New system offers increased situational awareness through sensor fusion and battle management tools.
The goal of the Digital Army Program (DAP) is to develop a system of systems that would connect all echelons of the Israeli army. Tactical units such as this armored fighting vehicle will use a wireless backbone to share voice, video and data.
A key U.S. ally is digitizing its command and control architecture to increase the operational speed and agility of its ground forces. Built around a wireless backbone supported by software programmable radios, this system will reduce sensor-to-shooter cycles by streaming real-time data to commanders. Designed for both high- and low-intensity conflict, it will link all echelons from infantry squads up to the division level in a single network.
No longer a buzzword, network-centric technologies are beginning to enter service in North America and Europe. Their successful application by U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq has proved the concept’s validity for use in both high- and low-intensity conflicts. This example prompted defense departments around the world to develop their own information management capabilities for rapid decision making and increased situational awareness in fluid combat environments.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) recently launched its own ambitious effort to modernize its ground force’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance infrastructure. The goal of the Digital Army Program (DAP) is to build a system of systems that will allow the Israeli army to fight more effectively. Technologies developed through the program will provide enhanced situational awareness and ad hoc networking for voice, data and video transmissions, explains Col. Ofer Azari, Israeli army, project manager of the technical unit within the DAP’s command, control, communications, computers and information (C4I) division. “We are talking about a common operational picture that will allow more robust communications between the forces,” he says.
The 10-year program will cost approximately 875 million shekels ($204 million) and some $200 million in U.S. foreign military funding. Elbit Systems Limited, Haifa, Israel, is the prime contractor with the Rafael Armament Development Authority Limited, Haifa, and Tadiran Systems Limited, Holon, Israel, serving as major subcontractors. The DAP calls for the contractors to provide and support all hardware and software, including command and control stations, data processing, and distribution systems.
According to Elbit officials, the DAP will allow the army to coordinate its forces at all echelons, to provide access to updated situational pictures and to improve operational capabilities. It also will enhance unit survivability and fires accuracy and permit more efficient personnel and resource use.
The program is structured to provide the Israeli army with command and control capabilities for both high-intensity conflict (HIC) and low-intensity conflict (LIC). The timetable calls for an initial operational capability by April 2008, with one division equipped for HIC. Full operational capability for the entire army is scheduled for 2011.
A command and control (C2) system called the Integrated Operational Headquarters and Maneuvering Forces Command and Control System (TORC2H) is being developed for LIC operations. It will be ready for an initial operational capability by 2005. This deadline will be met by modifying some of the program’s HIC systems for low-intensity missions. Col. Azari notes that a major program goal for TORC2H is to demonstrate its ability to link with other C2 systems and sensors.
The Israeli army is applying its extensive experience with low-intensity conflict to the DAP’s LIC systems. The colonel explains that one lesson learned from the army’s LIC operations is the need to connect all available sensors and to push the collected data to headquarters C2 applications as soon as possible. But, he adds, even this speedy supply of information is not enough. “It’s a debate in the IDF. Most commanders will tell you that the same pictures that they want to see in the headquarters should also be transferred to soldiers in the field. We had some experiences where it wasn’t enough to have the real-time picture in the TOC [tactical operations center] and then to try to explain it to soldiers in the battlefield. They [soldiers] have to see exactly the same pictures on their PDAs [personal digital assistants] and not only get information from the TOC,” the colonel says.
The question of providing live information is still being debated in the army because some proponents argue that soldiers must move quickly on the battlefield, so too much data will lead to operational delays. “It’s a kind of tradeoff that you have to make. Give them [warfighters] all the information that is necessary, but not too much information to slow them down,” he observes.
At the TOC level, Col. Azari notes that it is up to commanders to determine how much information is too much. But he believes that the answer to this question changes depending on commanders’ individual circumstances. “I think there is no one answer or solution. You have to adapt the solution to the situation,” he says.
The current design concept calls for providing as much data as possible to any node accessing the network. But at the end of the development stage, commanders will be able to provide some input about their data requirements. The colonel believes that officers will have the ability to customize the system to suit their needs, but this option probably will not extend below the brigade level.
A major part of the DAP’s C2 capability is a software-based data radio called Green Elad. It is based on the U.S. military’s maximum bit transfer rate (MBTR) radio. Besides forming the Israeli army’s wireless backbone, Green Elad will allow legacy radios to link to the network. But connecting to legacy systems requires a dissemination layer above the radio frequency layer, which will be provided by a capability called Tiger, he says.
TORC2H is also the DAP’s primary C2 system. The colonel explains that it will communicate with other strategic-level command and control systems through a software mechanism called Common Language. Developed by Elbit, TORC2H is an automated, sensor-driven system designed to support commanders and staff with tools and applications for situational awareness, operational planning, command, execution and monitoring.
TORC2H provides real-time data to all forces in the field. It highlights the location of known enemy forces and provides warfighters with target identification, location and verification functions. The system is designed to be the hub of the DAP’s C4I architecture by integrating all applications, enhancing force coordination and connectivity, managing data from information systems and sensors, and interpreting and disseminating content to commanders in the field. By providing a flow of constantly updated data from battlefield sensors and units, TORC2H allows commanders to make rapid decisions based on real-time data. It also can be applied to LIC operations in complex urban terrain and border security applications.
Besides developing more compact and efficient communications systems, designing a lightweight tactical operations center also is a goal of the DAP. One of the subprojects in the Hunter program, the new TOC features a variety of support systems such as air conditioning plants and electrical power generators for increased mobility.
The program includes a wireless local area network to connect soldiers at the lowest echelons. The colonel explains that this system will be very small and lightweight and will plug directly into a PDA.
When the DAP was launched, Col. Azari notes, several programs already were underway to develop C2 applications to link different echelons in the army. “We have some good applications between those levels, and we are not going to throw them out,” he says.
Some of these communications programs were put on hold so they could be synchronized with the DAP. The colonel notes that once it was decided to develop a system-of-systems architecture, the delayed programs resumed. However, because some of these efforts already were in development for two to three years, coordinating them to arrive at the initial operational capability together and on schedule remains a challenge. “Even if you start all of the projects at the same time, nobody can promise that you will finish them at the same time. There are so many connections between all the projects, and each one affects the other and vice versa,” he explains.
All of Israel’s armed forces are modernizing their C2 architectures. Col. Azari explains that, at higher strategic levels, the DAP will link with these other efforts. Interoperability and joint communications are important goals because the different branches of the IDF are not well coordinated. “It’s one of our main challenges at the current time,” he admits.
In 2004, the IDF established a new command similar to the U.S. military’s J-6 to coordinate strategic-level C4I. The colonel notes that this is the first time in the IDF’s 50-year history that joint operations will be coordinated at this level. But seamlessly coordinating joint operations between the different Israeli military branches is still only a concept. One hurdle is matching all of the services’ operational requirements into one system. “I have to connect with other services’ systems at the strategic level, but we still don’t have a program that’s going to communicate to all of them. We have an idea called the IDF Internet, but we still have to take it and translate it into a real program,” Col. Azari shares.
Israel Defense Forces: www1.idf.il/DOVER/site/homepage.asp?clr=&sl=EN&id=-8888&force=1
Elbit Systems: www.elbitsystems.com