Monday, August 21, 2006

An Intel Bonanza

Mike Diamond at Israpundit looks at a Debka article that outlines a number of Israeli deficiencies. I'm going to look at it from the other end of the telescope. He starts out with gloom and doom.

Once you read this article, and assuming you come to the same conclusions as I did, it may provide the rationale for Israel agreeing so readily to the ceasefire. Having lost the PR war, and given that Israel was being lambasted for air bombardments, one area where they had superiority, and finding that they were getting surprised in many cases on the ground, they may have realized that they were not in a good position to undertake a major ground offensive without losing an enormous number of men.
Iran was screaming for a cease fire after the first week. Israel reluctantly acquiesed to one some 27 days later. The Israeli leadership under performed. It did not lose. There is a difference. Here is a look at Hizbollah's anti-tank tools and tactics.
This is how Hizballah functions. An estimated 500 to 600 members of their roughly 4,000-strong fighting strength in South Lebanon are divided into groups of 5 or 6, each armed with 5-8 anti-tank missiles, with a further supply in their small well-fortified camouflaged bunkers, built to withstand Israeli air attacks.

The bunkers Israeli troops captured in fierce fighting were found to contain a supply of ordnance and 4-6 anti-tank rockets.

The Hizballah guerrillas take care to fire them at Israeli tanks by night from a distance of 2-3 km. After a hit, the Israeli tank crew calls up reinforcements – one part of which tows the tank back behind the Israeli border while second dashes forward to engage the Hizballah assault group.

Hizballah then reacts in two ways. The assault team advances towards the Israeli force under cover of a heavy shelling by 120 mm and 220 mm mortars, Syrian and Iranian short range 107mm and 122 mm rockets and 230 mm Katyushas. This tactic gives the Hizballah team the chance of striking another tank or armored vehicle in 38 percent of the instances.

Another Hizballah team may also lie in wait for a tank unit in the bunkers strewn among the fortified dwellings after sowing the area with anti-tank mines and huge roadside bombs. The guerrillas in the bunkers wait quietly for the tanks to pass by and then shoot them in the rear from their bunkers while also activating the roadside bombs.
The answer to this in the short run is combined arms. Tanks and infantry supporting each other. Since WW2 these kinds of tactics have been used against tanks. You respond to the mortars with faster counter battery fire. Radar controlled artillery. There are such things in existance. Israel needs to buy them. Then build a better version itself.

Here is an interesting bit on a tank problem and its solutions. It makes a point about the incompetence of the political element.
3. Up until the shock of the July 12 Hizballah attack, Israel’s policy-makers - and therefore the army - were ruled overwhelmingly by a conviction that Israel faced no major war threat in the next five years, except for the daily grind against Palestinian terrorists. Therefore, they enacted some economies in defense spending, including cutting out the installation of Rafael’s Trophy active protection system for all the IDF’s tanks.

Trophy creates a hemispheric protected zone around a vehicle such as a tank which intercepts and destroys incoming threats. It has three elements: The Threat Detection and Warning subsystem, which consists of several sensors, including flat-panel radar placed at strategic spots around the vehicle to provide full hemispherical coverage.

Once an incoming threat is detected, identified and verified, the Countermeasure Assembly is opened and the countermeasure device positioned so as to intercept the threat. It is then launched automatically into a ballistic trajectory to intercept the incoming threat at a distance.

Trophy is marketed by General Dynamics, which plans to install the system on every new and existing combat vehicle it produces, including Stryker, M-1A2 and FCS. It has completed hundreds of live tests with Israeli Defense Forces and demonstrated its effectiveness in neutralizing anti-tank rockets and guided missiles. The system is in full-scale engineering for inclusion on the Merkava Mark 4 and the light armored vehicle (Stryker).

While Israel saw no need for this protective device until too late, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that the US army, seeing the steep strategic price Israel paid for this omission, has decided to purchase the Trophy for its tanks and armored vehicles.
Did you get that? The Trophy System was developed by Israel.Defence Update has some nice pictures of the system mounted on vehicles and in action, along with some text that is vaguely familiar.

Defence Review .com has video of the system in action if you have the bandwidth.
Until the watershed date of July 12, 2006, when the Hizballah triggered the Lebanon War, Israel was accounted an important world power in the development of electronic warfare systems – so much so that a symbiotic relationship evolved for the research and development of many US and Israeli electronic warfare systems, in which a combination of complementary American and Israeli devices and methods was invested.

The collaboration covers almost every military branch – ground units, air and navy, special operations forces and the devices that track terrorists worldwide.

Israel’s electronic warfare units belong to its Signal Corps, and its early warning systems units are part of the Military Intelligence Corps-AMAN.

In combat against Hizballah (whose makeup and methods of operation will be outlined in a separate article in this issue), both were not only found wanting, but had been actively neutralized, so that none performed the functions for which they were designed.
I'm sure the Americans and Israelis will derive great lessons out of this experience. Once problems are identified, solutions can be found. Before 12 July the problem was not even recognized. New electronics can be fielded in 3 to 4 months. New software in even less time.
1. The intelligence and electronic warfare units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps provided Hizballah with an electronic warfare arm.

