More Hits: Construction workers in Beirut rebuild a site in 2009 that was destroyed during Israel's war against Lebanon in 2006. Israel, armed with a new network, now says it can engage five times more targets than it could in 2006. (Ramzi Haidar / AFP via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV — The Israel Defense Force (IDF) is crediting integrated C4I systems for a fivefold increase in the number of targets troops can detect and destroy from the air, ground or sea.
Connecting IDF headquarters, service branches, intelligence organizations and territorial commands on a secure C4I network means Israel can now destroy five times more targets per day than it could during the 2006 Lebanon War, officers said.
“If, in Lebanon, the IDF was able to attack X number of targets in a day, today we can do five times as much per day,” said Brig. Gen. Eyal Zelinger, head of the IDF’s C4I Corps. “We’re seeing this IDF-wide in exercises and by way of real operations.”
Since operational failings from that 2006 war, networked commanders are using common language and universally understood procedures to plan and prosecute joint operations.
“Until then, there was no connectivity. The Air Force, General Staff, intelligence and other branches each had its own system. So in order to strike a target in Lebanon, we had to fax, telephone, use spread sheets and all kinds of anachronistic ways of connecting to one another,” Zelinger said.
Similarly, early versions of the Army’s Tzayad digital C4I net linking brigade commanders to the IDF’s higher echelons did not extend beyond fixed command posts, forcing commanders either to lead from behind or join forces in the field without reliable, real-time access to essential data.
“Technology at that time didn’t allow the brigade commander to see the same targets that he could see in his bunker, where everything was connected by fiber optics,” Zelinger said. “Now, with bandwidth on the move, that dilemma is gone.”
The fivefold increase in attack capacity, and future efficiencies prescribed in the IDF’s latest Te’uza five-year plan, promise to shorten the duration of future wars, officers said.
In the past six months, upgrades to the Army’s Torch system — an element of the Tzayad digital network — have linked division commanders directly into the C4I network supporting Israel Air Force (IAF) attack operations.
“Today, a division commander can see on Torch which targets the Air Force struck in his sector and what was the [battle damage assessment] of those targeting ops,” Zelinger said. “He can now overlay his attack plan directly on the IAF attack plan.”
By 2018, the IDF aims to push this connectivity down to increasingly lower tactical levels in support of air-land, sea-land or even air-sea-land battles, he said.
“When the battalion commander on the ground marks a target on his digital map, we want to make sure it gets transferred automatically to the pilot in the cockpit,” Zelinger said.
Operational coordination is no longer enough, he added, “because by the time the guy on the ground and the guy in the air make sure they’re talking about the same target, that target may have disappeared.
“The same should apply to the tank commander and the helicopter pilot or the missile boat captain and any other platform,” he said.
Such connectivity, officers said, will support the strategic directive of Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, IDF chief of staff, for rapid achievement of clearly defined objectives.
Future wars, said Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, chief operations officer for the Air Force , will be deadlier and shorter, due in large part to advances in sensor-to-shooter, networked operations.
The Air Force will soon launch a phased revamp of planning procedures and air operations aimed at achieving a tenfold increase in networked attack operations, Norkin said. By pairing persistent intelligence collection methods with precision weapons, the service, supported by elements across the IDF, expects to generate an exponential number of new, time-sensitive targets during each day of future fights.
Next Step: Big Data
Gantz also has tapped the C4I branch to lead an ambitious, multiyear effort to usher the IDF into the world of autonomous intelligence-based big data, officers said.
A smaller version of the Pentagon’s planned Joint Information Environment, the program aims to merge disparate networks into a single system that stores, synthesizes and autonomously generates mission-tailored data as needed.
“Once everyone is interconnected and capable of receiving huge amounts of data, the question becomes, ‘Who needs all this information?’ ” Zelinger said.
According to the C4I Corps commander, the new system known here as Big Data “will know how to extract only relevant information from a huge database and stream it directly to end-users.
“Now, if the IAF needs information from military intelligence, it must turn to them and get them to extract it from their system,” he said. “But in future, they should be able to go directly into the system and pull it out themselves.”