In a world where many have smartphones that can vocalize directions to the nearest pizza parlor, having situational awareness of your own military forces may sound trivial and antiquated. But in combat—especially, albeit ironically, urban combat—it is by no means a simple task.
The prerequisites for operational command, control and communication (C3) systems are identification and recognition capabilities for blue and red—i.e., friend or foe—on the same user system. Not surprisingly, many approaches to C3 wrap in computers and intelligence to those systems, for better situational awareness known as C4I.
At the 2012 Fire Conference on Air and Land Jointness in a Complex Environment, held in Zichron Ya'acov, Israel, high-level Israeli military officials discussed their needs and the direction they see for C4I in hybrid and irregular warfare.
Maj. Gen. Uzi Moscovitch, head of the Israel Defense Force's (IDF) C4I branch, went into detail concerning the future challenges his branch faces, along with what the future holds for improving command and control in the army. Emphasizing the importance of new technologies, the challenge is to convey a precise map reference from a weapon sight and superimpose it accurately on a tactical-level location aid or a mapping layer so it may be made a target. “What we need is a precise and standardized map reference—a 10-digit resolution as a minimum reference and a 12-digit resolution as a desirable objective,” he said.
Operating in an era of increasingly urban warfare, precise map references are imperative, and a lack of them could lead to dangerous fratricide among friendly troops, or even civilian deaths and loss of public support. According to Moscovitch, the operational challenge is that “every operational C3 system should support each one of the primary efforts: intelligence, logistics, situational awareness, command, maneuvering and employment of firepower. As for the issue of situational awareness and command, there are essential prerequisites for operational C3 systems that constitute the base layer of any system.”
Israelis have worked hard to find better solutions as they have been entangled in several hybrid combat engagements in recent decades, but it has not been a linearly smooth learning process. The introduction of the Digital Army Program, also known as Tzayad, for instance, enables a wide range of networking and joint operations, but they can easily lead to dangerous overload, if they are not controlled at various command levels.
Another significant challenge involves connecting and interfacing disparate systems. The communication medium should be both reliable and adequate. Although mobile abilities will never match the standard of fixed stations, efforts should be made to reach maximum flexibility and continuous control on the move, officials say. Yet, most modern communications gear demands high levels of bandwidth and must be carefully controlled to prevent clogging the network.
Furthermore, communications security is becoming a highly complex affair. It is tempting to think that soon everyone could have iPad-like devices at the troop level. Although their use appears simple, in reality it is increasingly challenging as the enemy in hybrid warfare also uses equally sophisticated handheld equipment.
Another C4I prerequisite is operating simplicity, and here there is a chance for an immediate clash with commercial interests. Humans have a tendency to constantly refine applications. The manufacturing companies want to do it and so do we, in principle, but in our operational C3 systems, we have already reached a situation in which some militaries will do whatever they can to freeze the configuration to the maximum extent possible. The Israeli military is a reservist-based organization and a substantial percentage of the personnel expected to operate C3 systems will be reservists. Many are veterans from a different generation than the iPhone-toting youngsters in mandatory service.
For the next few years, Moscovitch considers tactical connectivity his prime task. “We are already in an era where there are many sensors and a lot of information and intelligence on the ground,” he said. “We want to reach a state where we would be able to freely convey data records among combat platforms, particularly between land and air, and vice versa.”
A major challenge will be to provide the lower tactical combat element and special operations forces with simple but highly flexible C4I systems that enable them to direct long-range precision fire and stay ahead of the increasingly fast “sensor-to-shooter” cycle. This is the most important element in fighting hybrid warfare, IDF officials say.
Industry sees an opportunity, and a recent innovation developed bymight answer this challenge. Elbit has introduced a new subset of the Dominator IICS integrated combat system designed for the dismounted soldier. The system employs the rugged Raptor wearable computer running a subset of the Torch-D battle management application. It is supported by the Tadiran PNR-1000 UHF encrypted personal network radio, offering an all-in system to access the Tzayad network.
Meanwhile, the chief of the IDF Ground Forces, Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, also revealed at the Fire Conference that his land forces are reviewing a forward-interception system concept to deal with steep-trajectory munitions threats. In turn, officials are looking at acquiring a new precision rocket with a range of up to 40 km (25 mi.) to become operational by the end of this year.
Indeed, the most immediate and probable threat to Israel comes from the terrorist organizations operating around the country that continue to grow stronger and more hybrid in their approach to warfare. These organizations rely on capabilities and the substantial support of sponsor countries such as Syria and Iran. Beyond building their own defenses, they continuously deploy troops around Israel's borders and maintain a relatively high level of readiness, with dozens of rockets aimed at strategic objectives inside Israel.
“Any reasonable person understands that the clashes in 2006 and in 2008 were not the last clashes against Hezbollah and Hamas, and that we will probably face these groups again, either separately or together,” Turgeman warned.
The next most immediate threats are the regular armed forces of nearby adversaries. The Syrian threat has persisted for decades and continues despite the civil war there. Over the years, the Syrian army has increased its acquisition of strategic capabilities that improve its fire-delivery capabilities and maneuverability. Even the Egyptian army has been growing in strength for at least four decades and may pose a challenge to Israeli forces in the future.
Consequently, Turgeman said, future conflicts cannot be decided by firepower alone. “Fire neither leads to a decisive [victory] nor does it postpone the next war. Instead, it only creates a less-than-favorable reality for the home front,” he said. In his view, the IDF's response to future threats should combine intelligence and high-precision firepower in support of ground forces that are maneuvering deep in hostile territory, attacking enemy forces and destroying their fighting capabilities.
At the same time, active defenses should remain complementary to ground maneuvers, which should be regarded as the primary tool in every future operation. Thus, firepower will continue to be an indispensable facet in any military operation.
Israeli ground forces have come a long way in developing their firepower. “We started with mortars and guns, then incorporated aerial capabilities, and lastly developed other layouts consisting of both rockets and precision missiles,” Turgeman said. “We now employ and utilize our fire-delivery capabilities much more effectively and with a high capacity. These capabilities enable us to operate farther and with enhanced precision and lethality.”
Turgeman said that in past conflicts the enemy had centers of gravity that Israel could hit and “shock the system.” But in dealing with terrorist organizations, the centers of gravity are less prominent and recognizable. “In the context of hybrid war tactics, the antitank threat is the element with the most profound influence on maneuverability,” he observed.
“We understand that the commander fighting at the front should be able and capable to employ a wide range of lethal firepower,” he continued. “Our primary goal is to extend campaign-level fire to the tactical command. The challenge is to duplicate capabilities such as air strikes, overhead surveillance, attack helicopters, artillery and [ground-based, precision-guided munitions]. This would link the tactical moves that are available to a specific commander who would then employ them using his own judgment without interference.”
Turgeman said that as far as the steep-trajectory fire challenge is concerned, the Israeli battery could be similar to the Iron Dome missile defense system, pinpointing significant, threatening launches in intermediate and longer ranges, and intercepting the threats over enemy territory.
Rafael is developing a supposedly low-cost, lightweight derivative of the Iron Dome system designated Iron Flame. Packed with a variety of seekers to fit specific missions, Iron Flame will carry fragmentation or penetrating warheads, providing precision-attack capability to engage targets and answer immediate calls for fire support by tactical forces operating within its area.