Israel Deploying “See-Shoot” RWS Along Gaza
Remotely-operated Weapons Systems (RWS) like Recon/Optical’s CROWS, Kongsberg’s Protector, Thales’ SWARM, BAE’s LEMUR, and larger versions like RAFAEL’s RCWS-30 and Elbit’s ORCWS have become popular attachments for combat vehicles. They allow an operator inside the vehicle to look at a screen displaying visual feeds from the RWS sensors, then move and fire the weapon from inside the vehicle.
Which leads to the logical next question: why does the operator have to be that close? South Korea, and now Israel as well, have thought about this and decided that in some cases, the answer is “no reason at all”…
In its archly-titled March 14/07 article “South Korea to field gun-cam robots on DMZ: Stationary droids forced to sacrifice own lives for human overlords,” The Register reported that South Korea is deploying Samsung’s SGR-A1 “Intelligent Surveillance & Security Guard Robot” at key installations and along its border. An immobile robot, but one deemed sufficient for defending bases and areas along the Demilitarized Zone with North Korea.
South Korea remains technically at war with the North, and the DMZ is one of the most tense and dangerous standoff areas in the world. With South Korea’s birth rate falling, substituting a technological tripwire for manpower-heavy patrols in many places is considered an acceptable long-term risk.
Israel’s border with the Gaza strip is an even more dangerous place for each soldier deployed, made more dangerous still since Israel’s withdrawal of its presence in Gaza. While Israel’s security fence near Gaza has drastically reduced terrorist attacks, infiltration attempts are ongoing. Rather than expose its patrols to ambushes and sniper fire, the Israelis are also substituting technology, while keeping infantry in reserve.
According to Defense News and Jane’s Defence Weekly, Israel is deploying systems based on RAFAEL’s “Samson Jr.” RWS, mounted in pillboxes and protected by folding shields. The systems use fiber-optic communications back to an operator station or operations center, and still require a human to activate and fire the gun… for now.
Marketed by Rafael under the name Sentry-Tech, the system is part of the $780 million Hunter network C4I modernization program developed by Elbit Systems. While automated sensors have failed before along the Lebanese border, Israel appears to believe that judicious use of “See-Shoot” will yield important benefits. Defense News:
“In an interview prior to Israel’s September 2005 evacuation from Gaza, Gabi Ashkenazi, then the outgoing IDF deputy chief of General Staff, explained the concept.
“We understood from [our May 2000 withdrawal from] Lebanon that in Gaza, we’re going to have to compensate for lack of depth and limited freedom of maneuver,” Ashkenazi said. “We plan to do this through a technological process that allows us to transform depth, which we’ll lack, into time, which we will create with pictures served up instantaneously through the network… We can’t allow ourselves to be sitting ducks. Our vision is to execute border control without having to deal with booby traps and ambushes. Through high-quality 24/7 pictures, we’ll be able to maintain a very low-signature presence and determine the timing and the conditions under which we respond to terrorist activity.”
A .50 cal/ 12.7mm machine gun can typically enforce a kill zone around 1 to 1.5km deep (1 mile = 1.6km), and RAFAEL’s RWS systems can also be equipped with its Spike/Gill anti-armor missile system for increased range and lethality. The idea is not only to keep enemies away from border crossings, but also to provide counter-targeting for the constant sniper and rocket attacks coming from the Palestinian side of the border.
Unlike the South Koreans, the Israelis are completely serious about firing these systems if need be. Defense News quotes a senior Israeli official as saying:
“Nobody has any business approaching our border fence. It’s well-understood that this area is off-limits, and this new technology will make it easier for us to prevent the next kidnapping or terror event.”
As RWS systems proliferate and birth rates in most advanced countries remain low, it seems inevitable that RWS systems will soon find themselves in static and mobile defense roles, mounted in pillboxes or even on robots in order to provide a first line of perimeter and border security.
Additional Readings & Sources
- The Register (June 5/07) – Israel deploys robo-snipers on Gaza border
- Defense News (June 1/07) – Israel Wants Robotic Guns, Missiles To Guard Gaza Border
- The Register (March 14/07) – South Korea to field gun-cam robots on DMZ: Stationary droids forced to sacrifice own lives for human overlords
- RAFAEL – SAMSON RCWS – Remote Controlled Weapon Stations
- Samsung – SGR-A1