Israeli strategic planners have spotted a silver lining in the dark cloud of insurrection blowing across the country’s Arab neighbours: they are looking to take advantage of Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian internal-security distractions to launch a massive overhaul of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Israel’s cabinet is currently mulling over a new five-year plan, drawn up by deputy chief of general staff Major General Gadi Eizenkot, that could see the idf slash tank and fighter numbers, retire 4,000 to 5,000 professional personnel (10 per cent of its total strength) and lay up warships. These are undoubtedly drastic measures but they will enable the idf to focus on its main priority: building up a significant technological edge over its neighbours. This will see the idf retrench, making greater use of “force multipliers” such as precision munitions, unmanned systems, cyber warfare and communications, intelligence and command systems.
This isn’t all driven by strategic opportunity, however. The idf desperately needs to do something about the ils40bn (€8.4bn) hole in its accounts and estimates that Eizenkot’s plan would save ils4.5bn (€950m) from the 2013–2014 budget at a stroke. The idf has already begun to implement some of the suggestions made in the plan, summarily grounding all of its f-16a/b multirole fighters and ah-1 Cobra attack helicopters having wound up training for its m60 and Merkava Mark 1 tank crews in June. Israel is now likely to try to sell the aircraft, artillery and warships but slice up the tanks for scrap or target practice. If the cabinet accepts the plan it is expected to be put into action this year or early in 2014, enacting the idf’s biggest defence restructure since the country was nearly overrun in the Yom Kippur war of 1973. “Israel kept these older platforms because there was a sense that we needed an insurance plan but now things have changed,” a senior Israeli defence source tells us. “The idf is finally liberating itself from the trauma of Yom Kippur.”
The casualties of the IDF’s five-year plan:
- All 75 F-16A/B fighters
- All of its 70-plus AH-1 Cobras
- Its entire fleet of M60 and Merkava Mark 1 tanks
- A 100-gun M109 howitzer brigade
- Two of its eight Sa’ar 4.5 corvettes
Weapons & Systems
As the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) prepares to celebrate its centenary in October, Australia’s naval bosses are beginning a much-needed overhaul of the service.
The RAN has developed a reputation for either acquiring second-hand vessels – such as the cobbled-together commercial tanker-cum-support ship Sirius – or suffering disasters with homegrown projects, such as its six Collins-class submarines (pictured). It will enter its second century with three Australian-built destroyers joining the fleet from 2016 – and a commitment to replace those troubled Collins submarines.
In the field
The July 2013 coup that ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi was a harsh reminder that the military remains the ultimate powerbroker in many young democracies – and it certainly jangled nerves in several other coup-prone states:
Long-serving military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani retires in November. Much will depend on how his successor rubs along with new prime minister Nawaz Sharif, especially if Pakistan’s parlous security situation endures.
Named the country most likely to experience a coup in 2013 by coup-predicting political scientist Jay Ulfelder. Ulfelder identified a number of vulnerable African countries but Guinea-Bissau’s toxic blend of corrupt politics, economic instability and headstrong army generals won out.
The Burmese military remains the country’s most powerful institution. It has accepted the civilian government’s reform process so far but will not sit idly by if it feels its core interests are threatened.
Indonesia’s position at a global-trade chokepoint creates a need for submarines – but it lacks the capacity to build them. So a €1bn co-operation agreement with South Korea will modernise Indonesia’s navy, resulting in a submarine-production facility at Indonesia’s Palu naval base, a technology-transfer programme and the development of three Chang Bogo submarines.
Collin Koh of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies expects progress in 2017 following the completion of upgrades: “Indonesia will be the only country in Southeast Asia with construction capabilities,” he says.