The Jerusalem Post, November 9, 2004
IDF UNVEILS ITS DIGITAL ARMY
OF THE FUTURE AT TELECOM 2004
By Arieh O'Sullivan
There are no dancing go-go girls, free beer, wine and cheese, or complimentary trinkets at the IDF pavilion of the Telecom Israel 2004 conference at the Tel Aviv Fair Grounds. Those are at the commercial booths.
What one will find is a rare glimpse into just how far the IDF has come in fielding advanced technology to combat troops. Mock-ups of IDF soldiers of the future with their wrist screens and personal computers linking them with the army's nascent network centric system conjures up science fiction.
The IDF unveiled a number of new gadgets and systems, including a mobile relay station called "Red Fox" that funnels a whopping 155 megabytes of video data a second to a mobile digital divisional command and control headquarters. Other revelations include upgraded PDMs that can download secure pictures from drones and personal wireless radios linking all soldiers in a unit.
This is the first exhibition put together by the IDF's new branch called C4I that consolidates the information flow in the IDF. Set up last year and known by its Hebrew name "Tikshuv," its mission is to make the IDF digitalized and create a synergy that will allow the army to reduce its ground force, says the branch's commander, Maj.-Gen. Udi Shani.
"This is very complicated, not just technologically, but also conceptually and operationally," Shani told The Jerusalem Post.
Technology is advancing at such a rate that even the generals admit that the army finds it difficult to even fathom its needs. Most of the efforts have been focused on combating Palestinian terrorism.
"For us to 'close in' on an aggressor is a matter of seconds, otherwise they escape," Shani said. "You can see we have input from intelligence and land and air forces together in a matter of seconds."
According to Shani, a rugged command and control system was first tested in battle during last month's Operation Days of Repentance in the Gaza Strip against Kassam rocket squads.
What this means is that by linking up all the sensors and data collectors helicopter pilots view the same digital map that soldiers on the ground are viewing and that are displayed at headquarters. These show information such as where troops are located and remove a lot of the ambiguity and estimation of the past.
"The operational doctrine of the IDF has changed. Today we speak of many things we never even mentioned a decade ago. Even if we did we never thought of it and didn't develop our systems," Shani said.
"Warfare used to be one of masses. Once we kept divisions and divisions. Today we are downsizing, and this is being compensated by technology," Shani said.
"Today you can bring down your enemy's computer network before it has even operated a single force. If I have taken over someone's command and control they can't operate. If I have blocked all of their frequencies, they won't be able to communicate," he said, describing just some of the technologies the IDF is working on.
Shani said that revealing IDF capabilities was good for creating deterrence.
"What we are revealing here is technology. We haven't unveiled everything, but... it is good for others to know what we have," Shani said.
"The capabilities are only at the beginning. It all seems fantastic here, but we are only just starting and there is a lot left to do," he said, adding that the IDF wants to project a sophisticated image at the Telecom 2004 convention.
Shani acknowledged that some 60 percent of the displays are operational and the rest still in the development stage. The projects are mostly part of the IDF ground forces' digitalization program that is expected to cost billions of shekels over the coming decade.
One of the operational products displayed to the public for the first time this week is an upgraded version of the Vered Harim (Mountain Rose) secure cellular network. It can receive slightly delayed downloads from UAVs and other sources directly to the forces on rugged hand-held computers supplied by Tadiran Communications. The army has already supplied hundreds of the devices to company commanders.
"What do I gain from having an aircraft take pictures and then relaying it back to the air force? Now if it can give [the data] to the fighter on the ground in real time the operational effectiveness increases immediately," said Shani.
"Imagine taking a UAV from one spot and attack weapon from someplace else, together with a video conference with people spread in various locations you'll have a network that is exploding," Shani said.
The IDF pavilion is open to the public until Thursday.