‘Digital Ground Army’ will help IDF battalion commanders win next war

“Commander can now be in his armored personnel carrier near the front line, but still know what his command post behind him is seeing."

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September 11, 2013 00:58
3 minute read.
IDF soldier uses Digital Ground Army command-and-control system

Digital Ground Army command-and-control system 370. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office)

 
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Battalion commanders in the infantry are expected to play decisive roles in future wars, and as such, the army is equipping them with a revolutionary command-and-control system that will give them more independence over their battle arenas than ever before, a senior military source told The Jerusalem Post this week.

The system, called Digital Ground Army (DGA), generates and updates a computer map of all army and enemy locations in a given area.

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Feeding it is an array of inputs from the Ground Forces – including from tank operators, Artillery Corps-operated drones, infantry units and surveillance posts – thereby keeping several IDF command levels informed of the latest situation.

“The one who will win the next war is the battalion commander, not a whole division that will invade an enemy capital. We want to give the battalion commander these command-and-control systems, without overburdening them,” the source said.

DGA was launched four years ago by the C4i (Teleprocessing) Corps, and IDF divisions and brigades have absorbed it successfully.

The focus now is to equip battalion commanders, and even the command level below them – company commanders – with the many advantages the system provides.

Essentially this means that battalion commanders can now enjoy operational independence in their battle zones, that would have been impossible just a few years ago.



A battalion commander can get immediate information on the location of his own forces and those of the enemy, and use the system to direct soldiers, tank fire, artillery fire, and the air force to targets quickly.

Within seconds to a minute of the target information being acquired, it appears on the DGA map, giving commanders a full view of the unfolding situation.

“To grant these capabilities to the lower tactical level is precious. I’d even say very precious. It’s completely new. This is a dramatic change,” the source said.

DGA has changed the nature of training for commanders.

There are currently 12 training classes at a major IDF training base that enable them to master the system.

“It gives them more independence, and lowers chances of friendly-fire incidents. It allows battalion command posts to enjoy full command-and-control capabilities over their arenas,” the source said.

“The commander can now be in his armored personnel carrier near the front line, but still know what his command post behind him is seeing. He can be close to a forward company and still look back to get a full picture of the situation. This relieves him of the need to stay back at the post.”

The changes are part of the wider, network-centered warfare revolution sweeping the IDF. As part of this revolution, stringent encryption measures have been developed to keep the DGA’s highly sensitive communications secure.

In the Armored Corps, individual tank crews already use the DGA. Tank computers tell the DGA’s other users when tank shells are fired, and in which direction they are flying.

“It’s the main command-and-control system for Ground Forces,” the source said. “The number of units seeking the system has risen exponentially as people understand its contribution.”

DGA is “still very young,” he added. “The IDF will become as reliant on it as civilians are on their iPhones. Maps will soon be seen as medieval.”

DGA is now in use for routine security missions like border patrols.

“We know it’ll work during war, because it works now 24/7 in continuous security, in all arenas. It works all day,” the source stated.

At present, the servers sit at army unit headquarters, broadcasting interactive maps to units serving along all frontiers, from north to south.

Work is also under way to connect the DGA to the air force and navy.

In the past, the military’s branches had to communicate such information via faxes and phone calls. Now, they are interconnected.

Jets and combat helicopters can broadcast relevant data they see to field commanders via the DGA. Military Intelligence can also use the system to send information to commanders on the ground.

The risk now is of information overflow, the source said.

“There’s no limit to the data,” he explained. “We are looking at ways to deal with this information flood. How to filter effectively, and get the specific data that the commander requires. This calls for a different way of handling the system.”

One upgrade will enable commanders to see their own position and their target’s position in magnified areas of the screen, rather than seeing a flat map.

“Not everyone has fully internalized the significance of the system yet,” the source said.

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