[Dr. Aaron Lerner – IMRA: As Israel continues it’s “quiet for quiet” policy
that set absolutely no red lines on Hamas weapons deployments in the Gaza
Strip one can only wonder if just as Maj. Gen. Guy Zur concedes the IDF was
basically clueless about the significance of the tunnels and unprepared to
deal with them, the IDF may be clueless today about the significance of
what Hamas is preparing for the next round and unprepared to deal with it.]

The gaps we discovered with regard to the subterranean threat….We
underestimated the magnitude of the threat…We didn’t see that it was at
the heart of the enemy’s CONOP.
Interview: Maj. Gen. Guy Zur, Israel Ground Forces Command
GovMedia 12:03 p.m. EDT October 29, 2015

TEL AVIV — Next month, the Israel Defense Forces General Staff will hold a
series of closed-door deliberations to finalize its proposed Plan Gideon, an
estimated 82 billion shekel (US $21 billion) modernization plan through
2020. Compared to previous plans, a larger share of funding — nearly 40
percent — is slated for upgrading combined arms maneuvering capabilities and
combat readiness of ground forces.

As the man responsible for organizing, training and equipping the Israeli
Army, Maj. Gen. Guy Zur is designing the future force for at least a decade
to come. He shared highlights from his strategic blueprint, dubbed Ground
Horizon, which aims to render ground forces much more decisive than they
were in the 2006 Lebanon war or in the most recent Protective Edge campaign
in Gaza.

Q. What major factors have you taken into account in your proposed blueprint
for the IDF’s future ground force?

A. We needed to look at the enemy and the changes he’s undergone, anticipate
changes we’re likely to face in the future and determine the best way to
apply all the lessons we’re learning. Based on all this, we have an
understanding of what materiel, technologies and operational concepts are
needed for a very strong and effective maneuvering force across a spectrum
of scenarios.

Q. Plan Gideon is for five years, but your blueprint, what you call Ground
Horizon, extends further into the future, correct?

A. Gideon will start from 2016 and run through 2020, but we’re all looking
at least 10 years, sometimes 20 years ahead. My portion, which we call
Ground Horizon, is a process that took about a year. With major
modernization plans, like tanks, big guns and troop carriers, we need to
think how they’ll develop over 20 years since such a huge investment is

Q. Considering all the above, what is the goal for fortifying and crafting
the future ground force?

A. To be decisive over what we call disappearing enemies; forces that are
often invisible and have largely learned to counter our methods of

The fact is that today, there is no enemy around us that can achieve his
objectives against us. At the end of the day, when the IDF is required to
achieve victory over the enemy, we will know how to do it through maneuvers
and every situation.

Q. Critics would say 75 Israelis killed in 50 days of fighting in the summer
2014 Gaza war was unreasonable. What’s your view?

A. You always need to ask what you want to achieve and how. In Protective
Edge, we wanted to achieve a certain end-state without vanquishing Hamas. …
Everyone knew the game plan, and it required us to achieve this in a
different way (by directly confronting the tunnels). In the end, Hamas is
extremely weakened and won’t be ready for another round for a long time, and
that was the objective we set for ourselves. But this question is a major
lesson of Protective Edge, and a major driver of our Ground Horizon plan.

Q. Would 50 days be considered reasonable for the next ground war in

A. That’s too open a question. It must be considered in political,
diplomatic and international context. It depends on what would motivate our
government to go for this action in the first place. Imagine if the
alternative was huge sustained casualties to the homefront. Under those
circumstances, our government may be willing to pay costs associated with
fully maximized, high-intensity ground maneuvering, and not just pinpoint,
tactical objectives.

Q. So what have you learned?

A. We have to develop proper commanders at all echelons, from the smallest
squad to corps commanders, and we cannot compromise on our training regime.
It must be consistent and not be subjected to budgetary-driven halts and
restarts as we’ve done in the past. And we must tailor force training to
specific challenges.

Q. Are you referring to the tunnel threat, which I assume was a major lesson
of the last Gaza campaign?

A. The gaps we discovered with regard to the subterranean threat were pretty
much across the board in terms of technology, operational concept and
training. We underestimated the magnitude of the threat. Our training was a
matter of too little, too late. When we asked ourselves what was our
certified capability for this mission, we realized we were deficient, but we
didn’t realize to what extent. We didn’t see that it was at the heart of the
enemy’s CONOP. Gaza is an entire city on top of a city.

Q. But capabilities exist in other industries, for example, the energy
exploration industry, no? Couldn’t they be adapted for the sands of Gaza, or
the mountains along the Lebanese and Syrian borders?

A. In the Gaza context, we suffered from the fact that the technology is not
yet developed for threats 20-30 meters deep. It doesn’t really interest the
industry. We looked at what we could take from other industrial sectors, but
the truth is, they are not readily adaptable for our particular threat. And
anyone who claims otherwise is being misleading.

During Protective Edge, we were able to improvise; to take things that weren’t
developed for this purpose and adapt them for the mission.

Q. So where are you today? We’ve seen an MoD program called Snake Pit,
growing proficiency of your Combat Engineering Corps, use of robotics,
canines, etc.

A. We’ve advanced a lot, but still, the subterranean threat demands
solutions. We have answers for part of the problems, but I can’t elaborate.
Suffice it to say there is no magic solution. But the most important
progress is that we’ve adopted a certain technique that we can use to fight
this threat. We now have a validated, formal CONOP that was codified into
manuals immediately after Protective Edge.

Q. What’s next with regard to the tunnel threat?

A. We understand that it’s not enough to have a unique capability entrusted
with a small number of forces. We need to give these means and methods to
all of our forces, and to train accordingly. Now we’re building the
infrastructure to train in, and as we train, we’re discovering we have very
creative and resourceful commanders who have been able to improve on
operational methods. The best thing to happen to us will be to turn these
tunnels into death traps. Once we know how to do this, we’ll be in a very
different place.

Q. What other lessons inspired your future force blueprint?

A. With regard to combined arms battle, we are emphasizing the need for
every battalion to transform itself into a hybrid unit when necessary. We
decided not to do this organically, since our forces are busy with routine
operations and we need to preserve the traditional, professional chain of
command. But our training is such that our combat missions are no longer
single service. There’s no longer armor without infantry, combat
engineering, intel and artillery capabilities, which is something we couldn’t
say about the second Lebanon war or even Cast Lead [the December
2008-January 2009 operation in Gaza]. And it’s all connected through the

Q. Your people often speak of cross-service interoperability and joint force
combat. This has been a priority for several years now, no?

A. Absolutely. When I look a decade or two ahead, I don’t know if the term
interoperability with air and sea forces will still be relevant. That’s
because it’s clear there needs to be a single force fighting in the same
domain, all of which must be supported by a robust integrated C4I network.

We understand that even if we’re not organized like this in routine
operations, the need to operate in wartime against disappearing enemies is a
basic need.

Q. Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, IDF chief of staff, recently announced his
decision to stand up a commando brigade. What was the rationale?

A. Because we’re not a rich Army, we needed to prioritize in a way that the
improved capabilities, and lethality of a few can influence larger combat
goals. We need to entrust a good part of our qualitative edge to those units
that can rapidly deliver added value in complex operations, whether they are
in the urban theater, against subterranean threats or in other conditions.
We understood that once we optimize special forces for these missions and
give them everything they need in terms of weaponry, resources and training,
we can strengthen ourselves with a certain center of gravity that was
previously diffused.

So we’re merging elite units from infantry, combat engineering, artillery
and technological specialists and grooming them for high-end, elite

Q. What about active protection systems (APS)? Are these prerequisites not
only for tanks, but for troop carriers and other ground vehicles as well?

A. Even before Protective Edge, the [Rafael-developed Trophy] APS deployed
on Merkava Mk4s has proven to be an enormous success. Now we’re equipping
Namer heavy APCs with this capability, the first of which will probably go
to our Golani infantry brigade. Our APS is performing beyond expectations.
It will be the Iron Dome for our infantry.

But it’s expensive. Every platform must be equipped. So we’ll have to
prioritize and outfit only those units facing more complex threats such as
the disappearing enemy I’ve spoken about.