Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Providing the Tactical Echelon with Strategic Capabilities - Amir Rapaport

by Amir Rapaport

Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvi Fux, VP Strategic Affairs of IMI, speaks about the far-reaching changes expected in land warfare pursuant to Operation Protective Edge. Exclusive

Once every few years, a profound change takes place with regard to the build-up of power, and we are now witnessing precisely that kind of change,” says Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvika (Zvi) Fux, VP Strategic Affairs of IMI.

Fux, who will be one of the primary speakers at the GFID (Ground Forces Israel Defense) Conference in Latroun (May 5-6, 2015), landed at IMI after a long career in the IDF. He spent the major part of his command career in the IDF Artillery Corps, and his last military position was Head of Doctrine & Organization in the IDF Ground Arm. In the context of his senior positions in the defense industry and as an IDF officer in reserve, following his discharge, Fux has closely monitored regional and global processes and the changes taking place in all of the force build-up elements of the ground forces, including the acquisition of new weapon systems, changes in operational concepts, in force structure and in training activities.

Accordingly, he is in charge, within IMI, of consolidating the Company’s strategy and adapting its products to the changes expected in the IDF and worldwide. The strategic decisions made by IMI in the last few years are already yielding results: in 2014-2015, about 70% of the Company’s products being sold had been developed during the last five-year period, mostly for the benefit of combined-arms operations under complex environmental conditions.

Moreover, layouts of accurate artillery rockets to various ranges (40 to 250 kilometers) developed in the context of IMI’s strategic concept have been sold in recent years to numerous armed forces. IMI has recently finalized a project involving the development of a fire delivery layout based on a new operational concept known as “fire bases” for the military of an Asian country.

According to Fux, the changes that have taken place in the IDF Ground Arm during the last decade will now lead to another significant wave of changes. “Insights gained pursuant to Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 will lead to the next major changes, just as the Second Lebanon War of 2006 was a significant turning point,” says Fux. “A review is currently under way as to whether the concept of the IDF is still relevant vis-à-vis the changes that had taken place on the battlefield. In my opinion, those changes call for a completely different force build-up process.”

According to Fux, “We at IMI are oriented toward the clients’ needs, so we introduced an organizational change that meets those needs (the establishment of the Company’s new business divisions). In the last few months, we reviewed all of the processes that had taken place, in order to draw lessons and be ready for the next round.

“According to my approach, we should prepare for potential fighting in several different sectors. The starting point is the ever-increasing number of threats, as well as the fact that the situation is one of profound uncertainty. In order to cope with this situation, several holy cows must be slaughtered.

“At the time, the Second Lebanon War re-clarified the importance of ground maneuvering and the need to find a different balance between fire and maneuvering. We progressed with that way of thinking from Operation Cast Lead (the fighting in the Gaza Strip in 2009) through Operation Protective Edge.

“The last operation has once again raised the issue of maneuvering in other contexts. For example, one issue that became highly acute involved combat operations in the subterranean medium. Many positive things that had taken place with regard to the combined-arms aspect were raised as well. The combined-arms operations reached a very high level of performance that is unprecedented worldwide. The factors that enabled these combined-arms operations were numerous capabilities that matured during Operation Protective Edge, including various command and control systems.”

Enhanced Maneuverability

Pursuant to Operation Protective Edge, the IDF command made the decision to step up the manufacture of hundreds of Merkava (Namer) APCs in order to improve the mobility of the infantry forces, and at the same time establish light formations that will mobilize combat troops using wheeled vehicles. According to Fux, IMI offered the IDF a new wheeled combat vehicle designated CombatGuard. Generally, in his estimate, the recent fighting proved that the elements of the IDF’s maneuverability, above and under the ground, should be improved significantly, as the primary effort in recent years had focused on the development of advanced integrated fire delivery capabilities.

Is it your intention that maneuverability should be enhanced?

“At present, the fire delivery capabilities are far superior to the maneuvering capabilities. In view of this issue, we have come to a situation where a target should be identified and the fire delivery cycles should be closed quickly in order to engage it. The enemy has learned this, too, and in order to analyze the territory you sometimes need a small maneuvering force to close the fire cycles. Once such a force operates on the ground, especially in an urban environment, it requires technological resources.

“Generally, the tactical commander should be provided with a strategic capability. You can see a platoon commander who marches somewhere and requests substantial support – and you give him a rocket. The same rocket may be provided in the same manner to the battalion commander level and to higher levels. The connection on the ground should include fire and maneuvering – without depending on the Air Force, which should deal with the long-distance objectives assigned to it. The ground maneuver can be provided with fire support on a different level, with amazing capabilities.

