The IDF's guiding principle: Win quickly

IDF unveils ‘Momentum Plan’ to make it deadlier and faster, if it can pay for it

Army chief intends to spend large sums to outfit troops with better gear and improve air defenses in order to deal a powerful blow to Israel’s enemies before they can hit back

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

IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi holds a meeting around a camp fire with senior Air Force officers on October 23, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi holds a meeting around a camp fire with senior Air Force officers on October 23, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Thursday unveiled his multi-year plan to make the military deadlier, faster, better trained and more capable of defending the Jewish state against the threats facing it today.

“In the northern and southern arenas the situation is tense and precarious and poised to deteriorate into a conflict despite the fact that our enemies are not interested in war. In light of this, the IDF has been in an accelerated process of preparation,” Kohavi said.

The plan — dubbed Momentum, or Tenufa in Hebrew — 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 United States and purchasing additional air defense batteries.

The military will also focus its training exercises more heavily toward 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.

IDF and Cypriot National Guard soldiers take part in a joint exercise at the Israeli army’s Tzeelim training base in southern Israel on October 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Despite the weighty price tag of the Momentum Multi-Year Plan, the IDF refused to comment on how it planned to pay for the new weapons and defensive systems, as the Finance Ministry has not approved the necessary budget increase.

The plan will formally go into effect on January 1, 2020, but the IDF sets to put into place some of the proposals before then. The Momentum Plan 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.

Kohavi laid out the framework for the Momentum Plan in April 2019, and the IDF’s top brass spent the last six months working out the finer details of the overhaul.

Win quickly

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

That view comes from the fact that the IDF’s primary foe in the region — the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah — maintains a massive arsenal of some 130,000 rockets and missiles that it would be able to use to attack Israeli strategic sites and population centers.

In any future war, the IDF believes it would have to quickly defeat Hezbollah to cut down on the amount of time that the terrorist militia would have to attack Israel.

Hezbollah supporters take part in a procession on the tenth day of Muharram which marks the day of Ashura, on September 10, 2019 in Baalbek, Lebanon. (Stringer/AFP)

In order to do so, the military’s Momentum Plan focuses on improving Military Intelligence’s ability to locate targets in enemy territory, outfitting troops from across the IDF with better and more weapons and equipment, and focusing exercises on the type of fighting that soldiers are expected to experience.

Under the plan, Kohavi will create a task force dedicated to picking targets that will bring together Military Intelligence, the Israeli Air Force and the IDF’s three regional commands. The task force will comprise existing elements of those units and will also expand the use of technology — namely artificial intelligence and big data — in identifying potential targets for military strikes.

“This will improve the number and quality of the targets in the different regions,” the military said earlier this year.

Kohavi also plans to spend vast sums of money on improved gear and weapons for the IDF, including hundreds of millions of shekels to outfit the military’s front-line soldiers with better equipment.

An Israeli Hermes 450 drone flies above the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The army chief intends to purchase additional Hermes-450 drones, a mid-sized model that according to foreign reports can be used for both intelligence-gathering and attack operations.

Under the plan, the IDF will also obtain precision-guided missiles from the United States as part of the $3.8 billion a year Washington provides to Israel each year under the Memorandum of Understanding signed by former US president Barack Obama in 2016.

These precision-guided munitions are key elements in allowing the IDF to effectively destroy an enemy’s weapons caches with less collateral damage.

In addition to the offensive equipment Kohavi intends to purchase, the military plans to invest in its air defense systems in order to better protect the country’s key infrastructure and population centers.

Illustrative photo of an Iron Dome Missile Defense battery firing an interceptor missile on August 9, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

This is meant to include a new deployment strategy for existing air defenses and establishing an eighth full-time Iron Dome system. (The military has additional batteries that are staffed in cases of emergency or heightened tensions.)

Kohavi also intends to change the way that Israeli troops conduct training exercises, having them focus more on combat in urban environments from an understanding that this is where future wars will likely be fought.

This will be possible as the IDF is in the process of opening several new training facilities that simulate urban environments.

In order to better monitor the roll-out of the Momentum Plan, Kohavi plans to conduct routine surprise inspections.

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