TEL AVIV — At the end of the day, Israel’s greatest weapon to fight its enemies is people who serve in the Israel Defense Forces. This tiny country had to fight for its survival against all its neighbors on three separate occasions.
But even when they fought for independence using a patchwork force of militias and prayer, they still needed weapons.
Nowadays, Hezbollah; Hamas; Islamic Jihad; and the 9,482* other groups bent on Israel’s destruction aren’t held back with prayer.
Related: That time a handful of Israeli airmen led by a former US Marine attacked 10,000 Egyptians – and won
Maintaining Israel’s security is a unique strategic challenge that has forced the Jewish state to adopt the technology of others, while also innovating some of its own solutions to keep the peace — and fight when needed.
*estimated with zero evidence. But there are a lot of them. Trust me.
1. The F-16I “Sufa”
There’s nothing new about an F-16 Fighting Falcon, especially considering it’s been the workhorse of the free world since long before Communism fell. While the world oohs and ahhs at the F-35’s ultra-expensive helmet, the F-16I’s (I for Israel) helmet uses and integrated radar and helmet system that allows the pilot to fire the fighter’s weapons just by looking at its target.
2. Sa’ar 5 Corvette
Israel has coastline only in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, but the nautical border shared with many of its traditional enemies makes it vitally important for Israel to have effective Naval force. Enter the Sa’ar 5.
The Sa’ar 5 packs a wallop for a ship of its size and class. It features two 324-mm torpedo tubes, eight Harpoon missiles, 16 Barak-8 and 32 Barak-1 surface-to-air missiles. And let’s not forget the mighty Phalanx CIWS to protect it from surprises, like Hezbollah’s radar-guided missiles.
3. Protector Drones
The Israel Defense Forces are the first to field armed seaborne drones for surveillance missions in and around Israeli territory. It’s remotely controlled by two operators and uses a Typhoon remote weapons system attached to a machine gun and grenade launcher.
Variants of the protector can even be fitted with a SPIKE “fire-and-forget” missile system.
4. Tavor-21 Assault Rifle
The Israeli military uses a number of small arms developed by various countries, including the U.S.-designed M4 carbine. Their homegrown weapons are the ones for which they’re most proud, especially the Tavor-21 rifle and all its variants.
The Tavor is more compact and easier to maintain than the M4A1 carbine. The “bullpup” design maintains a shorter overall length while still using a standard-length barrel for better ballistics. The Tavor fires NATO 5.56 ammunition. It is set to replace the M4A1 as the standard issue rifle for the IDF as early as 2018.
5. Merkava IV
The Merkava has a number of tank innovations for the Israel Defense Forces’ unique needs. Its weapons include a 124-mm cannon that can fire Lahat anti-tank missiles. Other weapons include three heavy machine guns, smoke launchers, and a 60-mm mortar.
Its fire control system also allows for defense against enemy attack helicopters. None of that is as awesome for the crew as the Merkava’s…
6. Trophy Tank Defense System
Guided anti-tank missiles weren’t something the developers of WWII-era armor had to worry about. These days, anti-tank missiles are cheap and plentiful — especially for Hezbollah. For anyone who’s ever wanted to order “Star Trek’s” Enterprise crew to raise shields, you can do that in the IDF.
The Trophy Active Tank Defense System creates a full sensor shield to detect incoming missiles and then launches its own missile to intercept the incoming anti-tank missile. Which is almost as cool as…
7. The Iron Dome
When your most persistent and determined enemy’s biggest tactic is to randomly fire missiles into your territory and hope it hits something important, you need a way to mitigate that threat because Hamas might actually achieve that some day. The Iron Dome is how Israel has been doing it since 2011.
The Iron Dome uses radar stations to detect rockets as soon as they’re fired. Once detected, the rocket’s trajectory is analyzed from the ground. If the analysis reveals the potential for hitting a target, two Tamir high-explosive missile are launched to intercept.
Israel says the Iron Dome’s success rate is an incredible 90 percent.