“You can also combine the long-distance precision ground fire with the Air Force, using a sort of ‘target tendering’ system. For example, in a situation where a battalion commander needs a 100-kg bomb dropped on a certain target. Thus far, he would have been told to wait until an aircraft departed from an airbase somewhere, so that it may carry out the job. But in many cases a prompt response is required and waiting is not an option. With precision ground munitions, we at IMI actually told the IAF that we are entering a tender that has thus far been the exclusive domain of the Air Force.

“So, things should be viewed in broad contexts, as one big package. I am confident that the ‘fire bases’ concept will eventually be adopted by the IDF as well. It is a necessity. You can engage targets deep inside enemy territory, too, with the capabilities these bases possess. Now, that the attack helicopter layout is gradually fading away, this fact may be compensated for fully using the fire and maneuvering capabilities – and these are the real news. The Corps of Combat Engineers are also undergoing a profound change, and we provide them with highly advanced technologies.”

What is the intention of the “Fire Base” concept you refer to?

“The idea is to take a number of rocket launchers, deploy them somewhere and employ them from that point over a broad sector.

“We, as IMI, are actually positioned at the primary force-build up routes. It should be said to the credit of IMI’s CEO Avi Felder that he knew how to make the Company highly relevant to the changes that have already taken place on the battlefield.

“Regarding the maneuvering issue, I think it is time to slaughter the ‘holy cow’ of organic operation (employing forces through organic units that belong to a superior formation such as a brigade or a division). The enemy changes constantly and you must adapt yourself to those changes. We must prepare to make changes during the actual fighting.”

So you are referring, in fact, to relatively small, modular forces that may be transferred from one command to another as required?

“Yes. The mission is the main thing. The commander should know what resources are available to him – heavy, medium and light maneuvering elements. At the same time, he should be supported by regional capabilities in fire support, logistics, intelligence and several other resources.”

According to your concept, is the division, as a basic formation, no longer relevant?

“It is no longer as necessary as it used to be. If you review the division with regard to the aspect of flexibility and maneuverability – you will realize that the division has no flexibility. With the advanced fire delivery capabilities and regional capabilities currently available, you can provide the lower echelons with strategic capabilities, and you will no longer need the friction with the divisional HQ. As a result, the brigades are establishing small fire management centers. The technology makes you skip that level.”

Is that the change you envision?

“Yes. Definitely. I think the objective will be to establish a small force possessing all of the capabilities. It will build itself according to the mission at hand. This formation will rely for support on regional capabilities – C3 and so forth, fire support capabilities, fire bases, logistics and so forth. This thing exists, and every commander maneuvers in his own sector, utilizing these capabilities. But every commander faces certain gaps, which we have identified.”

IMI has won a tender issued by the IDF Ground Arm for the supply of new, accurate mortar bombs, designated Dagger. When will these mortar bombs become available to the forces on the ground?

“I hope they will be delivered by late 2016. In our view, the development of the accurate mortar bombs in cooperation with the IDF Ground Arm is definitely a growth engine. It fits well into the entire range of precision munitions by IMI.

“I would like to say a word about the IDF Armored Corps, which proved themselves to maximum effect during Operation Protective Edge. We have re-established the tank as a highly relevant weapon system owing to the APAM-MP-T (Anti-Personnel, Anti-Materiel, Multi-Purpose, Tracer) M329 cartridge and the HE-MP-T (High Explosive, Multi-Purpose, Tracer) M339 cartridge developed by IMI (cartridges producing reduced collateral damage that are better suited to urban warfare). Owing to these munitions, the Armored Corps have once again established themselves as a service possessing relevant fire delivery capabilities and fit effectively into the combined-arms battle. The infantry forces have also been highly effective recently, and they are being strengthened further. The main gap they face, as stated, is in the field of troop mobilization.”

Has the high-precision fire, in which much had been invested toward a high degree of accuracy, become over accurate? Some claims to that effect were voiced following Operation Protective Edge…

“I agree that to some extent, a phenomenon we call ‘The Accuracy Paradox’ does exist. The paradox is that you shoot yourself in the foot because of that absolute accuracy, as ostensibly you cannot also employ weapons with statistical dispersion on the battlefield, owing to the concern of hitting uninvolved parties. I think that the effect of statistical fire should be preserved, as it turned out to be highly important during Operation Protective Edge in the context of extricating forces that had become trapped. We as an industry want to provide accurate weapon systems, but in my opinion, the fighting forces need those weapon systems in the appropriate dosage – not exclusively.” 

Amir Rapaport


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