IAF system to let air, ground forces share view of battlefield

In an effort to increase combat cooperation between the air and ground forces, the Israel Air Force is overseeing the development of a communication system to enable field commanders and pilots to see the same picture of the battlefield, including acquired targets. The project is being overseen by the IAF's Combat Cooperation Unit, headed by Col. Dor, a former commander of a Cobra helicopter squadron. The decision to develop the system was made following the Second Lebanon War and in the wake of internal IAF inquiries that concluded that dramatic improvements were needed in ground-air cooperation. The system, whose name the IAF has yet to disclose, is intended to let ground commanders mark targets on a map that will immediately be relayed to helicopter and fighter pilots. And as reported exclusively in The Jerusalem Post last week, the IDF is considering equipping soldiers with GPS indicators so their locations will be known to both pilots and ground commanders, thus helping to prevent friendly-fire incidents. "The new system will dramatically improve coordination between air and ground forces participating in a mission together," a top IAF officer told the Post this week. "Once they have the same picture, they will better understand one another and be able to better carry out their mission." The results of miscommunication between the IAF and IDF ground troops can be disastrous. During the First Lebanon War in 1982, an Israeli Phantom jet pilot mistakenly identified IDF tanks as Syrian. More than 20 soldiers were killed. But the IDF is not relying on electronic systems alone. Since 2006's Second Lebanon War, every infantry brigade has been assigned an air support officer, a member of the IAF reserves whose job is to coordinate joint air-ground operations with field commanders. "The air support officer's job is to advise the brigade commanders on how they can best use the air force to their advantage," the top IAF officer explained, adding that since the war in the summer of 2006, an increase in joint training exercises had also played a key role in improving cooperation. "The idea is for brigade commanders to get to know a number of squadron commanders, so when they meet in time of war they will know how to interact," the officer said. Since the war, the IAF's Combat Cooperation Unit has also created a position for an infantry officer who presents the ground forces during operational planning.