"The Real Challenge is Building up the Force for a Constantly-Evolving Battlefield"

The Head of the IAF Staff Division, Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, addressed the increasing number of missions assigned to the UAS force at the sixth international UVID conference. "Any new capability adopted by the IAF must undergo operational status trials and any new vehicle will require a standard seal"

Photography: Gilad Kavalerchik

"I am presenting the angle of the IAF. There are other needs of other bodies. We expect an increase in the employment of the UAS setups in the coming years," says Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar, Head of the IAF Staff Division, in his address at the opening plenum of the sixth international UVID conference, initiated and produced by Israel Defense and held at the Avenue function center. "We are preparing for it. There is a tendency to think that most of this activity will take place at flight levels close to the ground – by vehicles from drones to other platforms. The element of the higher levels is more significant. There is an interaction between the levels and the vehicles. The increase will apply to all dimensions. The number of users will increase as well," added Bar.

Bar stated further that "We have a master plan for the force which is essentially a bottom-up plan, for the coming decade. We need to organize and regulate the employment of UAS within the given range. Maintaining the advantages of the IAF in the context of the capabilities of the UAS force necessitates connections with other armed forces around the world. Any new capability adopted by the IAF must undergo operational status trials. We will require a standard seal for any new vehicle adopted by the IAF. We must have the appropriate protective measures. What will the platform mix look like? That is a philosophical question. The fire and maneuvering elements of the IDF undergo a similar process, and the tension is resolved through cooperation. The same will take place in the IAF. The integration of the over-all vehicle arsenal will resolve the tension. The objective is operational effectiveness. The discourse is shifting toward maximum mission utilization.

"The IDF is evolving into 'Network IDF'. That is the catalyst and facilitator of all of the operational dreams. The transition into network-based operation breaches the barriers that have existed within the IDF for many years. Interoperability and cooperation help us to search for the disappearing enemy. If we search for the enemy using multiple sensors it will be easier for us to find the enemy targets. The core of the matter is finding the enemy within relevant time constants – a time constant of a few seconds.

"The enemy knows how to focus their efforts on us. The enemy is interested in each and every one of our activities. That is a challenge during peacetime as well as in emergencies. The real challenge is in the build-up of the force. We need 24/7 persistent area surveillance. Generating a battle picture is a complex activity and the UAS force plays a major role in the context of this effort. We are looking for force multipliers, not for 'Me-Too' elements. Fewer operators, taking the enemy by surprise. We are looking for solutions that would provide us with advantages. In the future, there will be fewer people in service and the service term will be shorter. We are preparing for that. Technology will bridge the gaps. We may not require external operators. The interpretation centers will be improved," he added.

BG Bar also addressed the time required to develop the systems. "The time to market must be shortened. The time to incorporate a new capability, standardization, open architecture, payload switching, P&P capabilities. We need technologies that may be integrated quickly. Another tier is regulation. During Operation Cast Lead, over the Gaza Strip, the aerial OrBat was deployed at various levels and within each level – at different zones. Coordination was a safety challenge. Nine years have passed, and now there are more vehicles, more capabilities, and direct employment by the ground forces at low levels. The entire spectrum must be coordinated. Coordination is required for operational employment, instruction and training activities. We call it 'Fifth Generation' – just like the F-35 fighters. We want to elevate the entire IAF to the level of these capabilities. All of our instruction/training activities will take place on the ground and everything we have available will be airborne, in operational employment. The network is the main thing. Anyone failing to operate on the network will cease to exist."

Ofer Haruvi of IAI said that "The trends in the UAS world include faster UAVs, vertical takeoff, persistent area surveillance, logistic missions. MALE UAVs are not the solution for persistent area surveillance as they are costly and likely to be shot down. Consequently, the market will switch to high-level, strategic UAVs and low-cost low-level platforms. The tactical (MALE) UAV category is expected to decline.

"The maritime category is evolving significantly – maritime routes and protection for energy assets. Small UAVs will be used, along with very large UAVs with multiple sensors. Today there are more persistent area surveillance payloads. Onboard processing capabilities are evolving, including automatic processing and identification at the processing centers. This trend applies to small UAVs, too.

