Key Point: The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has been instrumental in Israel’s defense, providing air superiority over Israel, close air support over Israeli ground forces, and performing strikes against targets deep in the enemy’s homeland. Over the past three decades it has also taken on a counterterrorism role, using airstrikes to assassinate terrorist leaders and destroy caches of weapons from the Tunis to the Sudan.
(These pieces, reposted together, appeared in August 2015 and are being reposted due to reader interest.)
Much like the Israeli Air Force, the Israeli Army came from humble—but more established—beginnings. Israel’s ground forces had their origins in the Haganah, a Zionist paramilitary force created in the early 1920s to protect Jewish interests.
The Haganah cooperated with British authorities, but turned hostile in 1944 when the Axis neared defeat and the need for a Jewish state became increasingly clear. In 1947 the Haganah was reorganized into regular army units, and renamed the Israeli Army two weeks after the founding of the State of Israel.
Since then, the Israeli Army has seen combat every decade since its founding. It has fought numerous wars in defense of Israel, and embarked on numerous punitive expeditions into the Sinai, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.
In 1947, Israel’s low population but high level of education meant its citizens could train and organize a national army fairly quickly. Manpower limitations also meant the Israeli Army tended to gravitate towards technologically advanced, high firepower forces, and become more proficient at them than its neighbors. With that said, here are five Israeli army weapons of war that no one in the Middle East would certainly want to tangle with in a fight:
Merkava Main Battle Tank:
The brainchild of General Israel Tal, chief of the Armored Forces, the Merkava is Israel’s first and only indigenous main battle tank. The tank was especially designed for Israeli tank doctrine: low to the ground, with a powerful gun, the Merkava even had the engine placed in the front of the tank to provide protection to the crew. Combined with heavily sloped composite armor, Merkava made an excellent defensive tank, well suited to defending against Egyptian armored formations on the Sinai or Syrian forces on the Golan Heights.