The Israel Defense Forces is planning to purchase new tank transporters to improve its ability to move tanks and armored personnel carriers around the country quickly in the event of a sudden military flare-up.
The decision stems from the lessons of last November’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, which revealed that the shortfalls in this capability, though long known, are more severe than the IDF had thought.
During that operation, Israel deployed large forces along the Gaza border and threatened to invade if Hamas didn’t agree to a cease-fire. After eight days of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire, a truce was reached without the need for a ground incursion. But the deployment revealed that the army’s antiquated tank transporters weren’t sufficient to cope with such short notice.
The new generation of tanks will apparently be much smaller, and the IDF is also reducing its total number of tanks. But the General Staff still sees a need for a fleet of transporters than can move tanks swiftly from one front to another.
One senior General Staff officer said Pillar of Defense was “a wake-up call for our logistics system no less grave than what we experienced in the Second Lebanon War” in 2006.
He said most of the existing transporters were bought in the 1970s and have already put on more than 700,000 kilometers. Moreover, he said, they used to transport 50-ton Patton tanks, whereas now they must transport the 70-ton Merkava MK-IV, and they simply aren’t up to the job.
The new transporters will apparently be bought in Europe. Each can carry one tank, and they are likely to cost about NIS 2.5 million each.
Using civilian trucks as transporters isn’t an option, because most can’t carry a load as heavy as a tank.
IDF analyses of Pillar of Defense also concluded that in any future conflict with Gaza, soldiers training in the Negev should be moved farther away from the front.
During last November’s operation, two soldiers and a Defense Ministry employee were killed when a rocket from Gaza hit an IDF training ground where reservists called up for the operation were training for a possible invasion of Gaza. The reservists were sleeping in tents with no adequate protection against the rocket fire.
The senior officer said that in a future operation, most reservists would sleep at bases farther from the front, and those who had to sleep near the border would sleep in tanks or APCs, which offer more protection.