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Network-Based Fire is Changing the Battlefield
Network-Based Fire is Changing the Battlefield
Outgoing IDF Chief Artillery Officer, Brig. Gen. Roy Riftin, speaks about the new weapon system layouts assimilated by the IDF Artillery Corps and about the change of concept: from an artillery force to an extensive fire support layout
The IDF Artillery Corps has been transformed: instead of the employment of artillery fire, the current concept involves the employment of diversified fire support elements, including long-range Romach rockets, the use of UAVs and precision-guided munitions, MLRS and tube artillery, says the outgoing Chief Artillery Officer, Brig. Gen. Roy Riftin, who has been replaced in August 2015 by Brig. Gen. Alon Klos.
"What they used to do for nearly two decades, before my time, was collecting fire support capabilities and assimilating them into the Corps," says Riftin. "Such capabilities as the 'Tamuz' (Spike NLRS) precision-guided munitions, instead of the Romach guns, UAVs – and so more and more elements were added gradually, and numerous capabilities stacked up within the same organization.
"The story during those years, as far as we were concerned, was the synergy between the various capabilities. That is where we had the gap. When I entered office as Chief Artillery Officer, we changed the structure of the fire management center: today this center looks at the integration of capabilities rather than at the individual capability of each asset. Secondly, at the very outset I formulated the concept of network-based fire. The logic of this concept says: I have a diversified range of fire capabilities, and now my challenge is connecting those fire capabilities with the target at the appropriate time. Our expertise will be how to properly connect the assets available to us and how to employ them effectively.
"The future is the network-based fire concept. The network concept will take us forward. The network is not used only by attackers. My understanding of what we should expect is that we (the Artillery Corps) will be in charge of collection as well. We are already in charge of spotting, and spotting is collection."
But will the products of the collection effort go to the (Artillery) Corps or to elements from other service branches?
"Certainly. Everything is poured into the main C3 system of the IDF. From there the information will be disseminated to whomever needs it. In addition to the collection capabilities, we possess the strike capabilities – both ground and aerial. At the brigade and divisional levels, the function in charge of strike decisions is the artillery. We possess the right mixture of capabilities, starting with the collection and C3 level. But you can enslave other capabilities – not just ours: you can enslave, for the benefit of engaging the target, even a tank. If it is (relevantly positioned) on the ground, I will be able to operate it."
Another characteristic of targets on the modern battlefield is a very short life-span – or is this an exaggeration?
"It is an understatement. This was the reason why we developed the strike centers in the first place. What was the idea? You link together a collection element and a strike element who communicate with one another so that they may operate correctly opposite the target."
So you implemented a concept of "target tendering" of sorts?
"I do not accept that term. We are talking about the employment of fire like the on-line taxi ordering service 'Get Taxi'. Specifically, it does not matter who the executing element is. What matters is who notices the target first and who is most readily available to engage that target. The rationale is for any infantry or armored corps company commander or battalion commander to be able to press a button, and the first fire support element available to execute the task at hand will engage the target marked by that company or battalion commander. The digital fire support officer is an application we have in the C3 system of the infantry and the C3 system of the armored corps. The field commander identifies a target and presses a button. For example, a tank may identify the target and its map reference and transmit the data to the battery. Everything is done through a closed circuit. The 'Delta' (variation) we will probably encounter later on stems from the fact that everything takes place within a very short timeframe.
Has the statistical fire that "starred" during the combat encounters of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 been reinstated into the doctrine of IDF?
"Unequivocally, yes. Although everyone still understands that the trend should be more precise weapons that are more readily available through more common measures. The build-up of the force at the capability level means adopting unique measures that would provide us with extensive capabilities. Tube artillery should take a step forward, too."
Has the issue of a new self-propelled gun platform for the Corps instead of the M-109 platform, which has been in service for decades, made any progress during the three years of your tenure?
"It has made substantial progress. The insight is that the existing platform used by IDF should be replaced. Now, we need to discuss budgets. It is under discussion at IDF GHQ – and that should not be taken for granted. The issue has never been discussed more intensively than today. Operation Protective Edge gave it quite a boost. It is widely understood that we cannot go on using a platform from the late 1940s. The most significant thing in this context is the fact that we issued a tender for a precision fuse. That means that IDF will still want guns even 100 years from now. The gun is still valid, and if you want something that will fire, then you will need new guns, subject to the budgetary restrictions.
"If you look at the world of capabilities generally, you will realize that we launched the 'Romach' rocket OrBat in the spring of 2015, which is a major achievement. The rockets were received very well, and are currently operated by the 'Ra'am' Battalion. We intend to establish another 'Romach' rocket battalion.
"We currently use a different language with regard to our field groups: today we call them 'fire support groups' rather than 'artillery groups'. They include gun battalions, but rocket battalions as well. We developed a new method. Each field group now has a complete range of capabilities – rockets, missiles and tube artillery."
Has the "Romach" rocket placed the Artillery Corps within ranges that were once the responsibility of IAF?
"No. This weapon system touches the range of 40 kilometers. The ranges of the rockets are not yet long enough. I would be glad to have a little extra range, but in the meantime, what we have is fine."
Is the new self-propelled gun system intended to have a long range?
"Approximately 35 kilometers (range) and a new caliber – 52. The new gun will be able to provide more firepower with a smaller OrBat. I want a crew of three per gun platform instead of the current 10. With that improved firepower, we will be able to reduce the number of guns per battery, thereby reducing the IDF artillery OrBat by 50%. This is the rationale. According to the new concept, we change from an artillery group to a fire support group. I think that as far as concepts and terminology are concerned, we are changing from an element that supports the maneuvering elements to an element that attacks and supports. Once you have become autonomous in the generation of targets, you will be able to attack even without the friction of the assault elements in front of you. It is a different way of thinking to which we have to adjust, and I was intensively involved in this issue."
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said after Operation Protective Edge that during that operation, the maneuvering elements supported the fire element, rather than the other way around. Was this statement an exaggeration?
"It all depends on the situation, but I like this statement. I think what he referred to was the fact that the maneuvering elements generate targets primarily. If the friction causes the enemy elements to come out so that we can attack them – then that is excellent."
What will be the next quantum leap for the Artillery Corps?
"I am convinced that the quantum leap made ten years from now will be even more significant than the progress made thus far. The technological developments are tremendous. Look at today's smartphones compared to the first cellular phones. Battlefield systems progress at the same rate.
"Over the years, the threat has changed. We adapted by taking ordnance adapted to certain enemy target types and adapting them.
"The world is saturated with information. The commander will always make his decisions on the basis of the information he is provided with. The responsibility is his. The firing echelon is the one responsible. Firing at a certain target is, eventually, the responsibility of those in the firing position. Today, fire support planning is performed by systems that determine the laws and the rules, as well as the scale of priorities, and eventually – someone, a single authority, has to make a decision."
What is your position regarding the issue of automatic fire employment, in the style of the Sentry-Tech system?
"I cannot live peacefully with this concept, and I do not think it will catch on, mainly because of the moral aspect, which would constitute a problem. We live in an era where, in a three-second flash during which you lock onto a target, you must divert the missile or the rocket only because within one second, an uninvolved element who should not be there entered the picture. For this reason, fire cannot be employed automatically."
The full article was published, in Hebrew, in issue 59 of Tamid Totchan magazine, published by Israel Defense
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