Monday 8 October 2012

Technological Warfare Against Israel


It was announced on Saturday that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) shot down a drone that had penetrated Israeli air space earlier in the day.  It is not yet clear who sent the drone, or what its purpose was.  A few names have mentioned as to who could be behind this, including Hamas and Hezbollah.  The possibility that Iran is probably involved is not far from anybody's mind.

The IDF is well-known for having developed very sophisticated hi-tech weaponry and intelligence-gathering tools.  It has also developed hi-tech ways of infiltrating sensitive areas within enemy operations to cause them damage.  The best recent example of this has been the viruses that were found in the computer systems of Iran's nuclear program.  Although the use of technology for surveillance and intelligence-gathering is well known, the effectiveness of cyber warfare is unknown.  It is understood that the viruses may have contributed to delays in Iran's construction of a nuclear weapon, although even this is not entirely clear.  It has become clear that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been very effective in intelligence-gathering to follow activities on the ground, and also for use in attacks while not endangering human lives in the process.  Israel's use of these has been extensive, and has even expanded to Israel developing and launching its own satellites for higher altitude surveillance.  It transpires that Israel's enemies also have access to similar technologies.  The IDF is having to respond by using its sophisticated technologies to defend against the use of hi-tech intelligence and weapons to harm Israel.

According to the IDF, this is the fourth time that a drone has penetrated Israeli air space over the past ten years.  The previous three occasions have seen much smaller drones enter Israeli air space from the north.  The fact that they have come from the north has given clear indication that Hezbollah was involved from its positions in southern Lebanon.  The drone that was shot down on Saturday is reported to have entered Israeli air space from the Mediterranean coast.  Israeli surveillance was monitoring the drone well before it entered into Israeli air space, and managed to shoot it down in a controlled way that ensured that nobody on the ground was injured or endangered.  The IDF will be examining the drone to determine its flight path prior to entering the space above Israel, and to see if Israeli intelligence is able to determine the identity of those who sent the drone.  The good news for now, at least as far as we know, is that Israel has the required surveillance capability to identify these UAVs that penetrate Israeli air space, and destroy them before they are able to transmit information to enemies in a way that could endanger Israel's safety.  Hezbollah has been proud to announce that the fact that this drone succeeded in penetrating Israeli air space, shows that Israel is vulnerable to this type of attack.  The fact remains that Hezbollah has yet to be successful in gaining any advantage from drones that have penetrated Israeli air space.  This is surely the main test.

It is quite astonishing that it is terror organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah who are the main suspects of sending the UAVs.  In the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah launched Iranian drones capable of carrying explosives towards Israel.  The Israeli Air Force succeeded in identifying these in good time, and shot them down before they could do any damage.  The clear message is that these renegade groups have access to the most sophisticated weaponry and technology, and can never be underestimated.  It is also understood that these are being supplied by Iran behind the scenes, and that Hamas and Hezbollah are fulfilling their role as proxy armies for Iran in its fight against Israel.

The time for cyber warfare is here.  This is not merely limited to attacks on computer networks, or use of computers for monitoring and intelligence-gathering exercises.  It also extends to use of unmanned vehicles, in the air or on the ground, to gather intelligence and to carry explosives to carry out attacks against remote targets.  We can expect the technology to increase in its sophistication with each passing day, and we can expect terror groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda and others to have access to the most up-to-date hardware and software available.

Not too long ago, war was conducted with enemies lining up and firing missiles and small arms at each other.  These missiles have developed to the point that they can be fired from much further away than was previously the case, so there is no real need to line up against each other.  It seems now that the nature of war has changed even further.  It is conducted using weapons that do not require humans to risk their lives, and it is sometimes conducted via computer and communications networks.  At times, people are not even aware that acts of war are taking place until it is  too late.

Israel has always ensured that it is at the leading edge of military technology.  This has proven to be the right decision in terms of maintaining an advantage over her enemies in the Middle East, and further afield.  As the technology moves to the next generation, it seems as though this decision will prove even more critical in the future.  This type of warfare plays right into the greatest strength that the IDF possesses in terms of its technological capability.  The next few years will be critical in telling whether this is the case or not.

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