Meet the unit behind the scenes of the IDF's precision warfare

Unit 9900 is providing troops with a sense of augmented reality like never before

Soldiers and an officer in the IDF's Unit 9900 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Soldiers and an officer in the IDF's Unit 9900
As the Israeli military continues to charge forward with its Momentum multi-year plan, the future battlefield, which will rely on real-time artificial intelligence and multi-dimensional warfare, is becoming clearer.
With a new era of technology and a wide range of civilian platforms adapted for military purposes, the IDF’s secretive Unit 9900 is providing troops on the battlefield and pilots in the sky with a sense of augmented reality never before seen in the military.
On Thursday reporters were given a rare opportunity to see the new capabilities of Unit 9900, whose operations – which serve a critical role for the military by shaping its intelligence map – are usually kept confidential.
Unit 9900 is responsible for gathering visual intelligence including geographical data from satellites and aircraft, as well as mapping and interpreting such intelligence for troops on the battlefield as well as for decision-makers.
The new capabilities of Unit 9900, which have been developed and are adapted to the future battlefield as part of the IDF’s Momentum multi-year plan to make the military more efficient, have already been used in several highly-publicized operations, on various fronts.
If in previous wars troops could visualize the enemy in one clear location, today’s enemies are decentralized and much harder to visualize. They have become time-sensitive targets that challenge the IDF to strike them immediately after they are detected before they disappear once again.
One of the ways the IDF has begun to deal with this challenge is intelligence-oriented warfare, which provides troops in the field with accurate intelligence based on 3D mapping capabilities developed by the unit.
The 3D maps put together by troops of Unit 9900 – of whom 58% are women – allow for troops on the ground as well as fighter pilots to get the full picture of enemy territory even before they head into the battlefield.
Unit 9900, which sits under the IDF’s intelligence directorate, has also internalized the endless potential and the growing trend of using unmanned aircraft. A new drone unit opened in the unit two weeks ago and is responsible for gathering high-precision intelligence at high resolutions using multi-rotor drones and other advanced technologies.
All drones and the sensors integrated onto them are from civilian companies and adapted to the needs of the IDF. They are able to fly in all weather conditions, day and night, to collect intelligence and high-resolution images on the enemy.
According to a senior officer in Unit 9900’s drone unit, the IDF is aware that such platforms may crash or be downed behind enemy lines but told reporters that there is no concern that classified intelligence would fall into the wrong hands.
The new drone unit is part of a significant investment by the military in order to increase the intelligence directorate’s ability to detect enemy forces in urban areas and broaden its target bank on both its southern and northern fronts.
Such intelligence provided by satellites and drones manned by Unit 9900, along with realistic scenarios carried out in simulators, prepare troops for what they might face on the battlefield.
Troops likely to be deployed to the densely populated neighborhood of Shuja’iyya in the Gaza Strip, for example, are able to know in real time where they might be targeted by terrorists. Troops who enter enemy buildings are also given a clear picture of how that target looks on the inside, and are able to virtually go floor by floor and room by room to find their target before actually entering.
But it’s not only the soldier on the ground. A pilot who is aiming for a specific Hamas operative knows exactly what window to aim his missile in order to minimize civilian casualties.
Once behind enemy lines, troops will be able to see all intelligence gathered on their tablet in real time. And while all the data is automated, and provides a live intelligence picture, it is the officer on the ground who makes the targeting decisions.
“Constant VISINT [visual intelligence] allows us to see anomalies and changes,” said another senior officer in Unit 9900, adding that those changes are then analyzed to provide an up-to-date intelligence picture.
“All intelligence gathered about a target allows the IDF to act in a more precise way,” he said, explaining that “nothing is irrelevant,” even what seems to be the most mundane piece of information.