From the Satellite to the Ground Troops

The IAI Land Systems Chief Coordinator, Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Ben-Reuven, reveals the Company’s strategy regarding the land market and the project of the next self-propelled artillery gun of the IDF

The name notwithstanding, Israel Aerospace Industries are not involved only in the fields of air and space. The corporation also develops dozens of technologies and weapon systems for ground forces, and if you ask the IAI Land Systems Chief Coordinator Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Ben-Reuven, this is only the beginning: IAI intends to expand its land activities even further. It is a strategic move.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Ben-Reuven was appointed to head the Land Staff within the management of IAI in April 2014. He is subordinated directly to IAI CEO Yossi Weiss. In the past, Ben-Reuven served in several key positions in the IDF Armored Corps and Ground Arm and was also the commander of the National Security College.

“In fact, I joined IAI five years ago, quite by chance,” recounts Ben-Reuven. “I came here to deliver a lecture about the second Lebanon war at the MALAM Division (IAI’s missile division, which develops, among other things, the Arrow missile system), and after I concluded my lecture, Uri Sinai, who was CEO at the time, approached me and said: ‘MALAM and IAI are changing direction and want to become involved in land systems’. He asked me to consult MALAM initially, and now I have been appointed as Land Systems Cheif Coordinator of all IAI organs.

“First and foremost, the Land division is involved in the development of applications for ground forces, based on technologies originally developed for the air, space and sea. IAI has been associated with land systems for many years, but now the strategy is to substantially expand our activities in this field. IAI CEO Yossi Weiss places a major emphasis on this activity.

“In my opinion, IAI as a national-level organization can attain tremendous accomplishments by combining all of the realms of warfare – from outer space to the individual warfighter at the tactical echelon. We are one of a very few corporations, worldwide, that are associated with all of those realms, and that enables us to combine all of them, just as it is being done on the modern battlefield.”

Is there really a connection between the satellite in outer space and the infantry trooper on the ground?

“In the past they had, indeed, wondered what the connection between these two elements was,” says Ben-Reuven. “Space was conceived as part of the strategic realm while capabilities for the tactical battlefield were conceived as something else entirely. Since then, however, everything has changed: new modes of combat have emerged. Today it is abundantly clear that the dimension of warfare between military organizations, between states – is vanishing. I would not have taken it completely off the table, but today you have the dimension of fighting against state-sponsored terrorist organizations. In order to deal with them, you sometimes have to confront the state hosting them. This is a radically different mode of combat. Naturally, there is also the dimension of fighting between a state and a guerrilla-like organization.

“Another dimension that has changed, in my view, involves the fact that in the past, we used to distinguish between high-intensity fighting and low-intensity fighting. Today we look at things differently. In effect, we witness a periodical increase in fighting intensity. There is the war between wars, which applies to all state organs – defense, society and economy – and must be addressed.

“The response to all of these changes is what led IAI to become intensively involved in the field of land warfare: in order to win these campaigns we must see a cooperative link between space-borne resources and the battalion commander or brigade commander.”

According to the prevailing concept, the importance of land warfare has decreased. You, on the other hand, actually maintain that the land element is an inseparable part of any mode of combat.

“This is a very important point. The second Lebanon war of 2006 is an excellent example of this issue. It proved that the need for land warfare has not diminished under any circumstances. On the contrary – it has become more acute. Why, in fact, have we parted from wars between states? Mainly because our weaker opponents had reached the conclusion that they do not have the ability to cope with our military strengths and decided to confront us in entirely different ways.

“So there were those who chose the way of peace and there were those who chose the way of attempting to bypass the actual fighting. This course of action was led by the terrorist organizations, who use statistical fire against our populated areas.

“Whereas the battlefield, whether we like it or not, has entered the civilian realm, the war must end very, very quickly. I am talking in terms of days or very few weeks, not months. You must come in with all of your strength, finish at a point where the story ends with an unequivocal victory and go back even if you had not accomplished all of your objectives. The solution to this situation is the employment of your capabilities in the air, in cyberspace, at sea, and against those rockets and terrorists you must also employ your ground forces.”

How do you translate this concept into products and business?

“IAI entered this realm because of the business aspect, too. About three years ago, they came up with the concept of a land staff, which had never existed before, and as I said, the land activities are intensifying and you can see that in the amount of missions and projects that pertain to land warfare, which is constantly increasing.

“The Land division has the privilege of closely cooperating with the IDF, as the military is an excellent proving ground.”

What do you at IAI regard as an opportunity for the brigade?

“I direct the Land division or the capabilities, first and foremost, to the development of measures for the maneuvering space, whose depth, in my estimate, is a few dozens of kilometers.

Are you referring to the space of the regional command (IDF Northern Command, Central Command or Southern Command, for example), for that matter?

