In the Second Lebanon War three years ago, IDF commanders were criticized for staying in command centers in Israel and watching the fighting on plasma screens. On Thursday, the Ground Forces Command and Division 36 of the Northern Command wrapped up a five-day exercise that brought the plasma and the commanders out to the field.
During the drill, the IDF, for the first time, tested the Digital Army Program - called Tzayad in Hebrew - which was recently installed throughout Division 36 (the Ga'ash Armored Division), the main formation on the Golan Heights.
The plan is to complete installation of the system in various IDF fighting units by the end of next year. This week's exercise drilled a potential conflict with Syria.
"The DAP provides commanders with a clear view of the battlefield and brings them all of the available data so they can be more effective when making decisions," explained Col. Gil Maoz, DAP project manager in the Ground Forces Command.
The system comes in several versions. The simplest is a screen that can be found in almost every IDF vehicle today in the West Bank that has a digitalized map of that unit's area of operations. The map is not linked live to a satellite but is updated every few months.
The new version - called Torch 400 - will be deployed, in an initial stage, to battalion commanders and possibly also to company commanders. Most tanks and artillery cannons have also been equipped with the system.
"The system can either be in a vehicle or in a handheld computer, and allows a commander to create digital targets and map out battle plans that will be seen by all of the system users," a Ground Forces Command officer explained. "Essentially, a commander can just hit the screen and mark a target, and that target will be seen by tanks, artillery cannons and even attack helicopters."
In addition to a map of the area of operations, the system provides users with a 3D version of the battlefield, enabling commanders to better asses their battle plans.
Since the system also marks the location of other users, it is effective in preventing friendly-fire incidents. During Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, the systems - a few of which were tested in the field - were credited for preventing at least two friendly-fire shootouts.