Active Protection for Maneuvering Forces

Nucleus units operating autonomously – that seems to be the future trend of land warfare. However, these units need protection in order to maneuver – and tactical radars offer the solution. Special interview with RADA Electronic Industries' CEO, Dov Sela

Namer APC (Photo: IDF)

Two primary processes have dictated changes in the structure of regular armed forces in recent years – asymmetrical warfare and the abundance of missile systems. Asymmetrical warfare operations against terrorist and guerrilla organizations dictated the need to operate in a decentralized manner. The abundance of missile systems – rockets and missiles to various ranges – created the need for active protection. In order to deal with the two requirements of the modern battlefield, modern armed forces have been changing along three main axes: one – an autonomous nucleus unit possessing combined capabilities, including active protection, capable of coping with asymmetry within a given area cell. Two – a combined arms capability to support the nucleus units within the various area cells. Three – improving the automation/autonomy of the Network-Centric Warfare (NCW) concept in order to shorten the response intervals of the nucleus unit.

"As far back as eight years ago we identified the need for an active protection system advancing with the maneuvering force, so we developed a dedicated radar system for this mission from our own sources," explains Dov Sela, CEO of Rada Electronic Industries. Rada develops tactical radars for maneuvering forces that the user may fit or carry on board armored vehicles (tanks, APCs or other armored vehicles). "Another aspect when you think of an autonomous maneuvering force is the need for a multi-mission capability. When you operate on your own within a given area cell, you face a diversified range of threats, from rockets and missiles through mortar bombs, machine guns, small arms and even explosive balloons like the ones we have seen recently along the border with the Gaza Strip.

"In order to cope with this diversified range of threats, the radar should be able to change its mode of operation and sensitivity threshold according to the threat. Our radars are software-based, so they can change their mode of operation with no need for changes in hardware. We achieve this technical capability by changing the parameters of the radar software 'at the push of a button' or automatically. Another important capability is automation. The men of the maneuvering ground force do not receive radar operator training, nor do they have the cognitive calm and time required for manual radar operation. In current ground warfare operations, response intervals are sometimes measured in split seconds (as in the case of active protection for armored vehicles), and normally in dozens of seconds (as in combat engagements involving UAVs, drones and short-range ballistic weapons). During that timeframe, you have to identify the threat, destroy it and then destroy the source of fire, so that it may not attack you again."

The Radar Cost Issue

Sela explains that one of the primary elements dictating the clients' ability to acquire the quantities required in order to provide a tactical solution to the maneuvering force is the cost. Traditional tactical radar solutions provide a principle solution for relatively distant threats, and for this reason, they are sizable and costly. Clients will not purchase a radar system costing millions of US dollars to fit on a combat vehicle that costs much less and is available in large numbers.

"The combination of enhanced performance owing to the use of state-of-the-art radar technologies with a competitive price tag has positioned us as global leaders with our Multi-Mission Hemispheric Radar (MHR) for the maneuvering force. It is a working, proven, operational and serially produced product," says Sela.

"Rada's tactical MHR and CHR radars are key elements in such active protection systems for armored vehicles as the Iron Fist by IMI (Israel) and the Iron Curtain by Artis (USA), in high energy laser systems by Boeing and Lockheed Martin and in short-range air-defense systems against drones, UAVs and manned aircraft used by the United States Marine Corps and Army. We recently won a joint contract with the Leonardo DRS Company to supply the radars to the IM-SHORAD solution, a mobile active air-defense system for the US Army."

To clarify, active protection for maneuvering land forces operating on the modern battlefield is not confined to armored vehicles. The concept has three basic objectives: to identify the threat, destroy it and then destroy the source of fire. The primary objective of active protection is to provide the attacking maneuvering force with the ability to complete the mission it was dispatched to execute. Consequently, active protection should provide the force with effective protection against all threats from the air, ground, and sea.

For some time now, the IDF has been preparing to acquire tactical radars for the maneuvering forces, but the procurement process has not started yet. The IDF Ground Arm and Planning Directorate have already authorized the radar project, but it will begin during the next long-term plan. Some of the reasons have to do with the changes the Head of the IDF Ground Arm HQ, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, is introducing to the Ground Arm. The core of the change is a transition to operation in battalion- and brigade-size combat task forces. Each task force will operate autonomously and would have to dominate an area cell of dozens or hundreds of square kilometers through a diversified range of ground attack capabilities. Such forces will require active protection in the air and on the ground. The enemy currently possesses an arsenal of diversified threats. It is decentralized, concealed and fast. "If we review the current trend of the modern battlefield, we will realize that the need for tactical radars would only increase," concludes Sela.

 

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