TEL AVIV — While Israel’s front-line active-duty tanks, heavy armored carriers and combat engineering vehicles are among the world’s most advanced, the country relies on excess U.S. vehicles and in-house innovations to keep its 20- to 40-year-old reserve force in battle-ready condition.
In the coming months, Israel is poised to receive the first of some 2,400 refurbished Humvees from the U.S. The two-part program is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars and will be funded through the annual U.S. Foreign Military Financing defense aid.
The materiel comes through an excess defense articles agreement between the U.S. and Israeli governments and a commercial contract between Israel’s Defense Ministry and South Bend, Ind.-based AM General for refurbishment of the vehicles to Israeli military specifications. AM General could not provide a specific contract amount by press time.
AM General won the project in a competitive bid and is expected to deliver the refurbished A0- and A1-model Humvees at a rate of 100 per month over the next two years. The vehicles will be used for combat reconnaissance and as command cars, according to the Israeli military.
Awaiting Decision on Truck Request
In parallel, Israel is awaiting a Pentagon response to its request for several thousand excess U.S. Army 6x6 and 8x8 trucks to replace its obsolete fleet of heavy Oshkosh trucks.
If the request is approved, Israel plans to pattern its excess truck acquisition after the ongoing Humvee refurbishment program, sources here say. First Israel and the U.S. will sign another excess defense articles agreement, followed by a competition among U.S. firms seeking to bid on the prospective, multiyear refurbishment contract.
“We haven’t yet received an answer, but we hope this will be our next big project to fortify the inventory for our reserve forces,” said Col. Nissim Levy, head of the motorized vehicle department within the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Force Command.
Like the bulk of the Humvees originating from excess U.S. Army stocks, most of the requested trucks will be destined for warehouses in support of Israeli reserve forces, Levy said.
“It’s no secret that a big part of our Army is in reserve, which means a large part of our inventory is in reserve,” Levy said. “Our challenge is to find ways to maintain the reliability and integrity of our ground vehicles over very long stretches of time in dry storage.”
Levy said the IDF has developed new methods and innovative procedures to maintain operational readiness of its ground vehicles, despite the long storage times.
Before vehicles are inserted in a protective sleeve, for example, rubber tires are treated with a chemical that inhibits decomposition. Warehouses are climate-controlled to prevent humidity, corrosion and fungus from compromising operational readiness.
And depending on the type of fuel used to power the engines, Israeli logisticians remove vehicles every two to four years for one or two days of refreshing before returning them to storage.
Brig. Gen. Zvi Kraus, IDF chief ordnance officer, said his people are trained to maintain platforms, armament and supporting systems over long periods. Tanks, armored carriers and other ground vehicles — even bulldozers — are preserved in protective sleeves known colloquially as condoms.
“Our job is to prolong the time the tank or other platforms stay in their condoms without removing them. This is how we extend the operational life of this critical part of our reserve force structure,” Kraus said.
To support the refurbished Humvees that will begin arriving here in the coming months, Israel will purchase some 2,000 protective coverings, again with U.S. military aid. A military source here said multiple U.S. firms are participating in a competitive bid to supply the coverings, and a contract decision is expected within weeks.
“Today, we’re able to store operationally ready platforms for up to 12 years without the need for depot-level maintenance. We try to bring logisticians to the field, rather than suffer the time and expense of having to send our platforms to Tel Hashomer,” Levy said, referring to Israel’s main military depot south of Tel Aviv.
When possible, Levy said the IDF prefers to extend the life of its reserve ground vehicle fleet through in-house upgrades. But when parts become unavailable for the aging platforms or they can no longer be certified as operationally safe, Israel’s first choice is to buy excess U.S. Army stocks rather than new vehicles.
“We can’t take chances on safety, but at the same time, we need to squeeze value out of every shekel. … There’s no economic logic in buying a new truck, for example, that could cost $200,000 or more just to put in storage for years. So we are going for a solution that benefits us, as well as the United States, by inducting vehicles that the U.S. Army rejects,” Levy said.