Ground forces undergo communications revolution

New system links up troops, gives commanders ability to follow, respond to second-by-second developments.

AN IDF soldier uses the ‘Digital Ground Army’ system 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
AN IDF soldier uses the ‘Digital Ground Army’ system 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
A communications system is being introduced into the IDF’s ground forces that is set to revolutionize the way the army engages the enemy and interacts with its units on the battlefield.
The system, called Digital Ground Army (DGA), generates a map, updated in real time, of all forces – friendly and hostile – in a battle arena.
It is accessible to both soldiers on the ground fighting and to senior commanders far away, giving the commanders the ability to follow and respond to second-by-second developments.
Throughout the course of the battle, various units can share the coordinates of the enemy – and their own location – in the course of a battle. DGA is linked to the computers of tanks and cannons, and tracks live-fire as it happens, displaying every shell and mortar fired at targets.
“This isn’t a project, it’s a significant revolution,” a senior IDF source told The Jerusalem Post recently. The source described DGA as the biggest thing to happen to the ground forces, both in terms of technological changes and budget requirements.
The system will work along all levels of army hierarchy, beginning with the individual tank in the Armored Corps, cannon position in the Artillery Corps, and company commanders in the Infantry Corps. Higher up, it will serve battalion and brigade commanders, all the way through to division commanders.
It is expected to enhance and speed-up the IDF’s ability to coordinate fire at enemy positions from multiple sources, bypassing the traditional reliance on physical maps and radio communications.
Soldiers will be equipped with a small transmitter to mark their location on the digital map, enabling DGA to also sound off warnings in case of impending friendly-fire incidents.
“We introduced a system that represents a change in perception.
These are advanced communications that did not exist in the past,” the IDF source said. “Unit commanders will have handheld interactive screens.”
The IDF’s C4i (Telecommunications Branch) is tasked with introducing the system to the army. In the future, C4i is planning to use it to link the ground forces to the air force and navy, so that the entire military can speak the same digital language.
DGA played a part in Operation Pillar of Defense. Before that, it was tested in Gaza border patrols.
“Continuous security missions form the best schools,” the military source said. “It will take a year for units to become fluent in the system,” he added.
By 2013, it should be fully operational, and the IDF expects it to quickly spread throughout the ground forces.
The source acknowledged that glitches or cyber attacks pose a threat to the system, and therefore stringent identification requirements are needed to log in, receive clearance, and begin receiving information.
Back-up servers are also in place. In case the system breaks down, DGA will print out an updated map several times a day, allowing commanders to fall back on physical maps.
Map reading will continue to be taught as a central skill in the army.
DGA does not currently exist in any other Western military.
Reserve soldiers who are professional engineers and computer experts have been assigned to oversee the creation of the system. Army divisions have sent officers to the IDF’s Electronic Department in southern Israel for training in how to set it up.
DGA was jointly developed by the IDF, Elbit and Rafael.