Geography ‘no constraint for us,’ says senior IDF officer

C4i Corps Hoshen Unit has created a military-wide combat network, "faces new threats every morning," source says.

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February 26, 2015 02:43
3 minute read.
IDF

IDF intelligence soldiers (illustrative) . (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

An IDF communications network enabling a wide variety of military operations faces no geographical barriers, and can be set up anywhere to support missions, a senior officer told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

The source, from the C4i Corps Hoshen Unit, was responding to a question about the IDF’s long-range communications capabilities needed for combat.

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Any long-range missions, far from the nation’s borders, would require remote command and control and intelligence transmission capabilities, and collaboration among a number of units.

“We can provide a solution to every operational requirement,” the source said. “We do not see geography or time as a constraint. We are not here to do the possible, but to do the impossible, and this is not just a slogan.”

The Hoshen Unit is in charge of developing and maintaining the military- wide communications network that has given all units access to unprecedented levels of data, as well as an enhanced ability to work together.

It has grown rapidly in recent years, achieving many breakthroughs, and allowed the IDF to fight its first network- centric conflict during Operation Protective Edge last summer.

The network makes it possible for unit headquarters to speak to field officers through multiple channels, and for cross-branch communications between any platform or unit.

It maintains tactical and strategic radio channels, an encrypted military cellphone network, satellite communications, and landlines, among others.

“Every morning we face a new threat. We have to decide whether we respond with [the networks] we have, or go to development and create new solutions,” the officer said. “My people need to create new technological realities, in line with operational needs,” he added.

“The reality is that there are totally new elements with weapons and the intentions to use them. We have to provide responses that can change in a matter of days. A mission that looked central on Sunday could be replaced with a new one in under a week,” said the source.

Hoshen personnel maintain flexibility by working on a highly generic technological basis, made up of civilian off-the-shelf products. They mold these into military networks that support all manner of activities.

Hoshen’s infrastructure supports collaboration among the air force, ground forces, and navy, the transmission of real-time intelligence data, and direct communications between platforms, such as tank to aircraft.

Air defense systems, such as Iron Dome and the Home Front Command’s missile alert system, are also reliant on the network.

“We are at a place in which all of our military ‘clients’ want more. "Whether it’s more storage, transmission or communications,” he added.

Despite considerable budget constraints, Hoshen has created networks that enable data transfers to occur at rates that only a year ago did not seem feasible, the officer said.

Such breakthroughs were possible due to “the very creative people” of Hoshen, who “identify opportunities and act,” the officer said.

“During Operation Protective Edge [in Gaza last summer]... a navy ship could hold a dialogue with a fighter jet, which could talk to a brigade or a battalion commander.

Direct user-to-user communications occurred. Hoshen is the backbone of that collaborative network.”

These same channels were used by IDF lookout officers in control rooms, to order missile strikes on Hamas infiltrators seconds after identifying them in last year’s conflict.

Because of Hoshen’s work, a company commander can access information directly from the head of Military Intelligence, challenging the traditional military hierarchy.

The officer said he is seeking to balance the new capabilities with the need to protect the chain of command.

“We will find solutions for our ‘consumers,’ who are hungry for increasing amounts of information,” he said. “We have a natural tension created by a lack of resources that is permanent and systematic.”

Additionally, enemies with growing cyber capabilities will inevitably seek to attack the military’s communications. “It’s a question of when, not if,” said the officer. “We are working to defend against this.”


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