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Israel is Seeking to Achieve 'Land Dominance' in the Battlefield

Israel's land forces command outlines a strategic thrust to achieve 'land dominance', by employing combined maneuver and firepower to gain decisive victory in future wars

The IDF intentionally refrained from large-scale ground maneuver operations during the 2006 Lebanon War. This was one of the causes of it's poor showing, which left the scene, for the first time in it's history, without clear and visible decision, both militarily and political. As the war was examined in depth by the so-called Winograd Commission, it became clear to decision-makers, that extensive ground operations, relying on large-scale, rapid maneuver warfare remain significant elements in any future warfighting, both high-intensive and asymmetric, in which the IDF will have to defend it's nation against looming threats, both at the frontline and especially in the vulnerable rear zone.

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To regain it's capability to maneuver effectively in threat infected areas, the IDF is preparing its forces to achieve 'land dominance' throughout the battle area, during high intensity as well as asymmetric warfare operations. This topic was discussed in details at the '2nd Latrun Conference for Land Warfare, organized this month by 'Yad Lashiryon', Israel's Armor Association and Memorial Center.

'Land Dominance' has not been achieved during the 2006 Lebanon War, despite extensively rehearsed plans and preparations; the political level and IDF high command was reluctant to launch a ground campaign, opting in favor of employing a standoff attack strategy, by statistical and precision guided weapons. As the stand-off firepower based operational concept dominated the IDF warfighting concept, through the recent years, the IDF land forces overtasked with security and counter-terror operations suffered continuous degradation in training, resulting in the loss of essential knowledge and capabilities, primarily at the middle rank tactical command level.

Lack of training, and inadequate equipment became key to the overall poor performance demonstrated by the ground forces during the conflict. On the other side, extensive preparations by Hezbollah, instructed by Iranian and Syrian experts, challenged IDF ground forces. Whenever the Israelis entered hostile territory, they encountered extensive maneuver inhibiting measures, including well-prepared anti-tank threats, IEDs as well as sophisticated electronic and information warfare elements, designed to prevent the IDF from accomplishing significant ground gains. The main problem, which persisted throughout the entire war, was an unimaginative and indecisive conduct of ground operations at a larger scale, inserting insufficient forces into focal points of strategic and operative value.

The lack of focus to achieve 'Land Dominance' – a situation where land forces perform a series of rapid and decisive operations, employing maneuver forces throughout the battle area, precisely, lethally and effectively, to defeat the enemy, was identified soon after the war in after action reports. Lacking area dominance, and recognizing the vulnerability of the individual elements, the IDF response to threats was incomplete, insufficient and deliberate tactical moves were rapidly reduced to evacuation of casualties after initial engagements with the enemy. In an attempt to reduce vulnerability to stand-off anti-tank missile threats the IDF limited operations to night time. Furthermore, movement of lightly armored vehicles was prohibited throughout the theater while heavy armor was ordered to move off-road, which was proven highly challenging for the inexperienced crews. These factors had a negative effect on combat support and combat service support to forward forces, severely degrading their operational effectiveness and combat flexibility.

Having been clearly identified by in-depth research and after-action lessons, these deficiencies are being addressed through an aggressive overall training and force build-up process, determined to achieve and maintain 'land superiority' through all types of future conflicts. According to Col. Yizhak Elimelech, head of Land R&D Division at the Ground Forces Command, the IDF determined the element of survivability as a critical aspect for 'land dominance'. "If we invest adequately in means and R&D we can gain land dominance capability within 10 years" Elimelech concluded.

Next: Addressing the call for better maneuverability, the IDF Plans to Increase Land Forces Survivability

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Further Reading from the conference: