On Sunday, the IDF provided one of many updates about the activities of its forces battling Hamas in Gaza.
In doing so, it underscored capabilities that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago: a network-based war machine that creates unprecedented levels of coordination between and within ground, air, naval and intelligence units, and rapid elimination of evasive enemy targets upon their detection, often within a few minutes.
“IDF troops identified a terrorist cell barricaded inside a house in the area that posed a threat to the forces. IDF troops directed an aircraft and fired at the terrorists, killing the terrorists,” the military stated on Sunday.
“In addition, following the identification of an anti-tank missile launched from a weapons storage facility inside a building, a fighter jet struck the source of the fire.
“Yesterday, IDF troops operated in the northern Gaza Strip and identified four terrorists in their vicinity. The troops directed a UAV to the area and killed three terrorists. The UAV continued in pursuit of the additional terrorist, who attempted to flee through crowded alleyways, and struck him a short while thereafter,” the army said.
This ability of field officers to activate fighter jets, UAVs, tanks and navy ships is the result of the IDF’s ongoing transformation in its approach to warfare. This shift, which started around 2006, has been characterized by a move towards decentralized capabilities, greater integrated use of technology, and a focus on urban warfare tactics.
This evolution in IDF strategy began to take shape following the realization after “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008–2009 against Hamas in Gaza, in which infantry forces faced significant challenges in urban combat, particularly against enemy squads hidden in civilian areas. The IDF recognized urban warfare as the new face of war, a departure from the traditional focus on Syria as the primary enemy.
Digital Army Program
A critical aspect of this transformation is the Digital Army Program, known as Tzayad or “Hunter,” based on its Hebrew acronym. This program created a digital command and control network, dubbed Torch 750 (made by Elbit Systems), which has been essential for the IDF’s evolution. A new version of the Torch 750 was rolled out in 2020.
The system feeds devices held by field commanders with updated battlefield pictures of blue (friendly) forces and red (hostile) forces, and links ground forces to the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Navy in new ways.
This network allows for more effective air-ground coordination, enhancing the military’s operational efficiency.
Post-2014, IDF battalions started receiving capabilities previously reserved for larger units. These include close air support, unmanned aerial vehicle strike capabilities, and intelligence directly from the Military Intelligence Directorate. This enabled battalions to act more autonomously and respond quickly to emerging threats.
The IDF also focused on adapting its infantry battalions for urban combat, equipping tanks with shells modified for such scenarios and incorporating elements such as K-9 units and special engineering units, without burdening regular infantry soldiers with their use.
Battalion commanders now have access to aerial reconnaissance UAVs such as the Sky Rider drones, enhancing their situational awareness.
The role of battalion commanders has evolved considerably. They have transitioned from leading forces from a tank turret to utilizing precise intelligence and activating precision ground firepower, including calling in fighter jets. This change has necessitated battalions receiving their own headquarters, where intelligence analysts can sift through data and feed it to the battalion.
The IDF’s shift to network-based warfare involves coordinating efforts across military units through a unified digital command network. This approach is part of the Victory Concept developed by former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. The concept stresses the rapid destruction of enemy capabilities and focusing firepower on vital targets.
In this battlespace, where enemies have access to off-the-shelf UAVs that can drop grenades and fire rockets and anti-tank missiles from civilian areas, the IDF emphasizes rapid target detection and precision strikes.
The integration of intelligence and firepower through command networks and the use of artificial intelligence are key components of this approach.
This comprehensive restructuring of the IDF is now on full display in Gaza, where it has helped the military break down Hamas’s battalions and their ambushes and lines of defense, despite their deep embedment in Gazan civilian areas.
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