2. Iran developed special systems capable of blocking a large section of Israel’s electronic warfare network.

3. Thirty days into the Lebanon war, American and Israeli officials have concluded that Iran decided to use the Lebanon conflict as the testing ground for its military, intelligence and electronic capabilities in preparation for a potential clash with the United States and Israel in other theaters of war.
Excellent. Now we know some of what they have and also how they think. Counter measures have probably been under development for at least 30 days.

This was a spoiling attack meant to get Iran to show at least some of its capabilities. Despite the tone of the article, use of the systems in Lebanon was not an Iranian advantage. It squandered resources and a significant amount of surprise.

Next covered is the anti-ship attack. I will not cover it in depth. The mistakes made were mostly operational. There are, however, some technical problems.
In the first three days of the war, Israel was certain it had cast an electronic blanket over South Lebanon and jammed military communications and telephone networks, including mobile phones. The IDF general staff were under the illusion that they had knocked out the communication links between Hassan Nasrallah and his local commanders.

They were wrong.

It took a while to discover that Iranian electronic warfare operators had chalked up another major success in the Lebanon War. They had prevented Israeli electronic devices from jamming Hizballah’s communications networks in the battle zones of South Lebanon and blanking out the signal systems connecting Hizballah command and control posts across the country and linking them to Syria. This explains why, despite repeatedly bomb strikes of Hizballah’s Al Manar TV and Nour Radio studios in S. Beirut, the station has been able to broadcast almost without interruption.

The Iranian electronic engineers’ success was such that, on Wednesday, Aug. 9, Day 29 of the war, Hizballah’s communications networks were still operating at points only 500 meters from the Israeli border.

They were also functioning at the toughest strongholds holding out against Israel attacks: Ayt a-Chaab in the west and Al Khaim in the east.

However, after a fierce battle at Qantara just south of the Litani River, the bodies were found of three Iranian intelligence officers with documents of identification and gear that showed them to have been operators of local networks for jamming Israeli radar and communications.

Israeli forces searching through the bunkers they cleaned out in South Lebanon were amazed to discover that many contained subterranean state of the art communications rooms fitted out with advanced instruments with Iranian encoding.
When you get copies of the enemies codes and signaling methods you make breaking the codes easier. Especially if you have copies of the coded and plaintext messages. This is probably one of the most important finds of the war. An intel bonanza.
All this published material shows how deeply impressed the Islamic fundamentalist movement is by the unlimited flow of rockets reaching Hizballah and the fact that no one in the western world, except the Israeli air force, lifted a finger to stem the flow from Syria and Iran.
The counter to this is simple and untried due to stupid Israeli leadership. Regime change in Damascus and Teheran. I think the Hashmonean has the best take on this. Arabs are impressed with fireworks. Compare the damage to South Beirut you have all seen on the TV vs Michael Totten's pictures and reports on damage to Kriat Shemona.
The Hizballah organization brings every Shiite village and urban neighborhood into its fold under the governance of the local “security committee.” This is a form of local command office that keeps the regular army of 6,000 men strictly in line.
All totolitarian armies need minders. This is a weakness, not a strength.
The setbacks of the first three weeks were partly due to tactical incompetence and laggard decision-making on the part of prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Peretz. Israeli troops therefore spent too long in abrading combat against stubborn Hizballah resistance in such places as Maroun er Ras and Bint Jubeil. But as soon as Israeli ground forces shifted to the massive, long-distance firing mode which it knows best, the impact on the warfront was immediate.

Hizballah soon showed signs of distress. Lacking the weapons and resources to stand up to IDF’s precise-shooting juggernaut, their commanders quickly pulled their men out most combat sectors of South Lebanon and ordered them to regroup in five places.

These pockets became the main launching-pads for rockets fired into Israel.

With the right Israeli manpower level, Hizballah’s abilty to fire rockets can be dented, notwithstanding claims by Israel officials and generals. However, Olmert is still keeping the army short.

Still, by Thursday, August 3, Hizballah was showing signs of being in trouble.

Local Hizballah village commanders signaled repeated appeals for more manpower and ammunition and, most significantly, Hizballah’s shadowy special operations chief, the long-wanted Imad Mughniyeh, was hurriedly appointed commander of the southern front as a last resort to save South Lebanon.
I think that is the key point. A well lead army that uses its strength properly can defeat all the Hizbollah advantages by manuver. Troops in fortifications are stuck in place. They are not useful in mobil warfare except against supply lines. Once they come out of their holes they are targets and their holes are targets.

Update: 22 Aug '06 0620z

Commenter Karridine reminds me that if you haven't read these two you ought to. They will help a lot in understanding Arab armies.

Why Arabs Lose Wars I

Why Arabs Lose Wars II


Anonymous said...


