Israel will begin training Armored Corps draftees to deploy in companies to support future tank battalions. (Bradley Peniston / Staff)
TEL AVIV — Starting next month, select draftees inducted into Israel’s Armored Corps will undergo training for eventual deployment in new multi-discipline companies designed to support future battalions of main battle tanks (MBTs).
The new specialty companies, each composed of reconnaissance, observation and mortar platoons, will form an integral part of future armored battalions, which consist of two active-duty MBT companies and a third MBT company from the Israel Defense Force (IDF) reserves.
The merger of traditional infantry missions into Israel’s future armored order of battle is part of an Army-wide revamp aimed at retiring older-model Merkava MBTs and optimizing Israel’s maneuvering ground forces for urban and heavily forested arenas.
Under the plan, mortar platoons will be equipped with Keshet, an M113-based, autonomous, self-propelled 120mm mortar by Elbit Systems, according to Brig. Gen. Shmuel Olansky, IDF chief armor officer.
“We’re building in every battalion of the Armored Corps a supporting company of infantry equipped with Keshet, which knows how to provide destructive firepower at a high rate,” Olansky said in a report posted Oct. 24 on the IDF’s Hebrew-language website.
New mortar platoons, together with new reconnaissance and observation platoons, will operate “shoulder-to-shoulder” with MBT battalions, Olansky said.
In an interview with Shachar Ruppin of the IDF spokesman’s office, Olansky said budget cuts and changing battle conditions were driving the revamp, which will allow the retirement of older-model MBTs as it brings on new infantry support cadres.
“Retirement of older tanks is a process that is being implemented after lengthy discussions and simulations,” Olansky said. “It allows us, in parallel, to equip ourselves with essential combat support elements.”
Maj. Arieh Berger, operations officer for the Armored Corps’ first brigade slated for the revamp, said infantry support elements will be equipped with advanced command-and-control systems for rapid transfer of targeting data to armored formations. The revamp, he said, will maximize the IDF’s ability to operate in closed and built-up areas.
“There are no more battles where tanks face off against other tanks on an exposed hill,” Berger said in the IDF-posted story. “These new forces will be able to direct tank battalions between homes of villages or into brush, according to our needs.”