A series of trials conducted in recent months by GOC Army Headquarters – in coordination with the Medical Corps – concluded that female soldiers could not serve as combat troops in the IDF's Armored Corps.
The field tests were undertaken as part of an IDF initiative to increase the number of combat positions available to women.
"Medical Corps officials examined the workloads and noted that integrating female soldiers into tanks was harmful," a senior Army officer told Ynet.
The physiological trials included a test of the abilities of an average female young adult inside the combat compartment of the Merkava tank, specifically in fulfilling the two duties which require significant physical effort – the "loader," tasked with carrying the hefty artillery shells, and the "driver," who must press down on the heavy peddle with considerable strength.
Another element in the Armored Corps' lifestyle which the trials took into consideration was the intimacy and harmony among the soldiers, who are often forced to spend several days locked into a small cabin while on operational duty – which may hurt the privacy of the female trooper.
During the examination of the initiative, the IDF looked at the policies of other Western militaries, like the US Army, that integrate women into the armored corps.
The conclusions of the trials led the Army to reconsider a past plan, under which female soldiers would be integrated into a different position – heavy equipment operators.
The revived initiative would allow women to serve as combat engineers operating heavy machinery, like the IDF's armored D9 bulldozer, in enemy territory and during ground operations led by the Infantry and Armored Corps.
Similar to the requirements of the Armored Corps, heavy equipment operators also work in pairs (commander and operator) and are frequently required to spend long periods confined to the small cabin.
The senior Army officer noted that "we are looking into the matter right now. A tow cable, for heavy machinery, weighs 60 kilograms, but you must remember that during combat situations – in advanced ambushes with special vehicles – you need to lift the massive weight of an observation mast; we found a solution to integrate female soldiers using an electric system."
The IDF is working to widely expand the number of female combat soldiers in the military, primarily as the army has lost thousands of combat troops after reducing the mandatory service period by four months.
Personnel Directorate officials said they’ve seen encouraging signs in the forms of a sharp rise in female combat recruits' motivation. In recent months, two classes of the new light infantry brigade "Lions of Jordan" had been recruited, and will be permanently assigned to guard the eastern border of the Jordan Rift Valley – similar to the Caracal Brigade, which watches over the Egyptian border and does not mobilize for war.
Recently, additional non-combat roles have been made available to female recruits – 10 combat troops had joined elite units in the Artillery Corps, including the UAV-operating "Sky Riders, and the Military Rabbinate has decided to allow female recruits to serve as Kashrut supervisors.
Despite these changes, figures still show a lopsided majority of males serving in combat roles, with females accounting for only five percent of front-line troops.
Some 90 percent of the positions in the IDF are open for women, including combat roles in the Navy, Home Front Command, and the Artillery Corps, as well as the Military Police in the West Bank.