Wonderful post. Plus, since I read Debka today, I saw the USA getting cooperation from Turkey. And, iranina overflight to syria, loaded with new missiles from china (the kind that hits ships at sea), got put down in Turkey. When Turkey mobilized her jets. France isn't running Turkey's defenses with threats from the EU. Amends are taking place.

And, this is USA news. Delivered by Debka.

What seems sad, however, is that Olmert sits. Because there are NOT 61 signatures to topple the government. I also don't see street demonstratons. Nor do I see military men closing ranks, and going after halutz. And, his midgets. (While one general who tried to accuse members of one IDF branch of disloyalty has run into trouble. While another general has already apologizes for "shortcomings," to his men.)

From what you write, it seems any BIG action occurs after November 7th. Election day here in the USA. I'll guess that for political reasons, Bush doesn't want to tamper with this. But the day, after, on November 8th, the picture changes.

And, that means the IDF has chances of also changing their "mistakes" learned in this "skirmish" with nasrallah.

I'll also bet that while Israel was in the Bakakta Valley (and 5,000 troops, I think, still remain), they've gotten a much better picture of the bunker system. ANd, they've got listening devices of their own. Since the commandos who just went in, probably went in AFTER hearing something. Not just by rote.

The MSM is taking a back seat, now. As so many people reach to the Net for information. Riehl World put up a good post, yesterday, on this very subject.

Ya know? The more I think about it, the more I see BIG problems in Kadima. Given that Olmert chose to run with weak ministers; and he sat on the strong ones, refusing to give out portfolios. So, maybe, I'm a bit early. But I see a NEW-NEW party coming out of this. I see the old men who got 7 or 8 seats on the Pensioner's ticket, unable to muster this, again.

So there are "seats in the air." But Likud? Bibi? Here, I'm not so sure. Though I see he's in no rush to work with Olmert! Olmert may need Arik's ventilaton machine, shortly. But how it all tumbles out, I do not know. Amir Peretz will not be chosen to lead, anything. Though he seems hell bent on meeting anyone whose willing to talk to him. Meanwhile, I enjoy reading your stuff, M. Simon, emensely. Hope things are going well for you.

M. Simon said...

My readers have been more than kind.

And thank you for your kind words.

It may be a wise move to avoid toppling the government for a few days until the Iranian situatiion becomes clearer.

Anonymous said...


Well, from someone who knows "you can't be a little bit pregnant," and then try to fit into the clothes you bought for your new, expanding, figure. All I can say is that waiting for something to happen in Israel, might take more than just a few days?

I don't think t'marra, 8/22, is of any signifcance. But, hey. If it s? Eat two desserts t'nite.

I still think Bush would prefer to sit on this until after election day. Just given how the GOP is sailing to victory in November. Why gum up these works? What would be the rush?

If it's diplomatic pants dancing that's in the air, why does it matter if its Olmert doing the turns and squats?

If I had to guess, which is all I can do about the future, anyway, I tend to quess that America has given iran a deadline.

Sure. This affects china, but only "of sorts." Because I think when the showdown at the Tehran corral is over,many Iranians would prefer a shift away from their corrupt mullahs. Their military is a mess. But not so strong. A lot of men of ambition see ways they can clear things up. As soon as the smoke clears. And, china? She's a maiden of business. Willing to do business with all and sundry. And, she's none to happy with thie crazy jibber-jabber religious talk.

France, meanwhile, just wants the rebuilding contracts in lebanon. Where I hope we don't even supply bandaids. But if things clear up? Investment Capital flows in. And, this does raise 'da boats of all.

Not happening in Iraq? Well, that's what it looks like when mishigoo-im are in charge. ANd, investment capital won't pluck down a nickel.

But I do notice your timetable. You say things will happen soon. Per the calendar, we don't get to Rosh Hashanah till September 23rd.

Me? I'm pretty sure Olmert won't need Arik Sharon's ventilator until Arik's finished using it. And, talk of "schtarkars." Sharon has a grasp on his half-life that something to behold. Proving even the doctors couldn't kill him. (Once, I heard said, that when they'd go to nail his coffin shut, they'd need a whole other box on top, to handle his erecton.) But in those days we could laugh. Not now.

Meanwhile, the IDF is in good shape. Unlike 1973, where so much was lost at first. 1/4 of the air force. 3000 troops. We're not on that page, yet. And, if nasrallah still thinks he's alive and kicking, he's nowhere near the strength he had on July 11th. With his kind of victories, he, too, can be dead, soon.

Who know? Even the french are capable of taking nasrallah and turning him into a french fry. Why overlook the "usual suspects?"

Such a pleasure talking to ya, M. Simon. I'm just thrilled to pieces that I found your blog.

Joe Katzman said...

Trophy has been tested on Strykers and M1s, as well as Merkavas et. al. But it will NOT be installed on GD vehicles.

The USA is not buying it, preferring to wait 3 years and spend $70+ million for Raytheon to try to develop something similar. That decision and contract was made by Boeing and SAIC, as managers of the $120-300 bilion Future Combat Systems program.

M. Simon said...


I wonder if that decision might not be ammended, based on experience with Hizbollah?