The new Hermes 900, in use by the Israel Air Force.
The new Hermes 900, in use by the Israel Air Force. Photo by Elbit Systems
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Roughly a year ago, the Israel Defense Forces made extensive structural changes in order to accommodate technological advancements.

The program, which included the closure of some units that relied on outdated equipment, had been scheduled for an evaluation later this year, but the ground operation in the Gaza Strip has offered an opportunity for real-time evaluation in the field.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said a year ago, “The near future could lead us into conflicts that will be decided by the IDF’s technological superiority — in the air, on the sea and on the ground, with fewer heavy vehicles and increasing use of sophisticated and unmanned equipment.”

The tunnel threat from the Gaza Strip has revealed the limitations of air strikes. Much of the ground forces’ efforts in Gaza are concentrated underground, as the tunnels have shown that there is still a need for “low-tech” tactics. The tunnels do not require “sophisticated and unmanned equipment,” as in many cases low-tech bulldozers get the job done. The current operation has, however, presented an opportunity to showcase some of Israel’s technological advancements.

IDF intelligence has reported that new, technological advancements have made sharing information between various units relatively easy. “All of the information is passed on directly, without any filter,” said one intelligence official. Representatives from intelligence units 8200 and 9900 have been embedded with battalions on the ground as well, in order to facilitate the flow of information.

The air force has reported using the new Hermes 900 UAV, which has been nicknamed the “star,” and is an upgraded version of the previous Hermes 450 UAV. The Hermes 900, as well as other as yet unused UAVs have been employed during the fighting in Gaza for intelligence gathering purposes.

Ground forces as well have been reporting operational changes. IDF commanders have been trying to make their firepower more accurate and more autonomous. One tank brigade commander, for example, stated that he has been calling in air strikes, artillery strikes, and tank strikes all at once. “We were hit by mortar fire two hours ago. A UAV sent the coordinates of the enemy mortar to the tank instantly, and the tank attacked,” said the commander. Tanks belonging to armored brigade 401, for example, are equipped with ground sensors that relay coordinates and other information to other forces, including the air force and artillery batteries. Israeli tanks have also been using new advanced shells that can penetrate 120 millimeters of concrete, and explode inside a structure.