Cloud, app, chat, smartphone, tablet - all these are familiar and accepted civic terms today for every young man and woman. Order a pizza on your smartphone, order a book on Amazon or a hamburger at McDonald's via an app. Well, today in the IDF, it is possible to order close air support on the battlefield in the app, receive data on enemy targets from the cloud and conduct an encrypted operational chat with the commander.
That is the essence of the DAP program, A Digital Land Army, a program developed by Elbit Systems in cooperation with the IDF, a program that undergoes improvement and upgrade processes, so that today a tank commander stationed on the front can look at a touch screen in front of him inside the tank, identify an enemy, hit the screen, and the cannon fires at the target.
[Fighter using the DAP system. Photo by IDF Spokesperson's Unit]
Smart combat space
"I believe in the program. It is correct, it is a technological leap. I see on the screen the whole battlefield, everything is integrated with all the combat systems around me. I see on the map an axis of progress, everyone talks to everyone and everyone sees the same picture," says Lt. Col. Elad Bitan, 77th Battalion Commander in the 7th Brigade. Elad's Merkava MK4 tank battalion is deployed in the Golan Heights, is one of the IDF units that were converted to the DAP 750 program, the most up-to-date version, and practiced it in the field.
The DAP program as it is manifested in Lt. Col. Bitan’s tank battalion: "Every tank commander in the battalion sees all the relevant information very easily and clearly. Identifying and destroying an enemy, navigation route, and an up-to-date view of our fighting and maneuvering forces. The tank commander sees smart information regarding the combat space and knows what goes around in the neighboring sector. His gunner operates the canon via touch screen. Enemy identification and cannon operation is done via pressing the touch screen."
In this fashion, advanced DAP technology reaches the user, the tactical end, namely a tank commander or an infantry platoon commander, and from there the digital program of the land army climbs to the high ranks of battalion commander, brigade commander, division and corps commanders.
The person responsible for the development of the program and its implementation in the IDF is Col. Oren Matzliach, head of ADERET (Digital Architecture for Networks and Infrastructure), a department that is part of the Land Technology Divisionin the Technology and Logistics department of the Land Army. In a conversation with Israel Defense, Col. Matzliach emphasizes that DAP began as a military Command and Control system, and after many development stages it reached its present state - the DAP 650 System is now a combat system.
"The system has undergone an operational transformation from command and control to a network combat system: today it operates weapons, collects and distributes intelligence and operates fire. In this way, it implements the principles of lethality and connectivity," says Matzliach. The system uses accepted and well-known commercial technologies that have been adapted to the operational requirements of the military. The developers of DAP have adapted flexible technologies (AGILE metodology) that can be put into use and then upgraded and developed, thus implementing new and advanced versions, which are then made accessible to the fighters.
Matzliach cites an example from the cloud area: "Today, a brigade headquarters has a 'cloud' capability. The idea behind it is to allow the brigade's headquarters and units to operate in the battlefield even when the headquarters are disconnected. It continues to operate even when disconnected as it receives information and operational data from the cloud.
For the tactical echelon, a platoon commander and a fighter are equipped with a smartphone or a smartwatch, connecting them to the combat system "A Force enters the combat arena even though it has no communication infrastructure connecting it externally. The system will continue to operate and the information and data will be provided to the sub-units and also for the benefit of liaison with the headquarters
"Developers have ensured that in combat, users, commanders of their ranks, receive only the information and intelligence relevant to them, and this is ensured by artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in the system. An advanced infantry will receive all the information it needs while preventing unnecessary information flooding. Information on threats and state of the art intelligence are what the commander of the force needs to know. It is highly important when the enemy is hiding, concealed, and may appear in the window of a house or emerge from a tunnel. This is the type of enemy we are dealing with in the interwar battle period."
