The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), are Israel’s military forces, comprising the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel. The IDF is headed by its Chief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; as of 2010 Rav Aluf Gabi Ashkenazi has served as Chief of Staff since 2007.
An order of Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion on May 26, 1948 officially set up the Israel Defense Forces as a conscript army formed out of the paramilitary group Haganah, incorporating the militant groups Irgun and Lehi. The IDF served as Israel’s armed forces in all the country’s major military operations — including the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Operation Litani, the 1982 Lebanon War, Operation Defensive Wall, the 2006 Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. While originally the IDF operated on three fronts—against Lebanon and Syria in the north, Jordan and Iraq in the east, and Egypt in the south—after the 1979 Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty, it has concentrated its activities in southern Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and the Second Intifada.
The Israel Defense Forces differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways, including the conscription of women, and the structure, with close relations between the ground forces, air force and navy. Since its founding, the IDF has striven to become a unique army fitting Israel’s specific requirements. In 1965, the Israel Defense Forces was awarded the Israel Prize for its contribution to education. The IDF uses several technologies developed in Israel, many of them made specifically to match the IDF’s needs, such as the Merkava main battle tank, advanced Hi-Tech weapons systems, and the Galil and Tavor assault rifles. The Uzi submachine gun was invented in Israel and used by the IDF until December 2003, ending a service that began in 1954. Since around 1967, the IDF has had close military relations with the United States, including development cooperation, such as on the F-15I jet, THEL laser defense system, and the Arrow missile defense system.
The IDF possesses top-of-the-line weapons and computer systems used and recognized worldwide. Some gear comes from the US such as the M4A1 assault rifle, the SR-25 7.62 mm semi-automatic sniper rifle, the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the AH-64D Apache and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters. Israel also has developed its own independent weapons industry, which has developed weapons and vehicles such as the Merkava battle tank series, the Kfir fighter aircraft, and various small arms such as the Galil and Tavor assault rifles, and the Uzi submachine gun.
The IDF also has several large internal research and development departments, and it purchases many technologies produced by the Israeli security industries including IAI, IMI, Elbit, El-Op, Rafael, Soltam, and dozens of smaller firms. Many of these developments have been battle-tested in Israel’s numerous military engagements, making the relationship mutually beneficial, the IDF getting tailor-made solutions and the industries a very high repute.
In response to the price overruns on the US Littoral Combat Ship program, Israel is considering producing their own warships, which would take a decade and depend on diverting US financing to the project.