Fire Loop Closure on the Ground

The need of the IDF Ground Arm to close fire loops independently, as experienced during the Second Lebanon War, opened the door for trajectory-correcting rockets. Exclusive interview with Dani Peretz, VP Engineering at IMI Systems

Photo: IMI Systems

The Second Lebanon War that broke out in July 2006 between IDF and Hezbollah in Lebanon was a turning point in the evolution of several military technologies. As far as IMI Systems is concerned, it was a seminal event in the evolution of accurate artillery rockets, active protection for armored platforms, air-to-surface bombs, and several other developments.

While the War was still going on, IMI's CEO Avi Felder established four debriefing and analysis teams for the air, artillery, infantry and combat engineering/armored platform lethality categories, for the purpose of studying the needs of IDF and the problems with the existing weapon systems in the relevant categories.

Not an Exclusive Capability of the IAF

During the First Lebanon War, IDF used an inaccurate rocket designated 'Haviv'. Between the First Lebanon War and the Second Lebanon War, IMI worked on the development of rockets fitted with a Trajectory Correction System (TCS). In those years, IDF did not have accurate, GPS-guided rockets and the trajectory-correcting rocket was a small rocket being tracked by Radar and having its trajectory corrected during flight using small motors on the rocket itself.

"Prior to the War, the trajectory-correcting rocket was not yet operational, but it was employed during the War, for the first time, nevertheless," explains Dani Peretz, VP Engineering at IMI Systems and the person who led IMI's debriefing and analysis teams pursuant to the Second Lebanon War. "During its flight, the rocket sometimes deviates by one to one and a half percent, and the objective of the Trajectory Correction System (TCS) was to keep the trajectory accurate.

"Another important point in this regard concerns IAF: until the War, IAF was the only element within IDF capable of closing fire loops. If IAF had identified two persons walking along a path, they knew how to dispatch an aircraft and deal with them. The IDF Ground Arm did not possess such capabilities. Then came the trajectory-correcting rockets and changed the picture. Also consider the fact that during the War, IAF was not available at any moment to provide support for the Ground Arm. This necessitated independent solutions and the trajectory-correcting rockets enabled closing of fire loops independently of IAF.

"It was a revolution. The buds of the AccuLAR rocket IDF are currently acquiring had sprouted during that War through those trajectory-correcting rockets. Another element that enabled this to happen were the UAVs, which were employed on a massive scale alongside the accurate rockets. In order to close a fire loop, you should find a map reference. The UAVs provided that capability, along with the ability to supply feedback regarding the hits. Prior to that, the combination of an accurate rocket, an accurate map reference and real-time feedback regarding the actual hits had not been available to the IDF Artillery Corps.

"Another development that was initiated during that war was the modular propellant charge for artillery guns. When you fire an artillery shell, you load the gun with bags of gunpowder according to the range you want to reach. The problems with this method are the wastage and the logistic load created by those bags. During that war, tens of thousands of shells were fired and a more efficient solution was required, so we developed the modular propellant charge. It is a box containing gunpowder, which can suffice for multiple shells. According to the need, you factor the required amount of gunpowder in a modular fashion, thereby improving the efficiency of the process."

"The Bombs are Disintegrating"

During the Second Lebanon War, IAF used IMI Delilah cruise missiles and acquired massive amounts of decoy flares. "IMI worked 24/7 during the War to fill the demand for flares for IAF," says Peretz. "Our air category debriefing/analysis team noticed another problem with the air-to-surface bombs. IAF used old Mk-83 and Mk-84 bombs with GPS-based JDAM guidance kits. It turned out that about 40% of the bombs had reached their targets but failed to explode, and IAF could not figure out why.

"Our debriefing/analysis team conducted tests and simulations and discovered what the problem was. As IMI is the national knowledge center on warheads, possessing extensive experience in this field, we realized that when you fit a JDAM kit onto a standard (general purpose) bomb, it changes the bomb's behavior. All of a sudden the bomb has fins, so it 'glides'. This changes its velocity and penetrating angle relative to the target.

"These bombs were launched during the War mainly against targets located inside houses. When the bomb enters a house, it goes through the first wall, and some of those bombs disintegrated upon hitting the second wall: the fuse was detached from the bomb and it failed to explode. Additionally, in some cases, the bomb reached the target but was deflected after passing through the first wall and eventually hit the wrong room. All in all, on too many occasions those bombs failed to pass through the second wall.

"Another aspect involved the aspect of wartime economics. The guidance kit made each bomb five or six times costlier, and if you only achieve 60% effectiveness, then the war will become extremely costly.

"In view of all those conclusions, we started working on a new bomb, designated MPR-500. Three or four years after the War, IAF agreed to acquire a small amount of these bombs, after we had demonstrated successful results in trials. At the same time, we started selling these bombs to overseas clients.

"During Operation Protective Edge, IAF realized that the MPR bomb provides 95% hitting and target destruction effectiveness. As a result, we had to divert a shipment for an overseas client and deliver it to IDF instead. It was a revolution in air power employment and wartime economics.

"We are developing a family of MPR bombs – including 500, 1000 and 2000 models – and are working on a massive order for IAF. The MPR bomb is a direct result of the conclusions drawn from the Second Lebanon War."

Active Protection Systems

"One other thing that came out of the Second Lebanon War in the context of armored platforms was the need for an active protection system. Admittedly, the development of these systems in Israel had begun much earlier, but the technology was not yet mature and opinions at IMOD and IDF differed as to whether such a system was necessary. The results of the War convinced everyone that the system was absolutely necessary.

"Until the War, Rafael and IMI had each developed a different system (the Trophy and Iron Fist systems, respectively). Rafael's development effort was more advanced, as they had received more funding from IMOD, and it was subsequently decided that IMI's Iron Fist would be the second-generation system. This never happened, but the bottom line is that the Second Lebanon War constituted a catalyst for the development of an active protection system for armored platforms.

"In the context of the infantry, the War revealed the need to provide a force entering a house with the ability to 'open a door' wherever they wanted in order to achieve a tactical surprise. Consequently, a tool designated 'Wall Breaching Frame' and a detonating system designated 'Matchbox' were developed. This tool breaches a door-like opening at any point through which the force wishes to enter the house. It was used extensively during Operation Protective Edge."

From Products to Systems

For IMI Systems, the Second Lebanon War was the turning point where they realized a transition from products to systems was required. The process was completed over the last few months, after a decade, when the company name was changed. "IMI realized, as a result of the War, that systems were required," explains Peretz. "The Ground Arm's need for the ability to close fire loops, active protection for tanks, accurate rockets, and other elements. The Second Lebanon War transformed IDF, de facto, from an organization engaged in the type of warfare where one military organization fights against another military organization to an organization engaged in the type of warfare where a military organization faces a terrorist organization in an urban environment, and this change emphasized the need for systems.

"Since then, all of the operations in the Gaza Strip and in the Judea and Samaria district have been 'more of the same'. The only change with regard to Operation Protective Edge was the addition of the subterranean medium, which had been well known since the Vietnam War and from other places around the globe, but in the Gaza Strip, the enemy used it massively against IDF for the first time. Apart from that, there were no operational innovations that we had not been aware of pursuant to the lessons of the Second Lebanon War. That is also the reason why our developments, including the MPR bomb, the M339 cartridge, the 'Wall Breaching Frame' and so forth proved their effectiveness on the battlefield." 

 

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