C4i Branch's Cyber Control Center.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The IDF’s C4i (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence) branch will equip a conscripted division with an “operational Internet” by the end of 2016, a senior military source revealed on Tuesday.
Operational Internet signifies the IDF network that is taking shape, which allows any user to see any available piece of data – intelligence targeting information, the location of friendly and hostile forces and more – and to access this from any place.
It would allow, for example, an IDF battalion commander to see where rockets are being fired from his area of operations, where air force drones and jets are, as well as the position of a Hezbollah cell armed with an anti-tank missile launcher.
It would also allow IDF units to know which homes to target in a village used by an enemy like Hezbollah, meaning that the unit would not need to take the entire village.
No amount of divisions would be sufficient today to deal with Hezbollah’s rocket bases, hidden in southern Lebanese villages, without precise intelligence, according to the source.
“If you can’t focus the maneuver, no order of battle will be able to deal with this.
The information has to direct the forces – real-time intelligence,” the source said.
The biggest challenge lies in gathering real-time intelligence during hostilities and spreading it in time to the forces, he added.
“The frustration is that you invest everything, you bring good intelligence, and within hours after the opening whistle, this becomes irrelevant,” he said, describing the fast-moving, dynamic nature of enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas.
In modern conflict where the IDF has to take on organizations rather than states, “There will be no more six-day war victories. 1967 was a singular point in military history,” the officer said.
The C4i branch is working on ensuring that sensor-to-shooter cycles, which begin with military intelligence and often move to the air force, link up military branches.
“Operational intelligence is a success story. Everyone has seen it work in the field,” he said. Nevertheless, he conceded, it did not work optimally during Operation Protective Edge of 2014, when the network was at an early stage of development.
He described a lengthy process of combining the information systems of the air force, ground forces, and navy; a process challenged by many within the IDF itself.
“Each system is unique, with its own security features, the source said.
“I wanted to be able to connect to a computer from anywhere, and reach anywhere.
We put security and installed blocks, but we also ensured access wherever it is needed.
All of the IT systems and network personnel almost fainted [when it was proposed]. It contradicted everything that existed beforehand. It took time to lift the rock of conservatism.
“In 2015 we held a division- wide exercise, and the brigades had operational Internet stations,” he said. “Dozens of people resisted this, and dozens supported it.”
Today, a brigade intelligence officer can “surf” the database of military intelligence, and evade cyber and electronic warfare threats, the source added.
The ability of the IDF to track, in real-time, Hamas’s rocket launch areas in Operation Protective Edge of 2014 was insufficient, the source conceded.
“We didn’t worry because there was Iron Dome. This won’t be the case against Hezbollah. It has many more projectiles,” he added, stressing the need to improve this ability.