Exclusive: IDF to receive mobile sirens for front-line staging areas

Alarms on Gaza border will alert units of enemy attacks • Device linked to radars that scan for aerial threats.

The Rotem Siren System (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The Rotem Siren System
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The IDF will next week receive its first mobile sirens, which will alert units on the front lines of incoming rockets and mortar shells, a senior Home Front Command officer told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Lt.-Col. Levi Yitah, head of the Alerts Division in the Home Front Command, said the new sirens, dubbed Rotem, come less than a year and a half after the Ground Forces Command requested their development and production.
In previous conflicts, such as last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, the military had at times struggled to issue clearly audible rocket and mortar alerts to units in vulnerable staging areas on the Gaza border, where there is very little time to seek cover from enemy shelling, which proved deadly in 2014.
Although the IDF plans to move staging areas away from the front lines, amassed military forces would still come under heavy enemy fire.
The new, Motorola-produced sirens will alert soldiers within a 300-400-meter radius, Yitah said.
“It can move from place to place, together with the battalion,” he said. “Once a button on it is pushed, the system automatically synchronizes itself with the national alert system and knows where it is. It provides selective area alerts.”
Battalion commanders can also use the system as an alternative means of communication to issue instructions via loudspeaker.
The Rotem system will link up to the Home Front Command’s IP network, and tune in to multiple radio communication frequencies as it integrates itself into the siren network.
It can run on an electric current from a military vehicle or use six lithium batteries that enable it to be in stand-by mode for 24 hours, Yitah said.
Like all of the Home Front Command’s sirens, Rotem will be linked to an array of Israel Air Force radars and sensors that scan for aerial threats.
These sensors transmit data to the air force computer system, which calculates the trajectory of an enemy rocket or mortar shell, and predicts where it will strike.
The data are then sent to the Home Front Command’s computers, which select the relevant alert areas, setting off sirens in threatened regions. In the past, field sirens had failed to correctly identify their locations, and lacked independent energy sources, Yitah added.
Rotem “can withstand the toughest field conditions. We solved the problems of past operations,” he said.
Yitah, who began his role in 2010, will next week complete his military service and step down as head of the Alerts Division. He described the mobile siren as the latest in series of rocket alert innovations. These have seen Israel raise the number of area-specific siren zones from 25 to 248.
“Advances in the world of detection and alerts are moving forward at a dizzying rate, perhaps faster than anywhere else in the military,” he said. “The TV and radio alerts civilians received last summer were one result of that.”
In 2017, Israel will adopt a new alert network that can deliver rocket sirens to individual city blocks, thereby minimizing disruption to civilian life and the economy. The same technology will be used to provide the first ever earthquake alerts, Yitah said.
After the construction of “seismic fences” along fault lines, and their linkage to the Home Front Command’s systems, civilians will receive a minute’s alert if an earthquake occurs in Eilat, and 16 seconds for an earthquake in the Dead Sea. The system will detect seismic waves to warn Israelis, he said.
“When we wake up in the morning, we feel like we’re carrying out our mission to save lives,” Yitah said. “Behind these sirens are many people working around the clock.” •