Encrypted broadcast system links IDF brass to intel

'Castle of the Lake' intelligence command and control system being developed to deliver military decision-makers information from every possible source.

IDF soldiers watch as a helicopter carrying wounded soldiers lands at a hospital in Haifa, on July 26, 2006. (photo credit: ELIANA APONTE/REUTERS)
IDF soldiers watch as a helicopter carrying wounded soldiers lands at a hospital in Haifa, on July 26, 2006.
In a hypothetical yet plausible situation, a very senior IDF commander is sitting at home, when he is alerted of a developing threat over the border.
As he makes his way to IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to meet with army brass, the commander pulls out a handheld military communications device, which sends and receives highly encrypted broadcasts. Before the commander’s vehicle reaches its destination, he receives video feed of the threat, and studies the updated list of targets that need to be struck to eliminate the danger.
By the time he arrives at the meeting, he is fully briefed on the development.
This scenario is made possible thanks to a developing intelligence command and control system called the Castle of the Lake (Tirat Ha’agam in Hebrew), which links information input from every possible source – the air force, navy, ground troops, and intelligence services – processes the data, and presents it to military decision- makers in a simple and clear manner.
Created in 2005, the Castle of the Lake was most recently used during Operation Pillar of Defense in November, when the IDF General Staff had access to live video feeds of rocket launches from the Gaza Strip into Israel. It is the product of the IDF’s C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) Branch, and the two men who have been key to developing it, both of whom can only be identified as “Maj. A.,” are proud of its advanced capabilities.
“Since 2005, many new features have been installed every year,” Maj. A., of C4I’s Technological Teleprocessing Unit said.
The second Maj. A., from C4I’s weapons division, added, “This system delivers information for the General Staff and regional commands. It’s programmed for three situations: War, emergencies and continuous security. We get the information, embed it, and connect it to a system that presents it simply.”
Simplicity of presentation is key, he said, adding, “People are people. They get tired, or aren’t familiar with the latest technology. We have to keep all of this in mind.
“This allows the users to take decisions based on quality information, issue an order, and then ensure that the order is carried out correctly,” he said.
Citing the rise of terrorist and asymmetrical threats around Israel, Maj. A. said the IDF needs “a modern information system to support it.”
The Ness TSG telecom company is a key partner in creating the system, and works with Maj. A. from the Technological Teleprocessing Unit.
“This isn’t a tactical war room, it’s a strategic asset that brings a very large amount of information to those making decisions,” he said. “It creates one language between all branches of military.”
Asked how secure the system is from hacking attacks, he replied, “We understand that if we don’t invest significantly in securing system, it loses its right to exist. Every version is well defended.”
The system can be accessed via army computers in headquarters, or anywhere via specialized handheld devices.
“We understand that the the decision-maker has to be able to function wherever he is,” Maj. A. from the weapons division said.