IDF to employ new gadgets in Gaza

Among new tech: A hand-held thermal imager and an eyepiece command-and-control display.

Shahar system 248.88 (photo credit: )
Shahar system 248.88
(photo credit: )
A hand-held thermal imager and target acquisition system, a tube-like eyepiece command-and-control display and a GPS locater that does not require satellite hookup are some of the latest gadgets the IDF Ground Forces Command (GFC) plans to declare operational in the coming weeks. Called "Amit," the targeting system - developed by Elbit Systems - weighs less than 2 kilograms, including the eight-hour rechargeable battery. The hand-held system enables the operator to locate targets up to a kilometer away, under all weather conditions - clouds, rain and moonless. Until now, the IDF used heavier systems that needed to be mounted on a tripod. The new system costs less than a third of those and is more mobile. It will soon be distributed to all infantry platoon and company commanders in the IDF. "This is an ideal system for urban warfare," explained a senior officer in the GFC. "The Amit enables commanders to hone in on targets and pinpoint their exact location. This will enable more accurate targeting in an urban setting." The new systems are being inserted into IDF infantry brigades in line with the lessons learned from Operation Cast Lead, which the military launched in late December against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The development and integration of the systems is overseen by Brig.-Gen. Shahar Kadishai, head of the GFC's Technology and Logistics Department. The IDF tested the Amit's thermal-imaging capabilities during Cast Lead, distributing flags coated in a special chemical, detectable only by the Amit, among units in hopes of avoiding friendly-fire incidents. Another system expected to be integrated in the coming weeks is the "Shahar" - an eyepiece that hooks onto a commander's vest and connects to a command-and-control computer carried in a small backpack. The eyepiece, which will be distributed to battalion and company commanders starting this month, shows the officers a map of the battlefield, including the location of friendly and enemy forces. The system enables commanders to quickly close in on targets. If an unmanned aerial vehicle or tank locates an enemy target, it can punch in the coordinates, which will appear on map that the infantry commander sees through the eyepiece. Also under development by the Technology and Logistics Department is a GPS device called "Clover," which does not require a continuous connection with satellites. The GPS, which will be carried by soldiers for navigating, will link up with a satellite before entering the battle zone and then again once every couple of hours. This will also protect the unit operating the GPS, since the enemy would have fewer opportunities to crack the system via the satellite and uncover the troops' location. "Our assumption is that we will not have satellite linkup like we would prefer to have during a large-scale conflict," the senior GFC officer said. "The new GPS will be able to navigate based on the distance it travels and the point of origin, without needing to connect to a satellite." Finally, the GFC has also begun testing a new trailer that can be connected to Merkava tanks and used to carry supplies - including ammunition, food, water and gasoline - into the field. The trailer was designed by Urdan Associated Steel Foundries and has tires with 360-degree maneuverability. "This aims to solve one of the problems discovered during the Second Lebanon War, when units didn't have food and water," the officer said. "This trailer will be able to carry supplies for an entire company of tanks and travel attached to a tank deep into enemy territory."