"Assignment of civilian missions to UAVs is a field of activity that would overtake the military activity. At the moment, it is blocked by the regulator. But it is under pressure worldwide and there is a tendency to break through and blaze a trail. Market analyses envision that in five years' time, the civilian applications will exceed the military applications. Logistic UAVs are a part of this trend. The civilian market will take the lead with regard to the small payload category, too. The military market is also interested.

"Another category is fighter UAVs. An SDI survey of the last month has indicated that fighter UAVs will account for 35% of the military UAS market in the coming decade. The need for fast, survivable, armed UAVs in the strategic zone will evolve further. It is reasonable to expect that after 2030 all of the world's air forces will have fighter UAVs."

"We have No Intention of Establishing an Additional Air Force as part of the Ground Forces"

"We have no intention of establishing an additional air force as part of the ground forces. Additionally, we are aiming at the development of a systemic solution according to the concept of Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak," says Brig. Gen. Alon Klos, Chief IDF Artillery Officer.

"There has been a change in the aerial dimension. There has been a change in the technological dimension. The air superiority notwithstanding, it does not mean that no weapon systems would be directed at us. It does not mean that the other side would fail to understand what we are doing. We are seriously challenged, despite the accuracy and lethality.

"What do we want? To be able to spot, detect and identify active enemy elements. We want operational continuity so as to provide a solution within short time intervals. Artificial intelligence that would help the intelligence officer understand the logic behind the enemy's activities. Identification and interception of enemy targets within the combat zone where the ground force operates.

"The first element consists of the teams operating with the organic forces. We can see an integrated element. The third element is complementing the strike capabilities. The fourth element is the ground and airborne logistics. On the ground, we are preparing for setups. We will have an intelligence collection – fire – network setup and a logistic setup," he added.

"The Revolution is in the Information – that is the Future"

Elad Aharonson, Elbit Systems' EVP & GM ISTAR Division, said at the conference that "There is a dimension of addiction to UAS in ground operations. The function of the UAS is to provide intelligence and spot the enemy. Dealing with the platforms is important, but eventually, the question is whether we have a battle picture and know where the enemy is.

"Spotting suspects in a civilian environment is a more complex task. There are no distinguishing characteristics as in a military profile. At the sensor level we should offer higher quality with better resolution, extended ranges and an all-weather capability.

"We need a spatial perspective as we never know where the enemy will come from. We need to sense the entire area – persistent area surveillance on the ground and at sea. Time is another dimension. Real-time payloads are inherently restricted. We need coverage of the time dimension so that we may analyze the entire enemy infrastructure. The spectrum is yet another dimension. The other side is minimizing their signatures. We must be able to sample them throughout the spectrum.

"All of those capabilities are not enough. They are enough for the purpose of providing information, but the client does not know what to do with all of that information. The operational advantage is not fully utilized. The way to cope with it is through automatic interpretation. In most armed forces, interpreters are a rare commodity. In the field of video, there are automatic video analytics, like an automatic tracking capability including routes and target characterization. All of these capabilities are already available – but they are not enough.

"Automatic interpretation is not enough. We need automatic processing and utilization of the information. Eventually, what we want is to be able to identify the irregularity. To identify the irregularity within the information provided by the various sensors. It is a collection of various technologies, including machine learning and deep learning. But that will not be enough either. Even when we have realized where the Bad Guys are, we would still want to know what is going to happen.

"Eventually, what we want is to prevent an attack or the firing of a rocket or any other activity. The ability to predict the future – that is the goal, and systems are evolving in that direction. To provide an early warning of what is going to happen. That is what the clients are looking for.

"Let's assume that we have a UAV overhead and it has identified a vehicle parked at the roadside. A white Toyota pickup truck with three people inside. We have the license plate number. One of the people in the vehicle is using binoculars. The system has also identified the logo of a security company on the vehicle – the automatic interpretation process has been completed. Now it's time to move on to the utilization of the information available. The system tells us that the license plate number is irregular. It has also noticed the fact that three patrolmen in a single vehicle is suspicious. If it is really good, it will also be able to tell us that the vehicle was driven directly to this point, without stopping anywhere.

"But what is going to happen? There is a vehicle here with a fake identity. A person looking up using binoculars. He might be preparing to shoot down an aircraft. This system should have all incoming and outgoing flights stopped as the people in that vehicle might be preparing to shoot down an aircraft. This is the standard expected from an intelligence system of this type. Yes, the UAV is a part of it – but it is not the only element. There are sensors, but the revolution is in the information – that is the next big thing."