Israel Needs to Develop New Equipment, Adopt New Doctrine, Engage More with Like-Minded Countries: Israeli Researchers

By Arie Egozi

Foreign Affairs

Tel Aviv: There are clear signs that the ongoing war between Israel and two Iranian proxies – Hamas in Gaza and the Hezbollah in Lebanon cannot be seen as a regional problem. Tehran considers the west as the enemy and is working to spread its terror net in other parts of the world.

Therefore, according to Israeli experts the first lessons from the current war must change some concepts not only in Israel but in many other counties.

The Iranian proxies engaged in war with Israel are armed with Iranian weapons that feature unique qualities that fundamentally alter the character of Israel’s aerial threat. A red flag for Israel’s military build-up is the variety of weaponry used in the war, combined with new capabilities and the entry of new players into the conflict. In this situation, new equipment needs to be developed and a new doctrine needs to be adopted.

According to a paper written by Matan Yanko-Avikasis and Liran Antebi, two senior researchers from the Israel Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Israel’s aerial defence system have provided an excellent response to these threats.

“Most of the launches have been intercepted. And thus far, among the most lethal weapons (apart from the October 7 attack itself) have been the anti-tank missiles fired at Israel from both the Gaza Strip and from Lebanon. Their damage has somewhat coloured the confidence in Trophy, Israel’s active protection system for armoured vehicle, installed on tanks and armoured personnel carriers and which has an extremely high rate of successful interceptions.”

According to the researchers, these attacks, in addition to attacks using drones, could indicate that Israel is less well prepared to deal with short-range aerial threats compared to the various layers of protection that are in place to deal with longer-range threats. Indeed, when it comes to long-range interceptions, Israel has been successful.

“This is the first conflict in which Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Patriot, and Arrow have all worked together, including the first operational use of the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which intercept missiles outside of the earth’s atmosphere. At the same time, despite the successful interceptions, the ballistic missile that was fired from Yemen at Israel on October 19 should be of major concern to Israel – and for other countries – since it was launched by a non-state actor. The Houthis have also fired ballistic missiles in the past that were intercepted by the United Arab Emirates.”

The researchers say that over recent years, Iran has boasted of its ability to manufacture UAVs. It first started manufacturing them in the mid-1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, when it unveiled the Ababil-1 and Mohajer-1 for use as a loitering munition or for surveillance and reconnaissance. The Iranian UAV industry thrived and developed and manufacturing has expanded significantly since 2014, when production of the new Shahed 129 model began, which is now the most common UAV in the Iranian army.

“The range of Iranian UAVs is based primarily on the reverse engineering of Israeli and American UAVs. It is argued, for example, that the Shahed 129 model is almost identical to the Hermes-450, which is manufactured by Elbit Systems. The Shahed 171 model is seen as an almost exact replica of the American RQ-170 UAV, which fell in Iranian territory in December 2011. Over the past few decades, Iran has managed to expand its weapons portfolio – both in terms of size and capability. Occasionally, there have been reports about UAV parts – some of them from the West – that have been found in UAVs and reached Iran from other countries by means of straw companies set up by the Islamic Republic to bypass sanctions imposed by Western governments. However, most of Iran’s success in this field stems from the availability of “off-the-shelf technology” in the world of commercial and civilian content, including navigation devices, encryption tools, and even engines. All of these, along with the massive domestic investment in engineering, have allowed Iran to close the technological gaps, manufacture, and export large quantities of UAVs at attractive prices to a variety of customers, many of which are currently attacking Israel and American interests in the Middle East,” mentions the paper.

The researchers say that Iranian UAVs, which are simple and cheap to assemble, could win the war for Russia against Ukraine. “They help the Russians close the operational gap – the most significant of which is its difficulty in building an overall picture. Following the experience these Iranian UAVs gained during the war in Ukraine, other countries have expressed an interest in purchasing them.”

The paper in its conclusion focuses on the variety of weapons that have been deployed in this war, would be augmented by more weapons and new capabilities in any multi-front war, and should be seen as a red flag for Israel’s future force build-up, regarding weapons and a revised doctrine when it comes to aerial threats. It further says that given this expectation, it is worth engaging with other countries that are under similar threats. Among them are pragmatic Sunni states in the Persian Gulf, some of which, such as Saudi Arabia have already been significantly harmed by Houthi attack UAVs.

“The United States too, which has rallied to Israel’s side, has also sustained attacks on its troops by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria,” the paper mentions.

Drawing another conclusion, the paper says that Israel should expand its involvement in the coalition of countries with shared interests. Alongside cooperation with the United States, which also provides Israel with many resources, including the missiles that the Iron Dome system uses to intercept incoming projectiles.

“Israel should seriously consider cooperating with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, especially when it comes to intelligence, technology, and interception. Those countries, which have extensive resources and advanced defence industries, share many interests with Israel – at least when it comes to the Iranian threat,” says the paper.