The 1968–1973 Egyptian Army Field Preparations for Crossing the Suez Canal and the Conflict Between Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Research Units
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Much has been written about the intelligence fiasco of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with respect to the 1973 Yom Kippur (October) War. Less than a handful of papers have highlighted what led to the intelligence blunder, namely, the main intelligence research agencies’ refusal to accept geographic intelligence. This paper, based mainly upon the 2nd author’s personal experience, reviews the 5-year process of the IDF geographic intelligence research prior to the surprise Egyptian offensive. This research, based upon aerial photo interpretation and terrain analysis, identified and explained step-by-step tactical infrastructural changes in the Soviet-supported Egyptian military field preparations for crossing the Suez Canal that were verified from ground observations and personal recollections of commanders and intelligence personnel from both sides during and after the War.
This paper exemplifies how terrain fortifications, modifications, and construction can be observed, analyzed, and interpreted at a strategic level by geographic intelligence methods. It is an account of the organizational processes, difficulties, and challenges of collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of spatial field data and as such exemplifies how concrete geographic intelligence, combined with an understanding of military operations, can generate intelligence that is superior to intelligence based on SIGINT and HUMINT. Organizational tension between geographic and research intelligence units, though possibly inherent, must be continuously addressed and coordinated to provide a holistic intelligence assessment.
KeywordsGeographic intelligence GEOINT Yom Kippur/October 1973 Arab-Israel War Spatial analysis Military geography Aerial photographs
This paper is partly based on a chapter in Dekel-Dolitzky (2010). It dedicated to the late Major (reserves) Benny Kain who prior to his dismission from long and exceptional reserve duties was also the first to foresee that toward the turn of the century, the underground and tunnels will be the emerging terrain application for terror and guerilla warfare against Israel.
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