The Israel Defense Forces is preparing to train all its infantry in tunnel warfare using simulators that present soldiers with different scenarios, including detecting the tunnels, advancing through them, the complex and dangerous fighting within them, the complete mapping of their route, and their controlled destruction.
The decision to develop this unique simulator was made in recent months by IDF ground forces as part of implementing the plan for training large infantry forces in different forms of underground warfare, following the lessons learned in Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip last summer. During the 50-day campaign, the IDF detected and destroyed 32 offensive tunnels leading to Israel dug by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The tunnels threat was one of the significant challenges for the IDF during the prolonged campaign, despite the fact that the Ministry of Defense was aware in advance of Hamas's extensive tunneling activity. During the fighting, the IDF had only limited forces, the Special Operations Engineering Unit (Yahalom) and the Weapons Caches and Tunnels Unit, with training in underground warfare. Six months after the fighting in the south, Hamas is preoccupied with preparing for the next round of against Israel, and is digging new offensive tunnels. In the next campaign, the IDF plans to use soldiers with much better training in underground warfare gained in special training facilities being built at the training bases of infantry brigades, including Golani, Nahal, Paratroopers, and Givati.
According to an IDF land forces officer, by the end of the year, all the soldiers likely to take part in future fighting in Gaza will also receive training in tunnel warfare, as well as being trained in fighting in built-up areas at facilities specially designed for this purpose. Training in underground warfare will take place at no less than 10 special facilities now under construction that are slated for completion in the coming months. "Some of these facilities are already partly open, because we are still at the beginning of the project," IDF land forces training section commander Lieutenant Colonel Tamir Gal told "Globes." "The tunnels built for training purposes look just like the ones in Gaza, and will also be used to simulate underground fighting in the north. We have used intelligence from both the Northern and Southern Command for this, and we have also consulted various engineering sources. Building these facilities is very costly, because we have used various elements to make it possible to train forces with live ammunition within the facilities themselves"
Tamir added that the cost of each facility for training forces in underground warfare varied from hundreds of thousands of shekels to NIS 2 million, with civilian companies being used in the construction. The IDF's deployment for future underground warfare also includes the development of various types of new weapons adapted to this form of warfare, Tamir said.
To emphasize going down into a tunnel
The IDF tunnel warfare exercises include the new simulator, which presents the trainees with a series of scenarios they are likely to encounter in real time. "The simulators emphasize a very high level of visualization, and we are constantly writing scenarios for underground warfare in order to train soldiers for each stage, including detecting the tunnel, fighting inside it, and destroying it completely. Everyone trains in the simulator, but we don't stop there. We don't envision a situation in which soldiers go into battle underground after they have trained only on the simulator, without having undergone supplementary exercises in special facilities in which live ammunition is used and things are felt in a way that is closest to the real thing," Tamir explained.
The special training and new simulation facilities used by the IDF to train soldiers are designed to emphasize going down into the tunnel through a shaft, the total darkness inside the tunnel, communications difficulties, movement along the narrow path and splitting into other tunnels and fighting rooms in which they are likely to encounter a terrorist ambush and fire traps prepared in advance.
As part of the lessons drawn from last summer's campaign in Gaza, the Ministry of Defense Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, defense companies, and various entrepreneurs are still looking for a breakthrough that will make possible the development of a reliable technological system that can provide advance warning of the digging of offensive tunnels towards Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 5, 2015
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