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Israel Defense Forces: Ordnance Corps

The Ordance Corps (חיל החימוש) is a combat-support corps responsible for the development and maintenance of war materiel, combat-support materials and other systems.

Ordnance Corps
Logo of the IDF Ordnance Corps

The origins of the Ordnance Corps lie in the ordnance unit of the pre-state military Haganah, that was established in 1941 and labored to obtain, provide and service weapons and ammunition in underground conditions. During the War of Independence, the ordnance unit had to deal with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition that had been hastily assembled. It also had to contend with problems of wear and tear, due to inappropriate use, neglect and the shortcomings of maintenance. In January of 1948, the Ordnance Service" was founded, as part of the professional staff of the General Staff. In adjusting after the establishment of the IDF, the logistics services were divided among three corps:

  • The Supply and Transportation Corps
  • The Technical Corps
  • The Equipment and Ordnance Corps

Two years later, the Equipment and Ordnance Corps was disbanded. Responsibility for equipment was passed on to the Supply Corps, while responsibility for procurement, storage, supply, and testing equipment was now assigned to the Technical Corps, which in 1953, became known as the "Ordnance Corps".

The Ordnance Corps was reorganized in the years preceding the 1956 Sinai Campaign, when it was decided to incorporate the Armored Corps and maintenance systems into the Ordnance Corps. This important decision reflected the high degree of integration of the Corps in the field of armor, and proved to be beneficial during the Sinai Campaign. Among the achievements of the Corps was its support of the unit that captured Sharam e-Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

On the eve of the Six-Day War, the main effort of the Ordnance Corps was focused on restoring armored vehicles and weapons to operational competence. During the war itself Ordnance Corps units were attached to IDF fighting units in all stages of the combat. This allowed for the expeditious repair of many malfunctions. But it also exacted a high cost in human life.

After the war, the redeployment of IDF forces along the borders, required the Corps to increase its manpower. Therefore, from the Six-Day War and until the early seventies, the Ordnance Corps doubled its manpower.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Ordnance personnel managed to double the number of weapons that were fit for use by the fighting forces. The corps made a substantial contribution to improving the balance of power on every front. After the war, the corps undertook an operation to restore of weapons. This was the largest operation of its kind in the history of the IDF.

The greatest achievement of the Ordnance Corps, occurred on the opening day of Operation Peace of the Galilee (later known as the Lebanon War). Thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled guns, vehicles and weapons systems at a high operational level, were transferred to the battlefield rapidly and smoothly from emergency storage areas. This capability derived from the "dry storage" method, which was developed by the IDF, as one of lessons of the Yom Kippur War. The "dry storage " method isolates combat materiel from the climatic environment. Effective Israeli-manufactured dryers and plastic covers that construct an internal storage space that shields the weapons from the outside environment and preserves them in a clean state at low humidity. Materiel stored by this method are serviced periodically. The advantage of the dry-storage method is the ability to store large quantities of supplies, keeping them ready for immediate utilization, which requires a minimal level of upkeep. The Peace for Galilee Operation also marks the Merkava tank's baptism under fire. This tank, which took part in the fighting of Operation Peace of the Galilee demonstrated superb fire power and surveillance. The Ordnance Corps was responsible for the engineering, logistics, coordination, quality control and upkeep of the Merkava MBT. Advancements in the field of fire power, mobility and crew protection developed on the basis of lessons learned during the battles which the IDF fought and are the most highly developed MBT in the world.

The mission of the Ordnance Corps is:

  • To maintain IDF fighting units
  • To research and to develop weapons and materiel at every level
  • To plan maintenance systems in accordance with war plans

The Ordnance Corps is the professional authority for all IDF ground forces. The Ordnance Corps has two main principles:

  • To develop combat materiel: R&D, repair and improvement of quality materiel for ground forces.
  • To build up a maintenance capacity. The Ordnance Corps deals with building the maintenance units of the IDF, promotes and benefits from the technological and scientific development of the IDF.

The Corps to a large extent represents the "behind the scenes" powerhouse of the army. Its motto is - "Join the Future Today". Despite the fact that the Ordnance Corps is not a combat army, 23 of its soldiers were awarded the Medal of Valor in Israel's wars for their bravery, and courage under fire. They serve as an example to all IDF soldiers.

Sources: Israel Defense Forces