IDF announces plans to turn Kfir Brigade into ‘superior’ infantry force

Military says move, which would put the unit on par with other infantry brigades, is part of multi-year Momentum Plan to improve army

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi addresses a group of Kfir Brigade soldiers stationed at the Gaza border on January 22, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi addresses a group of Kfir Brigade soldiers stationed at the Gaza border on January 22, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Wednesday announced plans for the Kfir Brigade to be converted into a “superior” infantry unit, one that will be on par with the military’s four other infantry brigades.

As part of the change, the Kfir Brigade will receive additional weaponry, personnel, vehicles and training, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters.

“This is a big change for the brigade,” he said.

Zilberman said the decision was part of the IDF’s multi-year Momentum Plan, which is designed to make the military more effective.

“It was decided that the IDF needs more infantry and that that infantry needs to be more lethal,” he said.

Soldiers from the Kfir Infantry Brigade simulate war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, in November 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The roll-out of the Momentum Plan, which went into effect at the beginning of this year, has stalled somewhat, due largely to the lack of a fully functioning government to approve the necessary changes and budget increases.

In the meantime, the IDF is relying on three sources of funding: the continuing budget from last year, internal reorganizations and funding changes, as well as military aid provided by the United States as part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by US President Barack Obama in 2016, which grants approximately $3.8 billion to the IDF each year until 2028.

Soldiers from the IDF’s Kfir Brigade run to capture a hill during a training exercise in the Jordan Valley on November 28, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

The Kfir Infantry Brigade — Israel’s youngest — was formed in 2005, specifically to counter Palestinian terror activities inside the West Bank. That has largely remained its focus for over a decade, though it has in recent years begun deployments along the Gaza border as well.

Under the new plan, the Kfir Brigade will become a full maneuvering brigade, similar to the Paratroopers, Givati, Golani and Nahal Brigades.

The new Kfir Brigade will focus primarily on urban combat, an area in which it already specializes. The personnel carriers that will be given to the brigade will be wheeled vehicles, not the treaded APCs that the IDF’s other infantry brigades use, Zilberman said.

The changes to the brigade, including a significant alteration to the unit’s structure, will be rolled out beginning later this year, he said.

The major change will be a reduction in the number of battalions in the unit, as IDF maneuvering brigades only have four, while Kfir currently has five.

It was not immediately made clear what would be done with the brigade’s fifth battalion.

The guiding principle for Kohavi’s Momentum Plan, or Tenufa in Hebrew, was that a future war must be won as quickly as possible, requiring the military to have at the ready a concrete list of targets, the measures needed to hit them and the ability to do so rapidly.

The proposed plan will see huge investments in developing the IDF’s arsenals, including increasing its collection of mid-sized drones, obtaining large numbers of precision-guided missiles from the US and purchasing additional air defense batteries.

The military will also focus its training exercises more heavily towards urban combat, as it believes that its soldiers are more likely to fight in cities and towns than in the open fields where many drills are currently held.

The plan formally went into effect on January 1, 2020, and is meant to guide the IDF for the next five years. It will succeed the streamlining and cost-cutting Gideon Plan, which was developed by Kohavi’s predecessor Lt. Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot.

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