Ordering artillery or close air support
DAP 750 is currently defined in the IDF as a multi-domain connectivity system. A battlefield force commander recognizing an enemy is able to order artillery or close air support using the digital means at his disposal. "Ordering support could have taken hours in the past, nowadays it only takes minutes until artillery or air support arrives, UAVs included," says Oren Matzliach. "A battalion commander needs assistance. He has a compatible app, he inputs enemy target data to his smartphone or tablet, and will receive fire quickly, just like ordering a book on Amazon or a pizza in a pizzeria using your smartphone. It should be emphasized that in all these actions there is no need for voice over the radio. Everything is done by clicking on the touch screens. He presses, and the action is carried out. This has been tried on the ground. "
[Land surface in the DAP System. Photo by IDF Spokesperson's Unit ]
Lt. Col. Elad Bitan, 77th Battalion Commander in the 7th Brigade, has inspected and practiced the system in the field. "In the brigade and in the battalion we have aligned ourselves with the digital means and the intuitive system. The tank systems are integrated in the apps which carry all the information. The platoon tank commanders on the battlefield see the same thing as the battalion and brigade commanders, they all see the same picture. There are anti-tank threats, there are enemy targets, everything appears on the screens inside the tank. A common, unified language. We have also verified that the electronic-digital systems are fully operational in weather conditions: rain, dust, fog etc.
"Nearly all operations in the tank are done by pressing the touch screen. Anyone who has been a tank gunner will appreciate the fact that there is no need to aim the cannon manually because the aiming is also done by pressing the screen. This has been tried out during battalion operations in the Gaza strip.
77th Battalion Commander clarifies the operational chat: “Every soldier knows what it is like to talk over the radio. Conversations jam and interfere. We have an encrypted operational chat, which allows any team member to ask a question or pass on information. The tank commander talks to the team or to the platoon commander via chat. If you need to find out how much fuel and ammunition the company has, you do it via chat. For us, it serves as a connectivity platform."
Discovering an Enemy prior to the attack
The battalion commander says that the battalion had completed DAP 750 conversion program, and today fighters who have been in the army for only eight months control the system and operate it without difficulty. "In fact, after two hours of explanations, they understood the principles. So this is a very big leap forward. The system has backups, it is ruggedized and suitable for an area where armored vehicles operate. Everyone speaks the same language and sees the same picture."
On the limited training time required to operate the DAP 750, Head of ADERET Col. Oren Matzliach states: "The system was built so that it is easy to operate. There is no need for a computer technician overlooking the platoon commander. Today's youth are adept from childhood at using smartphones, smartwatches and tablets. Instead of pizza, they are now able to order artillery assistance. Short assimilation, minimal learning and training. You turn it on, and the system goes up on its own. If there is a failure, the system handles it. There are backups, and all systems are cyber-protected."
The Head of Department and the Battalion Commander clarify that the challenge of the DAP 750 system is to bring to the attention of the maneuvering forces on the battlefield the information and intelligence regarding the enemy at an early stage of the battle, to discover an enemy before they attack. Sometimes the enemy is exposed for a very short time period, or it may appear at the window for a moment and must be hit at that very moment before it disappears. The system is linked to many aid and combat elements in the IDF, including air and sea forces. Tank platoon commander has a smartphone and a smartwatch in the tank, as well as touch screens, so he can connect to battle helicopters or a sky rider squadron. Nowadays a considerable portion of IDF order of battle is upgraded to DAP 750 and uses it operationally .
Ten Capabilities for the Same Coin
The DAP program is also integrated into the Front Command posts of the Brigade and Battalion Commanders. All the capabilities that the plan presents to the commanders are assimilated in the Front Command Room, which is placed a designated armored vehicle, a Namer or other advanced ADF, provided that it can maneuver in the field and have a high transition capability. With the help of system components, the platoon or battalion commanders are able to fight from the dedicated vehicle and make decisions quickly, based on accessible information and intelligence.
Developers of DAP systems are looking to the future: new versions of the program are constantly being developed, and the goal in future versions is to deepen and strengthen multi-armed capabilities of DAP. Head of ADERET: "We monitor commercial technologies in the world and learn from them, and at the same time develop technologies in which we are unique in the military world. Over the years, investments in the DAP program have been considerable, but the operational value is enormous. Without mentioning figures relative to the DAP programs I can say that for one coin we used to get one capability, today we get ten capabilities for the same coin."
"Our department deals with the development of the systems and the engineering of their architecture, in full coordination with the IDF and in cooperation with the Technological and Logistics Directorate, the Telecommunications Division, the Intelligence Division, the IAF and in fact with all military forces. Our mission is to stretch the system to its tactical limits and add components for users at end units."