TEL AVIV, Israel — Offense is Israel's overarching military modernization priority for the coming five years, with defense playing an expanded, albeit enabling role in future combat operations, according to the nation's top uniformed officer.

In an extraordinarily comprehensive strategy document released this month, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff, outlined strategic, operative and domestic considerations driving priorities and investments through 2020.

Eisenkot's definition of offense includes a full spectrum of intelligence-supported, networked-enabled attack capabilities by air, land, sea and in the cyber realm. He also calls for building up the IDF's ability to insert paratroopers and other infantry units for direct attacks "on the center of gravity of the enemy."

Attack operations must be "simultaneous and of high intensity," while the IDF's proven ability to mate air power and intelligence must be replicated across service branches and combat disciplines for truly joint attack operations, he writes.

Beyond the qualitative advantage of technologies, tactics and procedures needed for waging offensive war, Eiseonkot insists weaponry must be acquired in quantities that preserve what he calls critical mass.

"Quantity influences quality and operational flexibility," he noted. "Mass alongside flexibility is the way we'll be able to deal with uncertainty regarding future challenges."

The 33-page Hebrew-language document, entitled "IDF Strategy," outlines in generic terms how the IDF will maximize military superiority in three distinct scenarios: routine and/or special operations; emergency operations and limited conflicts; and all-out war.

And of those scenarios, investments aimed at all-out war will take precedence over boutique technologies and systems designed for more limited missions.

"As a rule, force buildup will be done with a focus on wartime scenarios and will be adapted according to need to emergency or routine situations," Eisenkot wrote.

The IDF must be prepared to wage effective, "highest intensity" attack operations "at all times" at a rate of thousands of targets per day for several days. If fighting lasts longer than a few days, the IDF must have the capacity to generate new targets and attack them at a sustained rate of hundreds of targets per day.

Ahead of future war in Lebanon, the IDF is expected to have "tens of thousands" of preplanned targets in the bank ready to be struck. For future combat in Gaza, the IDF chief lowered the number of requisite, preplanned targets to "thousands."

As for so-called targets of opportunity, the IDF's new multiyear plan will focus on intelligence collection, data fusion, and new search engines, prioritization methods and other upgrades to the C4I network to improve connectivity among service branches and combat disciplines.

Eisenkot also mandates greater synergy between air and ground forces so air support can be provided in closer proximity to ground maneuvering units.

In the summer 2014 Gaza war, Israeli fighter jets dropped 1-ton bombs on hundreds of targets less than 350 meters from ground troops. While not specified in the document, this will become the new goal for close-air support, Air Force officials added.

Finally, the IDF chief says his forces must be prepared to wage a massive, multidisciplinary surprise attack with just a few hours notice.

While the strategy document focused on Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror and jihadist organizations operating at Israel's immediate borders, it noted the need to wage limited operations in distant countries.

For so-called second- and third-circle nations, the document cites the need to accelerate procurement as one way to preserve Israel's qualitative edge.

Other measures prescribed for combat in non-bordering nations range from strengthened information warfare to the ability to wage pre-emptive attacks in cases where its strategy of maintaining "a balance of deterrence" falls short.

And when engaging sub-state actors in Syria, Lebanon and other countries bordering Israel, the document detailed the IDF's need to operate deep in enemy territory.

To that end, the IDF's upcoming five-year plan will focus on "planning and funding of special operations in war zones and operational theaters." Such investment aims to enhance the IDF's ability to wage "operations of opportunity," to maintain preplanned target banks, and to standardize much of the weaponry and equipment needed to support special units.

The document notes that for special operations conducted in what the IDF has termed "the war between wars," the military is establishing two new interagency commands: one for operational coordination among myriad special forces and elite infantry units, and the other for cyber operations.

"'IDF Strategy' presents changes required of the IDF in light of future challenges and evolutionary capabilities of the enemy," Eisenkot writes in the forward to the document.

Such changes, he notes, include "strengthening and fortification of ground maneuvering forces, a blend of operational capabilities to deal with the war between wars, strengthening our cybernetic posture and a clear preservation of our intelligence, air and sea superiority."

Concepts presented in the document drove decisions made in the context of Plan Gideon, the IDF's newest — and not yet approved — five-year military modernization plan through 2020.

A classified version of the document has been submitted to government ministers and relevant committee members of the Israeli Knesset. A Cabinet decision on the IDF's proposed plan is slated for January.


Twitter: @OpallRome

Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at

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