“Generally – yes, the space of the regional command, but we’ll call it ‘the maneuvering space’. Within those few dozens of kilometers, we must, first and foremost, provide a maximum degree of autonomy to the force operating on the ground. In the past, autonomy had been determined by what the force had in its possession, namely – numerous tanks and so forth. Today, we have the ability to provide every element on the ground with intelligence. The first thing is to enable it to know and see (even if it may not be by actual sight) what stands opposite it, so that it may plan and enter the space correctly, and also in order to improve its ability to engage and hit the enemy effectively. When I am saying this, what I actually mean is that we need to provide more specific spatial strengths – not everyone needs everything.

“For example, a battalion commander or a company commander leading a force on the ground should be capable of receiving the intelligence that is relevant to them, namely – the entire intelligence that pertains to their specific space, intelligence collected by various assets – from space assets through aircraft through UAVs to surveillance systems. The innovative aspect of what we are currently working on is relevance – the ability to look and receive information. How do you see beyond a house? How can you tell what’s beyond the shrubs? There are still quite a few obstacles, but we at IAI have accomplished some tremendous developments in these fields. In my view, the most important thing is not to drown the commander on the ground in too much information. He should be provided with something friendly that presents all of the information he needs, which means that we need to carry out the data fusion for him. There have been some fascinating developments at IAI. Things are progressing at a very fast pace.

“You also need the ability to communicate between the information and the force on the ground, which is made up of infantry troops, tanks and engineering platforms of various types. All of these platforms should be connected to the information supplied to them at the time when they can make a difference – the battalion commander through planning and the troopers on the ground by accurately engaging the targets in real time.

“In the past, when an aircraft arrived on the scene in the context of an exercise, everyone would stop everything. Those days are over. I think that on the land battlefield itself we would encounter fewer aerial platforms, as they belong at the depth of the enemy territory. The concept is the network-centric warfare involving all of the elements being employed, and an attempt to avoid flooding the people with irrelevant data. Turning the maneuvering unit into an organ capable of employing all of its strength elements – many of them not from within the unit. Eventually, the trooper and the commander on the ground possess the ability to assault – It is my duty to have them assault an already empty objective. As IAI, I would like to clear the area, the space, ahead of the trooper – and that is a tremendous challenge.

“The next thing is connecting the information with the fire sources – something we are working on, as well as on the fire sources.”

New Self-Propelled Artillery Gun for IDF

IAI’s land warfare product range includes space technologies as well as payloads that incorporate day and night surveillance devices, data fusion and intelligence technologies, tactical and strategic radar systems, hover drones and UAVs as well as Unmanned Ground Vehicles – a category in whose future Ben-Reuven believes very strongly (this category includes a giant bulldozer developed by IAI, along with UGVs and miniature robots). IAI also develops tactical communication systems, based on an encrypted cellular network, for ground forces.

Additionally, IAI develops land warfare missiles and has successfully passed the trials of the Top Gun fuze, which accurately guides a 155mm artillery shell to its target. Another current development project involves a mine sweeping system based on an Unmanned Ground Vehicle, and the list goes on and on.

At the same time, IAI offers the IDF Land Arm the next self-propelled artillery gun system, in the context of the plan to replace the existing self-propelled gun arsenal of the IDF, which is to be implemented within the next five-year period.

IAI incorporates in its proposal for the next self-propelled gun system various proprietary technologies in addition to a Bradley hull (a US-made M-270 vehicle to be upgraded by IMI) and an AGM 52-caliber gun by KMW of Germany. The effective range of this self-propelled gun system is more than 35 kilometers.

The IDF Chief Artillery Officer, in an interview published in this issue, characterized the next self-propelled gun system the IDF are interested in along lines that are similar to the project you are offering

“The IDF Chief Artillery Officer and the Commander of the IDF Ground Arm, Maj. Gen. Guy Tzur, are right – the IDF need a platform capable of automatic and autonomous firing, which does not require long logistic convoys to support it. We truly intend to manufacture a platform that will not require an armada of troopers to operate it. We currently direct all of the efforts of IAI to this project.

“Implementing this project, for us, will be the admission ticket into the core of the field of land systems, and we are going for it with all our might. However, we have many other admission tickets. When I look at the aerial products currently offered by IAI, I have no doubt that many of them support the land warfare effort as well.”

We are getting close to the fire conference produced by Israel Defense and to EuroSatory 2014, the international land, air-land and HLS exhibition, which is to open in Paris on June 17. Are you going to those events as a land systems manufacturer to all intents and purposes?

“We are coming as a highly legitimate manufacturer for the diversified aspects of land warfare, which possesses very prominent capabilities based on the extensive range of technologies in our possession.”

“We are coming as a highly legitimate manufacturer for the diversified aspects of land warfare, which possesses very prominent capabilities based on the extensive range of technologies in our possession.”

“We are coming as a highly legitimate manufacturer for the diversified aspects of land warfare, which possesses very prominent capabilities based on the extensive range of technologies in our possession.”