Over the last six months, the IDF's Combat Engineering Corps quietly adopted a series of new secret technologies. These new purchases were so covert, they were completely classified--until now.
With most of these new features now in place, we spoke with Lt. Col. Raanan Ben-Jacob, a senior officer in the Combat Engineering Corps, who revealed some of the de-classified new "toys" of the Combat Engineers:
"We have different types of charges against different types of threats. Some are to breach walls, while others are used against armored vehicles."
1) The "Thunder"
"Thunder" functions like the M-18 Claymore mines, scattering thousands of fragments in a wide angle, but it's so small that it fits in the soldier's pocket. It can be set up very quickly--plus, due to its small size, it's hard for enemy forces to detect during an ambush.
2) The "Fox" & the "Frame Breaker"
The "Fox" is a door breaching charge tool roughly the size of a human arm. After applying it to a door, the soldier can run a short fuse to a safe spot and activate it, or detonate the charge from a greater distance with the help of a remote. In case they need to enter the building another way, soldiers can also use the "Frame Breaker" designed to cut through walls like a hot knife through butter. Lt. Col. Ben-Jacob explains:
"A powerful blast opens the wall, without exposing the soldiers. It's the same principle that was used in Operation Defensive Shield, but back then this tool wasn't available. The Frame Breaker was actually designed based on many lessons learnt from that operation."
3) The Timer
Dealing with all those explosives is pretty dangerous--especially knowing that a device could go off at the wrong minute. The famous Combat Engineers slogan is "silver beret, golden people", but it's often extended to "...with platinum legs", due to the dangers of the job. So how to avoid losing limbs in an untimely explosion?
"We have a completely new timing mechanism that just got deployed to the forces... Just like in a movie, you set the trigger and you see the time running backwards. This new timer can be applied to any kind of explosives, regardless of size or weight. The Corps also just got a new wireless timer system which can initiate the detonation from a mile away."
Timing is everything, after all.
4) The "Snatcher"
Sometimes however, the job calls for some bigger tools, especially when dealing with minefields. The "Snatcher" joins the already existing "Tzefa Shirion" (Viper) system and operates in a similar way:
"It's a sabotage system containing a ton of C4 that is fired from an armored personell carrier to a previously defined distance. Once in the air, the Snatcher deploys a string of charges which upon detonation create a blast-wave, disabling mines hidden in the ground."
5) The APC Puma
Older but by no means lesser is the APC Puma, another mine-clearing system recently renovated. Based on the British Centurion Tank, it is an armored personell carrier equipped with 20 missiles filled with a fuel-air explosive.
The missiles can be shot one by one or all together, spreading a cloud of fuel fumes which are then detonated. The mines blow up in the ground from the overpressure of the explosion. The result: No more minefield.
In addition, the Puma also comes with electronic equipment capable of detonating roadside bombs and jamming detonation signals. What an animal.
"The Puma was used a lot during the Second Lebanon War and in Operation Cast Lead. It causes less damage to the environment than, for example, the Viper. It's a great tool and a huge advantage in the field."
Combat Engineers are usually the first to enter enemy territory in order to "purify" areas from explosives and clear the way for the other forces. In light of this, the IDF's Combat Engineering Corps underwent a vast replenishment program in the last few years, which significantly improved its technological and operational capabilities. That's what we call excellence through innovation.