Israel’s Eyes and Ears on the Border

New Tool Fuses Data from See-Shoot Defense Network


Tel Aviv — Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is introducing two technological tools to augment the proficiency of its growing force of young, female remote observers serving as the nation’s front line of defense against terrorists, arms smugglers and other infiltrators.

Deployed safely behind computer consoles in operation centers around Gaza, the northern borders with Lebanon and Syria, and at friction points around the West Bank, these 19- and 20-year-old conscripts — part of the IDF’s Combat Collection Corps (CCC) — operate a multitude of networked sensors, including the remote-controlled, precision-strike See-Shoot system built by Rafael. The new tools involve an automated data-fusing process to improve the efficiency of observers, and a simulator to closely replicate lifelike scenarios.

“These female observers form the basis of our border-defense doctrine; they are much more than an ancillary means of support for the war fighters,” said Col. Tal Braun, commander of the IDF’s Combat Collection School.

“Since we can’t put a soldier on every meter of the border, we need a very focused, extremely disciplined pair of eyes to look deeper, wider, under myriad conditions at all times,” Braun said. “We’re relying on them to create strategic depth … and the instant they detect enemy activity, we can concentrate a maneuvering force or activate firepower to perform the mission.”

Officials found young female soldiers were better able to concentrate than young male soldiers.

Last week, Maj. Hagai Yaari, with an armored battalion deployed near Gaza, credited the observers with detecting an infiltration attempt near the border fence. The IDF’s official website reported that a Kalashnikov assault rifle, several magazines of ammunition and a knife were found on the body of the militant killed by a precision tank round in the incident.

In a late March interview, Braun said such events occur daily. “Some you hear about; others not. This is a 24/7 mission. These observers literally are defending their home.”

Braun hailed the added value provided by these young conscripts who, after just a few months of training, are empowered to speak directly to battalion and brigade commanders, fire support officers and even attack-helicopter pilots.

“This is unique to the IDF. Where else can a 19-year-old girl have the authority to use a certain code word and snap an entire sector into operational action?” Expanded Presence, New Tools By early next year, the IDF plans to extend deployment of observers in the Jordan River valley and along Israel’s vast border with Egypt, defense sources said. By then, the two new tools will improve the ability of CCC observers to monitor larger geographical swaths in less time.

Both products of Elbit Systems, they have been introduced in the past six months or so and are in advanced stages of operational certification, sources here said.

Elbit declined to discuss the new sensor-fusion system, intended to combine data from sensors into an operational picture, and known by its Hebrew acronym MARS, instead referring queries to the IDF.

Braun, too, declined to discuss details, noting only that “it will ease the need for so many pairs of eyes and make it easier to detect specific areas of interest in a much more focused way.”

A recently retired IDF general said the system would alleviate the need to assign individual observers to each type of intelligence-collection sensor. Once fully deployed, the retired general said, MARS would define and prioritize areas of interest, allowing for more rapid closing of the sensor-to-shooter loop.

“The idea is to use this technological process to extend our virtual depth by creating more holistic pictures served up instantly through the network,” he said.

Recently deployed at the Combat Collection School’s training base in the Negev desert, the new border protection simulator has begun training CCC observers parallel to its ongoing operational certification process.

“It’s not yet complete, but already we’re seeing terrific results,” Braun said. “Our observers can practice the same skills at our training base that they’ll be confronting in the field.”

According to the commander of the Combat Collection School, the new tool is connected to the IDF’s digital C4ISR network and trains observers to operate sensors supporting the See-Shoot, remote-controlled anti-infiltration system.

“It’s a one-on-one copy of the real See-Shoot, just like in Gaza and other places,” Braun said of the Rafael system, a network of overlapping anti-intruder sensors, operator stations and automated gun turrets, all connected through fiber optics to the IDF’s digital C4ISR network.

He stressed that observers, no matter how proficient, are never authorized to activate the See-Shoot’s remote-controlled weapon stations. Orders to activate the shooters must come from the sector commander, he said. Designed to simulate specific geographical sectors, the training device allows observers to hone skills on their assigned sensors, whether radar, visible light, infrared and other means of intelligence collection.

“Our observers must have high technological proficiency and intimate knowledge of their assigned sector. They need to know every boulder, every bush or every grain of sand to determine changes or activity in their sectors,” Braun said.

Divided into sections for simultaneous training, the simulator uses real video and other data to simulate enemy behavior, such as Hezbollah cells readying an anti-tank missile attack or Gaza militants attempting to breach the no-go zone to plant explosive devices or carry out kidnappings. It also has a debriefing and replay function to test and grade responses. “I can design a personal syllabus for each observer based on her specific strengths and weaknesses,” Braun said. “I run everything on the simulator as if she is walking through her sector. I can begin at short ranges and then gradually expand her area of responsibility.”

Ofer Segal, senior director for Land Forces Training and Simulation at Elbit, said the simulator deployed at the Combat Collection School is one of a kind, although the firm recently secured permission to market the product overseas.

“Every place has different challenges and unique conditions, but at every perimeter, or at every strategic installation where people must stare at the sector through a broad range of sensors, this simulator will provide enormous added value,” Segal said.

“In the border-protection mission, the biggest challenge is to distinguish between benign and malevolent intentions,” he said. “This simulator helps hone detection skills … and narrow the chances of mistakenly alerting forces who could strike innocents.”