- - Tuesday, May 9, 2017

THE WEAPON WIZARDS: HOW ISRAEL BECAME A HIGH-TECH MILITARY SUPERPOWER

By Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot

St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 304 pages

In “The Weapon Wizards,” Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohot, two leading Israeli military journalists, explain how over the years — and, especially in the current period — Israel developed and created “world class” weaponry for its military that played a role in innovating modern warfare.

Such advanced military technological capability is required, the authors write, because Israel “finds itself in a region in the throes of an unprecedented and historic upheaval.” They note that “this regional earthquake” has given birth to fierce enemies such as ISIS, a nuclear weapons-seeking Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah — its sophisticated ballistic rockets-capable proxy along the northern border. Along the southern border, there is the Palestinian Hamas, also armed with sophisticated rockets.



The authors begin their riveting account in the 1960s and 1970s — crucial periods in Israeli military technological innovation in response to its enemies’ threats — and then bring it forward to the current period. This is done to give the reader “a complete picture of each weapon — how it was born, who the innovators were and what made them and their technology special.”

What are the major weapons systems that have made Israel such a “world class” technological innovator? These include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs — also known as drones), which have innovated the way warfare is conducted. They are used in remote-control military missions as lethal weapons and surveillance aircraft (with Israel, according to the authors, becoming the “largest exporter of drones in the world, responsible for 60 percent of the global market”). Another major weapons system is the advanced Tzayad (“hunter”) battle management screen system, which enables a tank’s unit “to see the locations of friendly and hostile forces.” This is complemented by the “Trophy” defense system on a tank that uses a miniature radar system to detect, intercept and explode incoming missiles against it, and then provide the tank crew with coordinates to immediately direct an attack against its enemy squad.

There is also the Iron Dome battery system, which uses advanced algorithms to predict an adversary rocket’s trajectory and intercept and explode it in mid-air. The Arrow, another significant anti-missile intercept system, which was jointly developed with the United States, can intercept an incoming missile at high altitudes and at supersonic speeds, such as the type of missile that Iran could potentially launch against Israel. David’s Sling, a third system, is currently being developed, the authors explain, “to intercept rockets that are too big for the Iron Dome but not big enough to be intercepted by the Arrow.”

The authors note that Israel’s development of missile defense systems have “changed modern warfare” by giving “the country’s leadership the ability to think before retaliating against rocket attacks. They provide the IDF with the ability to protect its bases and ensure operational continuity, to keep planes taking off and landing even if missiles are being lobbied at runways.”

Cyberwarfare is another area where Israeli military technology excels. With Iran attempting to develop a threatening nuclear capability, the authors describe how Israel’s Unit 8200 — the IDF equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) — led a project to develop an offensive cyberwarfare weapon, together with the Mossad, the country’s intelligence agency, and the American National Security Agency, which produced the Stuxnet virus.

This “cyber virus,” uncovered in 2010 when it generated worldwide headlines, was deployed to target, infect and crash the devices that controlled the speed of Iran’s Natanz centrifuge motor used to spin and enrich uranium.

With many graduates of Israel’s elite Unit 8200 setting up start-up firms in cyber security, the authors note that Israel has become “a global leader in cyber security, exporting more than $6 billion a year in cyber products, rivaling Israel’s annual defense exports.”

In an area of needed military technology innovation which has not yet been solved, the authors discuss Hamas’ “disruptive innovation” success in digging its vast underground tunnel network under the border fence created by Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip. Although Israel has come up with a “new knowledge base” to identify where some of the tunnels might be built, it is still likely working on a technological solution to identify and destroy them.

A final area of Israeli military technological innovation is in improving interoperability in warfare. This enables military units from different disciplines to work together by having pilots in the air and infantry soldiers on the ground coordinating their targeting in battle.

New technological equipment in warfare being developed by Israel identified by the authors include sending unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) into enemy territory before the advancing troops to prevent loss of life, and unmanned patrol ships, based on the design of speedboats, to surveil the maritime activities of adversaries.

“As a country that has fought one [war] every decade since its establishment and still has enemies along its borders who call for its destruction, Israel will always be prepared. We do not pretend to know the future, but we have no doubt that Israel’s weapons will help shape that story,” the authors write.

With many of Israel’s military technological innovations employed by its American military counterparts (and with the U.S. military industry also involved in joint development programs), this book offers welcome insights into welcome achievements.

• Joshua Sinai is a senior analyst at Kiernan Group Holdings (KGH) in Alexandria, Va.

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