Tuesday, May 26, 2015

And Now the Israelis Forget Recon 101

I was depressed enough at the thought of our ultra light RSTA battalions in our new brigades that replaced our old divisional armored cavalry squadrons. Now the Israelis forget the value of heavy recon units.

This is not good:

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reconnaissance company supporting a Merkava Mk 4 tank brigade has adopted unarmoured Humvees as its preferred mode of transport in combat zones.

The 401st Armored Brigade's reconnaissance company made the transition in recent months after using Humvees armed with FN MAG machine guns to move wounded soldiers to safety during Operation 'Protective Edge' in the Gaza Strip in mid-2014. ...

According to company commander Major Yoav Amir, training exercises conducted in recent days have focused on moving deep into southern Lebanon ahead of the brigade's armoured units.

The company's mission, Maj Amir said, will be to transmit real-time intelligence to forces advancing and ensure that viable routes are in place for the armoured vehicles following behind.

Good luck with that.

I was extremely worried that we discarded our armored cavalry for Humvee-mounted recon and fire-support vehicles. Fine for counter-insurgency, such units are completely inadequate for high-intensity warfare.

I'm hesitant to advise the Israelis on armored warfare. They were once the best practitioners in the world.

But the last time they carried out a major mechanized offensive was 1982, in Lebanon.

It has been even longer (1973) since the Israelis fought major battles against heavy forces.

We have more experience since 1991 and 2003, but when we reorganized our Army during the Iraq War we forgot about the value of heavy recon units--despite the amazing advance of heavy 3rd Infantry Division's 3-7 armored cavalry squadron leading the division in the 2003 invasion.

The Israeli army originally had light recon units, on the theory that light but fast vehicles are more nimble.

But combat experience taught the Israelis that they needed tanks in their recon units because they often had to fight enemy forces for ground to gather intelligence on what was in front of them.

Now after many decades of not having to fight a mechanized campaign, the Israelis forgot their old lessons. Or they think the old lessons don't matter as technology has ... what? Made light vehicles impervious to fire? 

Those new recon companies seem very fast when nobody is shooting. They will be immobile scraps of metal--with dead crews--when they go up against Hezbollah's light infantry.

This is a whole lot of bad news for what it says about the state of knowledge on armored warfare.

But combat, should the Israelis drive to Baalbek to tear up Hezbollah, will remind the Israelis--and hopefully our Army--that ground recon units need to be heavy to survive against conventional foes on a battlefield.

I'd give good money to see the return of armored cavalry units to the Army.