Israel industry tour Day 2: A Cobra, a cow and the limits of network centric warfare

September 13 was Capt. Yoni’s first day as formation leader for the 1st Attack Helicopter Sqd of the Israeli Air Force. Wouldn’t you know it, but the alarm siren rang out.

So Yoni, who cannot provide his full name, jumped into his AH-1S Cobra cockpit, and flew off to the Hebron area. An IAF F-16 pilot, later identified as Lt Asaf Ramon, son of Israeli astronaut and Columbia victim Ilan Ramon, had gone missing on a routine training flight. It was suddenly Yoni’s job to coordinate the search and rescue mission from the air.

I talked to the flight-suited Yoni today inside his office today. Yoni sat at his desk. A very large picture of a dairy cow decorated the wall behind his chair, one of those wonderful artifacts of office humor that one can never truly explain to outsiders. The cow apparently belonged to another pilot in the squadron, or something like that. I just let it go.

The anecdote about the search and rescue mission came up in response to one of my questions. I asked Yoni: Was all the new technology increasingly cramping his Cobra cockpit helping him, or making his job more complicated? The search for Ramon’s son, which eventually found the F-16 wreckage, seemed a good example to Yoni.

The Isreali Defense Forces rank among the most networked and sophisticated militaries in the world. That plethora of communications transmitters was very obvious on that mission. Yoni’s radio channels were jammed by a chorus of calls from Ramon’s search party, which included his fellow pilots, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Even the infantry had joined the search.

The flow of messages and cross-messages became chaotic. As formation leader, Yoni said, he realized his job required him to silence the radio traffic. “The situation was very stressful,” he said. “My mission was to get everything in order.” That meant putting a freeze on all radio messages, allowing people to transmit a full message only after requesting permission. The IDF crerated its battlefield network to make communications easier. In this instance, the linkages sowed confusion until they were organized.


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5 Responses to Israel industry tour Day 2: A Cobra, a cow and the limits of network centric warfare

  1. Jed 23 November, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    I am not sure voice radio nets count as network centric warfare ?

    We have had a proliferation of voice radio nets at sea, on land and in the air since the early 1940′s – “net discipline” has always been required. I thought the whole point of data networks was to replace voice with data, i.e. identifier, position, course and speed and so on. The searchers should have received grids and updates over their data network, and would have passed back search status and updates etc.

    So it sounds to me like they are not “network centric” at all, unless I have to revise my definition to include the ‘ancient” technology of voice radio nets.

  2. Fred from Canuckistan . . . 23 November, 2009 at 9:03 pm #

    “That meant putting a freeze on all radio messages, allowing people to transmit a full message only after requesting permission”

    Back in the long ago day when I was a Sigs weenie in an Infantry unit, that was SOP for crowded frequencies. We called it a controlled net.

  3. dave g 24 November, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    Quite right Jed, what was quoted is not network centric at all, just the old fashioned way of doing business over the R/T and sounds like it was mostly un-encrypted too.

    Network centric is as you rightly pointed out is information from intelligence, radar, sensors etc all integrated and shared with participants usually on a data link where possible with minimum R/T.

    The Cobra pilot was the On Scene Commander trying to coordinate the rescue effort via R/T.

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