iPhone or Galaxy? IDF looks into specialized phones

Army looks at giving commanders encrypted smartphones with combat apps.

June 6, 2012 02:49
1 minute read.
Cellular phones are displayed in a store

Cellular phones are displayed in a store 370 (R). (photo credit: Erik de Castro / Reuters)


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Imagine an iPhone that can be used to transmit the coordinates of an enemy target, or a Samsung Galaxy that can be used to locate friendly forces and later watch live footage from drones flying above the battlefield.

If the IDF’s C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) Directorate has its way, field commanders will be equipped in the coming years with smartphones installed with specially designed and encrypted applications aimed at improving the army’s operational control.

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The new smartphones will replace the military’s current secure “Mountain Rose” mobile network, which is used by field commanders and is based on a bulky phone developed by Motorola together with the IDF. Those phones, which are encrypted and hardened to protect against cyber attacks, were used successfully during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009. The IDF has yet to decide which phone it will use as the platform for the new program. It is studying proposals from a number of companies including Israel Aerospace Industries and Motorola.

“The main challenges include [finding] a phone that can be encrypted and hardened as well as creating a network that has a broad enough band to carry video and additional data,” a senior officer from the C4I Directorate said.

Mountain Rose is only capable of voice transfer. The officer said using smartphones would enable commanders to transfer coordinates of targets to each other, to watch live video feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles circling above them and even to hold video conference calls with officers stationed at rear-command posts.

Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta Systems has demonstrated for the IDF its new Tactical 4th Generation Communication Network, called TAC4G, which enables broadband communication between various military units and echelons. It is based on commercial 4th-generation cellular technology adapted and encrypted for military application.

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