Israel concludes massive drill for war in north
The Israeli military wrapped up its largest drill in nearly two decades,
with more than 25,000 active-duty and reserve forces taking part in an
"extreme scenario" for war beyond its northern border.
A two-week drill of the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Corps ? nearly a
year in the making ? involved some 20 brigades, air power from all Israeli
Air Force bases, the bulk of the Israeli Navy surface and submarine force,
By: Barbara Opall-Rome 9 October 2017
TEL AVIV, Israel ? After-action analysis from last month’s massive drill at
Israel’s northern border has validated, with very few exceptions, more than
a decade worth of development, deployment and operational procedures
associated with the military’s cyber-secure, C4I-operational network, the
military’s chief signal officer said.
“Our concept of fighting in the cyber domain was validated in the latest
drill,” Brig. Gen. Netanel Cohen, the Israel Defense Forces‘ chief signal
officer, told Defense News. “We took all the digital transformation of the
past decade, and … bottom line: It worked.”
He was referring to last month’s drill of the IDF’s Northern Corps ? the
largest in nearly 20 years ? designed to simulate extreme scenarios of war
against Iran-armed and –trained Hezbollah forces beyond its northern border.
More than 25,000 active-duty and reserve forces from all service branches,
combat disciplines and command echelons took part in the two-week drill,
which involved cross-border infiltration, high-intensity ground maneuvering
in urban areas, and sustained salvos of enemy rockets and missiles directed
at the Israeli homefront.
Cohen also serves as chief of staff of the J6 C4I and Cyber Defense
Directorate of the IDF General Staff with responsibility for developing,
deploying, operating and defending C4I networks (command, control,.
communications, computers and intelligence). In a recent interview, he said
the drill marked the first opportunity for the IDF to test its multilayered,
cloud-supported networks in such large numbers and across all combat and
While Israel demonstrated many of the integrated C4I capabilities in Israel’s
2014 Gaza war ? particularly with regard to closing so-called
sensor-to-shooter cycles by way of the networked operations ? the drill
marked the first time the IDF could evaluate technologies, tactics and
procedures on such a broad scale.
“It was the first time we managed to connect a broad portion of our order of
battle and all fighting echelons deployed in the field on the same secure
net,” Cohen said. “We validated that every ground-fighting platform had the
ability to connect to the network.
“Battalion commanders got all the info they needed within their command
post, and then they were able to take information that was relevant and push
it to the company commander.”
Beyond command and control of targeting operations, Cohen said the drill
validated IDF inroads in using organizational networks to manage logistics.
It also provided an opportunity to demonstrate in-house-developed support
clouds for the IDF High Command as well as a tactical cloud for maneuvering
Going forward, the IDF plans to expand significantly on cloud-supported
command, control and prosecution of war aims, he said.
“We have a maneuvering cloud that doesn’t stay back with the infrastructure;
it all the time maneuvers with the forces. And within the battalion, the
commander knows how much ammunition he has via an organizational network
that allows him to more efficiently command his battalion,” Cohen said.
As for cyber defense, Cohen said the IDF’s C4I branch deployed a “red team”
of crack hackers whose mission was to penetrate or otherwise contaminate the
IDF’s operational network. “We had a full red team that challenged us
immensely during the fog of war. It helped us validate with precision our
strong points as well as our vulnerability points,” he said.
“There’s a lot we learned from the drill in terms of simultaneously
operating with many networks and how to broaden capacity, which is our
biggest challenge,” he added.
Cohen acknowledged that after-action assessments pointed to “some challenges
with capacity and connectivity, where we needed to make patches here and
there.” One of the skill sets demonstrated in the drill was the ability to
conceive of ways to “working around” gaps revealed during the fight.
“We couldn’t have tested the system and learned the way we needed to learn
without such a large-scale drill,” Cohen said.