Shortening the sensor-to-shooter cycle
Security and Defense: IDF seeks to improve ability to coordinate, reduce time it takes to strike enemy target.
IDF soldier, tank outside northern Gaza Photo: Reuters
Lt.-Col. Hanan Iserovich remembers it like it was yesterday. It was the
beginning of August 2006 and Iserovich – commander at the time of the Nachal
Brigade’s 50th Battalion – was deployed with his troops in a village in southern
Lebanon. Suddenly, his radio crackled and on the line was an intelligence
officer from the Northern Command.
“There is a Hezbollah anti-tank
missile squad in a home nearby,” the officer said. “Get ready.”
intelligence was rare to come by during the war, leading to a comprehensive
review of the role Military Intelligence is supposed to play in such scenarios.
But this time it was dead-on accurate and within a few minutes. Iserovich had
located the cell with his night vision goggles in a home a few kilometers
As it turned out, an Israel Air Force Apache attack helicopter was
flying nearby and Iserovich raised the pilot on the radio to request that he
bomb the home where the Hezbollah cell was hiding.
“It took me 15 minutes
to explain to the pilot where the Hezbollah cell was and where my forces were”
before he finally dropped the home, Iserovich recalled in an interview this
week. “The pilot kept on going back and forth, asking me again and again to
explain where my troops were located since he wanted to make sure that he would
not hit them accidentally. Even though I was confident that we were nowhere
nearby, it seemed to me that ultimately the pilot simply did not trust
Today, nearly six years since that fateful war, Iserovich is now an
officer in the IDF’s C4I Directorate and is in charge of a number of
communications projects aimed at ensuring that such miscommunications do not
repeat themselves in the future.
Immediately after the war in 2006, the
IDF understood that it was lacking in “interoperability,” the ability to get all
of its various branches – land, air and sea – to work together. The main
challenge has been how to shorten what is known as the sensor-to-shooter cycle –
the amount of time it takes from when an enemy target is detected by a sensor –
either human or electronic – and when it is attacked.
One change that
occurred after the war was getting the officers from the various branches to
become acquainted with one another. Homogeneous courses once strictly for ground
forces officers became mixed with officers from the IAF and the Navy with the
objective of getting each to understand the others’ language and culture. The
next stage was improving the technical side of things.
In order to deal
with this challenge, the C4I Directorate – a technical branch consisting mostly
of engineers and computer experts – understood that it needed a number officers
with extensive combat experience in its ranks to help present the needs of the
forces in the field in order to know what systems it needed to
This is how Iserovich found his way to the directorate, together
with another officer, Lt.-Col. Ofer Rotberg who came from the Artillery
Both assisted in developing new systems and improving some of the
existing ones. Rotberg, for example, came to the C4I Directorate as it was
developing the Tzayad Digital Army Program, which allows units to share
information on the location of friendly and hostile forces as well as imagery
collected from ground and aerial sensors.
“One issue I helped with was
understanding how much information a company commander needs and how much of the
tactical data needs to be pushed back to the top of the chain of command,” he
Iserovich has worked on a program called Tirat Agam – loosely
translated as “operations castle” – which is the command and control system used
by the IDF General Staff at a time of war.
When Iserovich took up his
post two years ago, though, the generals sitting in the command center – known
as the Bor (“pit”) and located deep underneath the Kirya Military Headquarters
in Tel Aviv – could only see the final numbers pertaining to a certain
battlefield – the number of IDF soldiers, enemy forces, ammunition levels and
Iserovich recommended that Tirat Agam also enable the generals
to see the non-processed information that comes from the tactical
His recommendation was accepted and, today, Chief of Staff
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz can see down to the individual platoon or tank, including its fuel levels, the number of
shells it has fired and its location.
“This gives decision-makers the
ability to see on the one hand the larger strategic picture of how the war is
progressing but at the same time to see, for example, where exactly the
commander of the Paratroopers Brigade is on his way to conquer a target in the
Gaza Strip,” he explains.
Currently, Iserovich and Rotberg are working on
a new project that will revolutionize the way the IDF works today. Called
“Tactical Connectivity,” the program is aimed at enabling ground forces to
transfer targets directly to aircraft or navy vessels and vice versa through
their own individual communications systems.
This might sound simple but
is realistically complicated since currently each IDF branch has its own
independent communications system.
Since the war, the C4I Directorate,
together with the Ground Forces Command, the IAF and the Navy, has succeeded in
establishing a system that enables a tank commander, for example, to designate a
target on the plasma screen in his tank and transfer it back to
headquarters. From there it can be transferred to the IAF headquarters
and then to a specific aircraft.
“The problem is that such a process
takes time,” Rotberg explains, “and we also need to think about what happens if
a tank is out of range of headquarters but an aircraft is nearby. He needs to be
able to independently transfer targets to the aircraft.”
This will take a
few more years but the direction is clear – to improve the interoperability and
connectivity between forces from various branches.
“It all seems
technical, but in the end this will make us more effective and lethal on the
battlefield,” explains Col. Boaz Kavina, head of the C4I Directorate’s Weapons
Kavina works closely with his counterparts from the
various IDF branches and is currently working on a revolutionary system aptly
called “Crystal Ball” that would improve coordination between units.
Ground Forces Command is also thinking of how to improve its use of UAVs.
Currently, under the Sky Rider Program, all IDF infantry and armored battalions
have been supplied with Skylark shortrange UAVs.
Now the IDF is looking
to equip its battalions with compact radars which would be deployed ahead of the
main force and search for enemy forces. The data the radar provides would then
be transferred back to the battalion’s command post, where commanders could
automatically dispatch UAVs to provide live footage of the suspected enemy
Col. Nir Halamish, head of the Ground Forces Command’s Weapons
Development Division, explains that the shortening of the sensor-to-shooter
cycle is imperative when confronting the challenges currently facing the
“The enemy today – whether Hezbollah or Hamas – has a low signature,
is slippery and operates inside an urban setting,” Halamish explains. “We need
to know how to detect, identify and engage such targets quickly and accurately.”