A glimpse beneath the Earth’s surface: IDF trains underground

A conference held last week reveals the IDF (Zahal)’s underground warfare capabilities, including break-through technologies and special training for all infantry soldiers

Date: 16/07/2012, 7:04 PM     Author: Iddan Sonsino

Last week, the IDF (Zahal) held a conference for battalion commanders, focusing on confronting the threat of underground warfare, posed mainly by terror tunnels. Israel’s most capable technological minds work day and night to effectively overcome these threats, as elite commando units hold training exercises beneath the Earth’s surface. 

The conference was held in light of the IDF (Zahal)’s understanding that those future battles that happen beneath the ground will be critical to those that take place above it.  During Operation Cast Lead, IDF (Zahal) soldiers referred to the network of tunnels lying beneath the streets of Gaza City and Rafah as an “underground city.” From these spaces, terrorists would emerge, advance across long distances while under fire, disappear suddenly into underground bunkers, and operate rocket launchers while hiding in tunnels. Similarly, in Lebanon, Hezbollah bases much of its strategy on so-called nature reserves – fortified and wooded areas lined with huge, deep tunnels burrowed into mountains, covered by cedars.

Underground activity to be based on specific intelligence information

“We are focusing here on doctrine and technique, and examining how to prepare our forces – commanders and soldiers alike – for the subterranean threat,” Brig. Gen. Mickey Edelstein, Chief of the Infantry and Paratroops Corps, explained to the IDF (Zahal) Website regarding the conference.

“When we consider future combat scenarios in Lebanon, the village where the Hezbollah terrorist organization is based uses underground defense, which will be a great challenge, but one our infantry battalion can overcome,” said head of infantry and paratroopers combat doctrines, Col. Yoav Mordechai at a training facility mimicking a Lebanese village, starting off the conference.

A glimpse beneath the Earth’s surface: IDF trains underground

“We will be targeted by powerful firearms from the region, which we will have to overcome, though the most important thing is to continue moving forward. Your job as commanders is to evaluate the situation in the field, consider the missions at hand, and prevent terrorists from halting our forces.” Expanding on Col. Mordechai’s lectures, additional Ground Forces sources stressed that the IDF (Zahal) has no intention to engage in combat in the terror tunnels, and that any underground activity will be coordinated with specific intelligence information, carrying out special operations, targeting as many terrorists as possible and destroying strategic targets.

IDF (Zahal) units specialize in underground warfare

Among other components, the conference featured a thorough explanation of the advanced capabilities of the IDF (Zahal)’s Special Operations Engineering Unit and its Samur Company – an elite unit specializing in locating shafts, in using underground commando warfare against terrorists hiding in tunnels, and in destroying tunnels.

Specifically, the commanders in attendance were briefed on the company’s equipment – including high-tech robots that advance ahead of the soldiers, gear for mapping underground facilities, special cameras that record the activities of terrorists in tunnels while the soldiers are still above ground, and equipment that protects against explosions by utilizing groundbreaking advances in materials engineering. Much of the gear was presented to the commanders for the first time, since the unit routinely implements cutting-edge technology so as to continuously improve its capabilities.

A glimpse beneath the Earth’s surface: IDF trains underground

Though since last year, the Samur Company is no longer the only unit specializing in underground warfare, as infantry reconnaissance battalions began confronting the threat of terror tunnels. Today, all infantry units undergo thorough training in this type of warfare.

“We don’t wish to engage in dangerous combat in underground terror tunnels,” concluded a Ground Forces source to the IDF (Zahal) Website. “We will use underground warfare for special missions, and will not be dragged into it. Though if required to fight underground, we will know how to do so, target as many terrorists as possible, and continue to pursue forward.”