Body armor, bulletproof vests, orthopedic backpacks, camouflage gear, new helmets and other equipment designed to make soldiers’ lives easier and safer: a rare visit to the purchasing management at the Ministry of Defense provides a glimpse into the entire process of purchasing equipment for the IDF soldiers, from the decision-making, through the strict examination of the equipment to the tests in the field.
Making sure that IDF soldiers are comfortable, in war, operation or training. IDF controls millions of shekels and responsible for everything that the soldiers wear above their uniforms, whether it’s combat vests, backpacks, camouflage nets or helmets. Together with Ministry of Defense the IDF decides how to purchase, purchase from, what needs to be renewed, what needs to be changed and what the way the equipment do until it reaches the hands of the soldier. The bottom line is, the only thing important is the result in the field.
The Ministry of Defense is divided into departments, one of them is Purchasing Management, which purchases all the equipment the IDF needs. Purchasing Management is divided into several units, each in charge of a different purchasing field; Aerial Forces, Intelligence, Ground Forces and Logistics multi-forces. The same unit purchases everything the soldier wears above his uniform – ballistic vests, armor plates, helmets and many other things.
In recent years, there have been a number of accusations against the Ministry of Defense about wastefulness. But the rute the product passes from the shelf until it reaches the soldier it becomes clear that many public bodies could learn from the Ministry of Defense’s strict purchasing process. The law requires to contact only manufacturers in Israel and there is a preference for suppliers in national priority areas and lines of conflict. It is important to know that every specification has a clear definition of substance and quality. This is something that IDF do not compromise on.
After selecting the company that won the tender the IDF requires them to produce the product which is sent to be examined by the technical body. Only after they approve the product again the company begins commercial production and even then continues to bring back samples of the product.
These days the Ministry of Defense work on the production of the new vest chosen for the IDF soldiers – A modular MOLLE vest that the soldier can wear like a simple vest. What began as a belt with three pouches progressed in the 70s to be a simple vest and in the 2000s became a standard vest. Today we are in the stages of producing a vest with disconnecting inventories which is also shorter. In addition ballistic protective plates can be inserted inside it in a special place. In contrast to the current situation there won’t be a need to wear a protective vest and a combat vest on top of it. Every inventory on this vest can be disconnected and the soldier can put it on in accordance with the needs of the mission and the combat doctrine.
The new vest already entered part of the elite units of the Israel Defense Forces, several hundred units are currently being produced for the rest of the army and thousands more will be produced in the future. Of course, we can’t go into exact numbers. The value of every such vest starts with 800 to 1,000 shekels without VAT. But this general price varies depending on the type of the vest – A paramedic vest, a negev vest and grenade launcher’s vest are much more expensive.
In the field of tactical vests there are many new developments, today tactical vests used in the IDF always keep changing and developing. There’s going to be a big change here as well, hundreds and thousands of special bags with an orthopedic adjusted back system will be added to the army. the new models, which we call ‘The 90 bags’ named for their volume, are divided into two parts: the back system and the case. The back system is made of padded straps with straps that hold the body correctly. They have an internal orthopedic back system, the so-called Bananas, that support the shoulders and another part that provides resistance to the lower back and is covered with three-dimensional net that provides ventilation, the carriers also have customized pelvis belts some of which even have a place to insert protection for the pelvis.
The bag has a sort of axis and when you bend the carrier won’t burden you and won’t separate from the back. In this case as well, it costs quite a lot of money starting with thousand shekels for the simplest model to twice the amount for a sniper carrier.
The Ministry of Defense is also responsible for the purchase of combatant vests and special tactical vests, most of them are for the elite units. Even in the field of helmets there has been quite a change. Now MOD starting a tender, which is being published these days, for purchasing helmets from a different material and the demand is also to lower their weight. The soldiers know how every gram matters. The inside of the helmet will also undergo renovation.
Urgent purchasing in the second Lebanon war
In the second Lebanon war the IDF discovered that they don’t have enough vests and even what they had didn’t fit the requirements of the military. Manufacturers in the country no longer had any equipment and they turned to all the marketers that we had and we asked them to clear shelves from backpacks all over the world. At first we cleared all of Europe. They brought us backpacks that cost a fortune. We took what we got and at first they came in kinds of colors so we had to spray them green at the divisions. It created a situation where they had to wait for the bags to dry and later they skipped the repainting and I remember pictures of soldiers that entered with backpacks in all kinds of colors.
After the war MOD bought vests, sleeping bags, carriers, helmets, camouflage kits and everything in sight. It was a purchase in insane amounts, thousands and thousands, that handed out to all producers in the country.