February 22, 2024

Since October 7, The Jerusalem Post has visited four different IDF locations on the southern front, two air force bases, and embedded with a navy fast boat off the coast of Gaza; several of these visits took place in recent days. 

What emerged from all this begins to explain some of the IDF’s failures on October 7. More importantly, though, it establishes an understanding of how the IDF’s revolutionized and integrated approach to warfare kicked it into high gear in its offensive, and effectively changed the narrative in the war with Hamas.

Field command centers are handling real-time targeting decisions, and intelligence command centers are providing human spying, signals intelligence, satellite intelligence, cyber intelligence, and other items to the targeting centers.

During one of the targeting command center visits, an interview was interrupted for 30 seconds. During that time, the targeting commander integrated new field intelligence and seamlessly passed it on to another field or air unit – within minutes, Hamas targets were destroyed.

And on the fast boat, intelligence came through that IDF Unit 401 was about to be ambushed by Hamas. This information came from an intelligence center, through a targeting center, and then to the navy, which fired around a dozen shells from a missile boat, killing the targets.

A senior air defense official presented a picture of how IDF air defense monitors look during a “normal” volume of rocket attacks – as opposed to the 3,000 rockets that were fired in a four-hour timespan on October 7.

The difference lay in a series of quantifiable and not-too-hard-to-follow arrows or streaks across a screen, versus the entire screen being filled with streams until it seemed unintelligible to human eyes, and only the IDF automatic air defense aspects could fully follow it.

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Still, that automatic system responded and, with some delay, the human interpreters responded as well and were also able to analyze and rapidly share the data with other critical units.

Between signals and cyber intelligence Unit 8200, air force surveillance Unit 9900, and human spying Unit 504, the IDF has always passed around intelligence to assist with targeting and defense, both in the field and on the home front.

In some ways, none of this should come as a surprise. For years, the IDF talked up a new level of integration between different intelligence units and sea, air, and land forces.

In one pre-war visit, the Post met with a commander of the IDF’s secret artificial intelligence target bank, where sharing intelligence and operational targeting has moved to almost light-speed.

Yet given that much of the latest revolution was post-2019, this was only really used by the air force, and statements about using the new systems, capabilities, and speed for the land forces were speculative.

If all you need to do is booby-trap a house, then light-speed satellites, drones, ultra-networked land vehicles, artillery, and tanks do not help.

There are no agreed-upon estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq, but the lowest number tends to break 100,000 and the higher number could reach several hundred thousand.

The IDF is still under 50 soldiers killed in the invasion

So far, under 40 IDF soldiers have been killed in the invasion, compared with a 2014 estimate that IDF losses would hit 500-1,000 soldiers if a deeper ground invasion was implemented. 

This new integrated warfare, reducing IDF casualties by several orders of magnitude, has also allowed the IDF to continue the ground invasion, much as the Iron Dome has allowed the IDF to continue airstrikes even in the face of rocket attacks on the home front.

Speaking to a wide range of IDF officials at all levels, it is clear that they know they have created a new kind of integrated warfare, which has transformed the battlefield with Hamas.

But whether the impressive gains of this new kind of warfare are sufficient to deter Hezbollah, Iran, and other Shi’ite proxies from crossing certain Israeli red lines, is still unclear.