TEL AVIV — Israel's Homefront Command is accelerating plans to field a national emergency response C4I network ahead of threatened retaliation by Iran and Hezbollah for last week's aerial assassination strikes in Syria.
A general officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and two midlevel Heizbollah commanders were among those killed in the Jan. 18 attack on a convoy travelling just north of the Israeli-Syrian border.
In response, Tehran's Supreme National Security Council vowed that Heizbollah, its Lebanon-based ally, would avenge the attacks "with crushing force, revolutionary determination, and at a time and place of its choosing."
In keeping with its policy of ambiguity on operations conducted in Iran, Syria and Lebanon over the past decade, Israel is not confirming its role in the attack.
However, UN monitors at the border reported the breach of Syrian airspace by Israeli-manned aircraft and experts here note that Israel is the only force in the region practiced in the art of precision strikes against moving targets.
As Israel continues to remain mum, it is ramping up readiness at diplomatic facilities abroad and augmenting defenses at home through intensified air patrols, crack troops at the border and deployment of Iron Dome intercepting batteries.
Additionally, it is fast-tracking the fielding of Shu'al, which translates to Fox, yet is an acronym for National Homefront Command and Control network.
The new Homefront Command system will allow military and civilian emergency responders to share real-time video, maps, messages and other data, defense and industry sources here said.
Developed by Tel Aviv-based TSG, part of the multinational Ness Group, Shu'al will allow military and civilian emergency responders to share real-time video, maps, messages and other data on a common C4I network.
Initial deployment had been was slated for March to enable its use in a major annual homefront defense drill, dubbed Turning Point, scheduled in May. Homefront Command planned to certify it as fully operational following its use on a mass scale in support of the annual drill.
"It's a national-level network that we plan to declare fully operational after the drill in May," said Lt. Col. Gil Hoffman, the recently retired chief C4I officer of Homefront Command.
"It will bring connectivity not only to the IDF and Israel Police, but to firefighters, Magen David Adom [Israel's equivalent to the Red Cross] and all other organizations operating in the homefront domain," Hoffman said in a Jan. 12 interview.
But given threatened fallout from the Jan. 18 assassination strikes, defense and industry sources said they may not need to wait for Turning Point to operationally test and certify the new network.
The specter of renewed rocket and missile attacks from Lebanon, Heizbollah's home theater, and/or Syria, where the Shiite organization is fighting to preserve the Bashar al-Assad regime, is driving efforts for its possible debut under fire.
Homefront Command has planning and budget authority for Shu'al, while the Maof engineering department of the IDF's C4I Directorate is managing development and project implementation with the R&D Directorate of Israel's Ministry of Defense.
Col. Yossi Mashiah, the recently retired director of Maof, said Shu'al would support homefront operators much in the way that Tzayad, the Army's digital network, enhances interoperability among war fighters.
"It will bring one network to all the echelons from the single soldier to the highest level of national command, regardless of whether they're communicating through cellular, satellite, Wifi or LAN [Local Area Network]," he said.
Gali Michaeli, TSG's vice president of Homeland Security, said Shu'al marks the next-generation network for command and control of emergency response operations. The company was the IDF's contractor of choice for Kingdom, the current network supporting Homefront Command, which has been operational since 2007.
"The Shu'al system is an important capability for situations of crises when operators from different worlds must respond to natural or manmade disasters. It's based on a holistic concept that creates a common language, a single national situational picture and allows for effective management of resources," he said.
"TSG is proud of its partnership with Homefront Command, the IDF and the C4I Branch in realizing this vision for a national network for emergency response," he said.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.