Israel has been preparing intensively for long months for a large-scale war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. The IDF widely publicized some of these efforts while keeping a low profile on other moves.
Overall, the IDF held over 15 military exercises in 2021 to elevate the readiness of troops for combat against Hezbollah. This included a large Commando Brigade drill that simulated the airlifting of over 1,000 elite forces into Lebanon. The IDF also practiced plans for conquering a strategic Lebanese town.
The ongoing drills are meant to test the full array of the IDF’s units, weapons and capabilities. However, the constant action serves another purpose: Lowering Hezbollah’s guard by regularly deploying troops near the Lebanon border. The group elevates its alert level for major Israeli drills, but maintaining a high level of vigilance is harder over time.
On the defensive front, Israel held a national war exercise focusing on a broad assault from Lebanon. The Defense Ministry is also speeding up work to build bomb shelters in northern border communities. The army expects Hezbollah to fire heavy rocket barrages and predicts that 6% will hit urban areas.
Preemptive IDF strike?
A war between Israel and Hezbollah could erupt for several reasons. For example, a deadly border incident would likely provoke a strong IDF response and may spark a larger conflict. But there are other scenarios.
As Israel increasingly adopts a preemptive war doctrine, the IDF may launch a surprise attack to neutralize Hezbollah’s key assets. Defense officials are alarmed by the group’s precision-missile program and moving closer to ordering a preventive strike to destroy the project.
On a strategic level, Israel may decide to strike first to crush or greatly weaken Hezbollah, which poses the most immediate threat to the country’s security. Former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror has already promoted a plan for a long war in Lebanon to devastate the group and eradicate its strongholds.
Earlier, military experts said that an aggressive maneuver by ground forces is the key to defeating Hezbollah.
However, Israel expects to face aggressive retaliation to any IDF strikes . A Hezbollah expert warned that the group will target Tel Aviv in response to attacks on its key assets in Lebanon. Other analysts wrote that both Israel and Hezbollah developed new war doctrines, which will make the next war more devastating than ever.
Israel vs. Hezbollah war drills
Senior officers have stated that the IDF is ready for a few days of intensive battles against Hezbollah. However, the scope and intensity of military exercises suggest that Israel prepares for weeks of fighting inside Lebanon. Moreover, the army expects to face extreme combat scenarios not seen in previous wars.
By now, the IDF methodically tested and reviewed most of its critical systems and units in 2021. The Air Force mobilized its attack helicopters for combat exercises to prepare for strike missions in Lebanon. Earlier, a surprise drill tested the response to a Hezbollah raid on Mount Hermon. Elite forces were airlifted to the site and simulated a battle with the infiltrators.
Previously, a huge Air Force exercise simulated an all-out war against Hezbollah. Israeli aircraft trained for intensive strikes and simulated attacks on 3,000 Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in one day. In parallel, the IDF held the Lightning Storm exercise to train for battles with Hezbollah on the Lebanon border.
The IDF also deployed Patriot missiles nationwide in the largest-ever exercise of its kind. During the drill, air defense battalions moved the missile batteries from storage sites to wartime positions.
Elsewhere, the Navy held a large exercise to simulate a terrorist infiltration from Lebanon at sea and on land. The scenario was based on intelligence information about Hezbollah’s war plans.
Elite forces and new weapons
The IDF Commando Brigade has been training intensively for two strategic missions: Hitting Hezbollah targets deep in Lebanon, and rapidly responding to raids into Israel. In parallel, the elite Ghost Unit developed new methods for quickly detecting and eliminating Hezbollah rocket squads and launchpads.
The Navy is also preparing to play a key role in fighting a war in Lebanon. As part of the upgrade of naval capabilities, the IDF equipped missile boats with precision-guided weapons and a high-powered cannon.
In addition, the IDF is boosting its defensive measures to counter potential Hezbollah raids. A high-ranking officer said that the army is preparing “surprises” for enemy forces who plan to strike inside Israel.
Israel’s defense industries also developed powerful weapons that will be used in a war against Hezbollah. This includes a laser-guided, high-precision mortar for hitting key targets in crowded urban areas. The land army also upgraded its most lethal weapon, a cluster rocket that can cause massive damage across a wide area. The powerful rocket was specifically designed to counter Hezbollah forces.
In addition, the IDF built a state-of-the-art simulator used by troops to accurately replicate real-life combat scenarios in Lebanon. Earlier, the army built a unique war training zone near the Lebanon border to prepare combat units for fighting Hezbollah forces.