The ar­tillery brigade that can fire a mis­sile through your liv­ing-room win­dow

Pre­par­ing for ur­ban war­fare against Is­rael’s asym­met­ri­cal en­e­mies: ‘We won’t bring down a whole build­ing to hit one ter­ror­ist,’ com­man­der tells ‘The Post’

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YAAKOV LAPPIN

The story of the “David’s Sling” Ar­tillery Brigade re­flects, in ways few other units do, the rad­i­cal transformation of Is­rael’s se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment over the past decades. To­day the brigade has the abil­ity to fire a mis­sile through a liv­ing-room win­dow.

Orig­i­nally set up af­ter the 1973 Yom Kip­pur War to de­stroy ad­vanc­ing en­emy tank for­ma­tions with an­ti­tank mis­siles, the unit to­day spe­cial­izes in pre­ci­sion strikes in ur­ban war­fare set­tings, tar­get­ing en­e­mies em­bed­ded in Le­banese and Gazan civil­ian pop­u­la­tion cen­ters.

“The brigade is not an ordinary ar­tillery unit,” Col. M., com­man­der of the brigade, told The Jerusalem Post re­cently. He noted its spe­cial com­po­nents, in­clud­ing the Meitar and Mo­ran units that fire guided sur­face-to-sur­face mis­siles, of­ten hit­ting with pin­point ac­cu­racy tar­gets be­yond the line of sight. The brigade also in­cludes the Sky Rider Unit – the only one in the IDF’s ground forces that op­er­ates its own tac­ti­cal drones.

“The chal­lenge to­day is tar­get­ing an en­emy in an ur­ban set­ting, with all of the re­stric­tions. It is about iden­ti­fy­ing the en­emy and strik­ing it and it only, and not hit­ting non­com­bat­ants. We can­not bring down a whole build­ing be­cause of one sus­pect who is there. We must be very pre­cise,” Col. M said.

Young of­fi­cers have to know when to or­der strikes, and also, “when to stop,” Col. M added, re­fer­ring to their re­spon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing life and death de­ci­sions un­der in­tense pres­sure.

The brigade has be­come known as the most air force­like unit in the ground forces, due to its pre­ci­sion fire ca­pa­bil­i­ties and drones.

“Some in the air force jok­ingly calls us one of their best squadrons,” the com­man­der said. The unit must forge and main­tain close ties to the IAF, to en­sure its drones do not col­lide with the IAF’s plat­forms. The brigade is also re­spon­si­ble for call­ing in air strikes to as­sist ground forces dur­ing en­gage­ments on the bat­tle­field and in ma­neu­vers.

In the 1970s, the unit was dubbed the “judg­ment day weapon” due to its role in stop­ping what was then an ex­is­ten­tial threat – the con­quest of Is­rael by Syr­ian or Egyp­tian ar­mored forces.

Now that this threat has van­ished, the brigade faces the 21st cen­tury threats of Hezbol­lah and Ha­mas, and po­ten­tially ji­hadists in Syria. These groups could at­tempt to over­whelm Is­rael’s home front with rocket bar­rages, and at­tack the coun­try’s borders with sui­cide bombers armed with shoul­der-fired mis­siles.

The brigade in­cor­po­rated the Sky Rider tac­ti­cal drone Unit in 2011. To­day, the drone has be­come central to all IDF op­er­a­tions, Col. M. said.

“No bat­tal­ion com­man­ders will go any­where with­out it,” he stated. “We de­ploy drone crews in ev­ery sec­tor. As young as it is, this unit is al­ready highly val­ued.”

Drone unit sol­diers carry the Sky Rider and its mo­bile com­mand equip­ment on their backs, mean­ing they must nav­i­gate ter­rain car­ry­ing 50 per­cent of their body weight.

To­day, drone-equipped sol­diers can be found on all the coun­try’s borders and in the West Bank, pro­vid­ing over­the-hill re­con­nais­sance as­sis­tance to in­fantry and ar­mored corps.

In 2014, the IDF re­vealed that Meitar Unit is re­spon­si­ble for fir­ing the Ta­muz, known out­side of Is­rael as the Spike. The fourth gen­er­a­tion man-por­ta­ble fire-and-for­get anti-tank guided mis­sile and anti-per­son­nel mis­sile, which has a tan­dem-charged HEAT war­head, is man­u­fac­tured by the Rafael Ad­vanced De­fense Sys­tems. Most de­tails on the brigade’s mis­sile ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­main clas­si­fied.

The mis­sile units are com­posed of per­son­nel “who work with their brains, less with their mus­cles,” Col. M. said.

He de­clined to pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tails, say­ing only that “They leave no stone un­turned to gen­er­ate new tech­niques. They are cre­at­ing the next bat­tle doc­trine, and us­ing their [com­bat] sys­tems in ways that the sys­tem de­sign­ers did not think of.”

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