being able to buy CE off the shelf would be a huge head start – much in the same way that a big break for ULTRA in WWII was getting an Enigma machine from the Poles.
Israel has had a reputation for modifying pre-packaged systems; I recall a story about their mounting rear-view mirrors on the F-15’s they bought in the ’80s. However, their own information tech industry is in the forefront, hardware-wise anwyay. So buying Windows for their military may be a sign that a) they’ve cheaped out, or b) they’re so cock-sure of their own superiority that the possibility of any of their opponents breaking their coms is unimagineable. Their underestimation of HA’s capabilities has been a problem for them thus far, and this would fit the pattern.
I also wonder about how efficient communicating via laptop is in that terrain, even with satellites.
Some of their other security systems also runs on Windows platofrm; I heard of a border-crossing identification system.
But using Windows makes a lot of sense since it reduces the total cost of the platform at acceptable risks.
Even US Navy is using off-the-shelf components in certain instances.
It is too expensive to produce these building bloacks from scratch (although Chinese are trying).
You are completely correct, but keep in mind that any war-fighting composite will have a number of systems. Some of these systems are critical, some are less so. (Although what might be considered “critical” from a software architect’s point of view is not necessarily what a soldier would consider critical.) Windows CE would be an appropriate platform for some of the less critical systems whereas the critical systems would have custom software written, perhaps on a custom platform. I would not be worried about the secure aspects of the software. Hackers are able to enter computers because they have some method of ingress – such as a connection to the Internet. A warfighting system should be completely sealed off, and in such a case, there is no way for a hacker to get in to it. More concerning would be bugs, but these would be revealed through testing before being fielded.
The real savings from a software development standpoint is that one has a platform to rely on. Any software you write has a particular set of behaviors; many sub-systems tend to have similar sets of behaviors for most things, and then diverge in certain areas. If you will pardon the example, you and a dog will have a similar response to many diseases, but the way you walk is completely different. To continue the analogy, a software engineer will “borrow” the disease behaviors from a platform, writing only the code specific for walking. The reason for the savings is not only in development, but also in testing: if you have already built disease-handling into your platform and are sure it works, you don’t have to keep testing it.
The costs for testing complex systems go up combinatorially; each time you introduce a new sub-system into a complex, you have to test all combinations with the new sub-system. Consequently, software architect are always looking for similarities in ways sub-systems behave. Essentially, architecture is the little more than the art of finding the best abstractions for the problems one is trying to solve. The Chinese may be developing something from scratch, but I’ll bet they will eventually end up using some in-house built variant of Linux.
When he took office, Rumsfeld was extremely eager to use these development methodologies on the nation’s warfighting systems, almost all of which seem to have been developed from scratch. The basic concept is sound, in my opinion it is going to be very difficult to do because [a] it requires an immense intellectual effort on the part of whatever team of architects is going to be trying to deal with it; it is easily many many man-decades of work from extremely bright people just to get a plan as to what to do and [b] there’s going to be extremely hard push-back from the weapons developers who don’t like standardizing – that will take away their lock on the lucrative contracts and vastly increase the number of bidders.
Not sure I agree that the HA are only competent. Why should they have higher casualty ratios that what they have when their opponent has armor )which they don’t) complete air supremacy and artillery?
Under such circumstances I would expect the casualty ratio to be worse than it is, even given fortification.
No, I think I’ll kick HA into the far better than average category, even if it is also true that the Iraelis have been fighting badly (which I do agree they have been.)
Great, lucid explanation. Thank you.
I’m no military historian, but something John Howley said echoed what my Israeli-American friend told me on the phone 8/13/06
Howley: “Another fundamental change in Israeli society has been the fading of the old Labor-Zionist model of equality and collective sacrifice. It has been replaced by privatization and the mentality of “I’ve got mine.”
My friend is in her mid-40s, served in the IDF the training corps; she is also of the elite, her father is an Irgun veteran and retired diplomat, her older brother was a senior commander in the 1982 invasion. She said to me that “nobody in the younger generation wants to fight. In my time we all felt that if you were fit, you went into combat, to protect us, because Israel only fights in self-defense. That all changed in 1982” she added. Her nephews, sons of the 1982 commander (now deceased) got psychiatric waivers to avoid the draft. I suspect that the “everybody” she knows is the elite – she doesn’t know lower class Israelis, recent immigrants, etc. She knows the people who run the country.
Howley also said:
“The individualistic, market-oriented culture seems not to fit well with an army based around universal service and reserves. A shift to a professional army is long overdue.”
My friend has been complaining to me for years now about how selfish and materialistic Israeli society has become. She is always unhappy when she comes back from a visit home to Israel. “When I was young, all anybody cared about was drinkign tea on each other’s terraces and talking. Now everybody works long hours so they can have all this stuff.” She’s no intellectual – but she has described in her simple terms this shift from the collectivist society where “everybody helps each other” to the more market-oriented society.
Interesting that this affects the military. Oh yes, she said that the military was way under-prepared, didn’t have enough trained troops ready, used lots of reserves. And so the casualties also left behind many families with children…
Just thought this assessment from my Israeli-American friend was the woman-on-the-street version of Howley’s comment (well she gets her info by phone from her parents in Tel Aviv – so some of this is “my dad says”).
The IDF has heavily censored detailed reports of how the ground war fighting has gone. The lack of progress does speak loudly but the why of the poor performance has been so far as I can tell often a matter of guess work, and knowledge by some US military officers of some of Israel’s ground weaknesses going into this campaign.
Well here is a quite revealing account in a Jerusalem Post linked blog, by a single IDF soldier fighting in the last days of the war. He is a reservist rather than a full time elite solider it’s true. But I think it reveals much.
It’s clear that their initial mission of going after a large grouping of Katyusha rocket batteries in the Lebanese hills near the border and in range of Haifa and other N.Western Israeli cities soon degenerated into an effort to stay alive and particularly rescue not only wounded follow soldiers but also dead bodies (least they be captured for “ransom” we’re told.) That begs the question of why Israel would consider ransoming dead soldier bodies a top priority in the middle of an ongoing campaign that they certainly aren’t winning, and really are losing, and which they tell us is of “existential” importance. As well the aversion to taking any casualties at all, or seeing any of their colleagues killed is extreme.
It’s hard for me to see how the US and Britain could have taken the beachheads of Normandy, much less have prevailed on Iwo Jima (where my father fought and received a purple heart and silver medal) or Okinowa with this attitude.
In short, the Israeli Army looks simultaneously arrogant at the top and well, soft and chicken at the bottom. Yes chicken. With misplaced values that aren’t conducive to surviving in a really tough fight or tough neighborhood. Once you’ve secured victory and taken the area, sure go retrieve you bodies. But to degenerate you whole mission in that and avoiding any casualties at all or any POW’s is WEAK.
It had to be said.