A VIRTUAL BORDER PATROL SYSTEM
Over the last two years, Israeli firms have developed several remotely controlled weapons for guarding the Gaza security fence. This is not just a fence, but a network of sensors for detecting Palestinian terrorists attempting to cross, or set up bombs for use against Israeli patrols. The Israeli border with Gaza is 51 kilometers long, most of it in desert or semi-desert terrain. For a long time, most of the border was patrolled by troops in vehicles, while parts of it, near gates, were also guarded by manned watchtowers. But the Palestinian terrorists have been persistent in attacking the fence and trying to get through it. None have ever succeeded, and survived. But the patrols were often attacked. One Israeli soldier was kidnapped two years ago, and some are killed each year.
THE SENTRY TECH PILLBOX TOWERS
The solution has been a system of unmanned towers and vehicles. The Sentry-Tech pillbox towers were developed four years ago. These are unmanned, armored towers, about 15 feet tall and six feet in diameter. At the top of the tower is an armored shelter that conceals a remotely controlled machine gun. This technology is similar to that used for many armored vehicles. The tower also contains videocams and other sensors. But the remotely controlled machine gun has a videocam that can see at night, with the ability to enlarge and enhance the image. The operators (mostly female soldiers) are at a central location. If intruders are detected, the operator opens the top of the tower and brings out the machine-gun. The .50 caliber machine gun has a range of 2,000 meters. Some towers use a 7.62mm machine gun, with a range of 800 meters. Allowing for some overlap, 16–17 of these towers can cover the entire Gaza border.
THE AVANTGUARD VEHICLE
Remotely controlled armed vehicles have also been developed to reinforce the towers or patrol areas where there are blind spots. Two years ago, the AvantGuard vehicle was introduced. This system used sensors and software that enabled it to patrol along planned routes, and was capable of some cross country operation as well. The AvantGuard mounted a remotely controlled gun turret equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun. The vehicle had digital cameras facing every direction, and used pattern recognition to identify potential threats (like people sneaking around where they are not supposed to be) or obstacles on the road. The idea was that a pair of human operators could control a dozen or more AvantGuard vehicles. This system was particularly effective at night, because it had night vision and moved quietly. Weighing only 1.3 tons, the AvantGuard was protected against rifle fire and fragments from shells and roadside bombs. AvantGuard was adequate for guarding industrial parks, but not the vast stretches of the Negev desert along the border with Gaza.
THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE GUARDIUM
Building on the AvantGuard technology, another firm later developed the Guardium. Using the same Tom-Car vehicle and remotely controlled turret, the Guardium has better sensors and software. Guardium is pitched as “smart” enough to be used in urban areas, and to serve as an emergency response vehicle. That is, these systems would be stationed along isolated stretches of border, ready to drive off to deal with any terrorists who had penetrated through the fence. The Guardium would thus arrive before a human quick reaction team, which would be stationed farther away.
This virtual fence and technological advances appear to be an innovative tool to fight terrorists, PROVIDING THAT the system is capable of distinguishing bad guys from innocent intruders. (editor, SOF)