As opposed to other, smaller, platoon-sized drills, this exercise was carried out at the brigade level, and included soldiers from the Golani Brigade, the IDF 7th Tank Brigade, a tactical drone unit, IDF combat engineers and more – all under florescent lighting and in air-conditioned offices.
Some of the weapons systems which were tested are unable to be tested in live fire drills either due to budgetary issues or because their safety hasn't been proven yet.
The majority of the new fighting systems being tested out in these simulators are still works in progress, and are top secret. However, one of the systems which are allowed to be written about is the "Spark". The "Spark" is a next generation anti-tank missile which is expected to replace the "Gil" missile which is currently in used by the IDF. There are many benefits to the "Spark" which include an upgraded targeting system and a considerable reduction in weight, thereby enabling greater ease of maneuverability by ground forces.
There was also the testing of a brand new, first of its kind precision GPS guided mortar, a command and control ground forces system which enables ground forces to coordinate directly with air force pilots in the air, and small observation balloons which are expected to be used by all ground forces in the coming years.
A high ranking ground forces commander responsible for developing the advanced weapons explained that "the development of these new weapons takes a lot of time and money and is full of risks. Our goal is to minimize these risks from the beginning. This is what we did when we began to develop the "wind screen" system (which protects tanks and humvees against RPGs and other anti-tank missiles) and the Mars multi-sensor detection system – a system which is being used on the border with Syria - a decade ago."
The soldiers trained taking over Hezbollah controlled villages, and fought against Hezbollah platoons – but via giant plasma screens, keyboards, joysticks, virtual reality goggles, and various other simulators. It was like a giant war videogame, with over 150 soldiers online, around the clock, for two days.
The soldiers in the tanks and the Golani ground forces' yells can be heard amongst the HD screens as the encounter "Hezbollah" forces hidden in buildings and popping out at them at close range. Walking between the computer terminals is the Golani commander, Col. Ghassan Alian. Above them are the IDF weapons developers who are taking notes, listening to comments, and are tweaking the weapons systems in real time. These are systems which will be used in the next war with Hezbollah – in the future Third Lebanon War.
The simulators which were used in the drill were developed by Ground Forces Command programmers, many of whom are 19-year-old "computer geniuses," and were based on games such as Call of Duty and Battlefront. However, the graphics and 3D imagery in these simulators would put even the most advanced videogames to shame.
In one of the giant rooms sat the "Hezbollah unit," made up of IDF soldiers and officers playing the part of the terrorists fighting the IDF Golani and tank forces in the drill.
The major who was in charge of the "Hezbollah unit" said, "In general, we only bring a single platoon of soldiers. But this time, we brought an entire brigade. This is the largest drill to be held in this lab since it was built 20 years ago."
The commander then explained his objective as "Hezbollah unit commander." He said "our objective is to defend the area around the Lebanese village. We drew up our battle plans based on actual Hezbollah strategies and weapons that IDF intelligence has collected on the Lebanese terror group. In pretending to be Hezbollah we used their actual strategies, such as the use of terror tunnels."
He was fighting against soldiers of the 51st Golani platoon, commanded by Capt. Amichai Hod.
"When you're running and sweating in the field, there are certain things that you don't pay attention to. Here (in the lab), you can concentrate on these new issues. It enables me to have flexibility as a company commander, and gives me the ability to improve (my skills) on the weapons systems which I will be using in the future," the company commander said.
Outside the labs where the "fighting" is taking place, the head of the IDF 7th tank brigade, Col. Dan Newman, already knows what he wants out of the new weapons.
"We need a lot more lethality with fast rates of fire and at high speeds. As a commander of a combined brigade, I want more (intel) collection capabilities and more accurate attack capabilities so that I won't need to chase after some terrorist on a motorcycle."
It seems he may just get what he wants.