The long-awaited five-year plan for the “new and improved” Israel Defense Forces was revealed by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi Monday afternoon. “The plan will significantly strengthen the IDF and give it the ability to deal with the security challenges the country faces in the coming years,” he said after releasing the plan.
Anti-Kassam missile defense systems, often discussed and explored and considered by former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and other officials in the defense establishment will finally be prodded into action. Funding will be allocated for the Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system. The "Arrow" (Hetz) anti-missile defense system is intended to hit enemy ballistic missiles at an earlier point in their trajectory, improving the chances of successful interception.
The Iron Dome system currently being developed by Rafael Military Industries will also be employed.
Ground troops will get a much-needed shot in the arm, with better-protected APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) and more tanks with better defense systems to block anti-tank missiles.
More casualties were caused by anti-tank missiles in last summer’s Second Lebanon War with Hizbullah terrorists than by any other method of warfare. Under the plan, “Tiger” APCs will be produced on the platform of the Israeli-made Merkava tanks, as opposed to the current Achzarit APCs, which offer less protection to the troops being carried. The Merkava-4 tanks which have been the backbone of the IDF tank corps will continue to be produced as well.
This will help alleviate the challenges faced by ground troops on the field, who often battled under the disadvantage of a lack of equipment and difficulty maneuvering with those vehicles that were available.
The air force will also be rejuvenated, with a new fleet of F-35 stealth strike fighters. They are to be produced by Lockheed Martin at a cost of some $50 - $60 million apiece. Delivery of the fifth generation stealth strike fighters won’t arrive in Israel until 2014, however. Meanwhile, the existing aircraft and equipment will be upgraded, including the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
New battleships and a Barak anti-missile defense system to intercept high-trajectory rockets and other missiles will be purchased for the navy. Two new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) also developed by Lockheed Martin will be purchased as well.
Price tag: $250 million per ship. Advantage: The ship is the most advanced missile ship in the world for use in close-to-coast military operations and can be used to carry Special Forces, infantry units, mid-sized vehicles and two helicopters.
Army intelligence and information technology (IT) will also see better days, but no details were forthcoming on that topic, which involved classified information.
Ashkenazi is projecting implementation of the plan by the end of January 2008, but it is not clear how the government will receive it, given the current climate of budget cuts.
Part of the funding is expected to be provided in military aid from the United States, and some of will be moved over from the funds that have already been designated for the IAF.