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Subject: Re: Radio discipline & cellulars
From: Alon Harksberg
Date: 5/23/99 3:50:52 PM

While the widespread use of unsecured cellular telephones instead of
conventional military radios may indeed sound unprofessional or even
hazardous to many, the reality is that cellular telephones serve as a
decent compromise for the IDF, an always cash strapped army which is
largely based on the reserve forces. Let me explain.

The sad reality is that much of the IDF's radio equipment is obsolete,
unreliable and often lacks both range and coverage over Israel's rugged
landscape. They are prone to natural interference, enemy eavesdropping
and jamming. While great measures are being taken to replace this
equipment (and the newer equipment is indeed much better), the sheer
magnitude of the task at hand means that the older equipment will march
on for many years, especially with the reserves (which constitute
approximately 85% of the IDF's offensive might).

For reservists like myself this is very frustrating, especially when
training for war, but as soldiers our mission is to come up with
innovative workable solutions rather than wallow aimlessly. We try to
emphasize the positive in any given situation and try to make out the
best using whatever (limited) resources available rather than allow
ourselves to sink into despair or clog the maintenance officer with
endless requests for spare parts. Anyways, you always end up owing him
more than you've initially bargained for.

The Arabs excel at battlefield EW, both in quality and in numbers. They
field entire jamming brigades, with thousands of jammers of every
possible size, frequency, power one can imagine. They will just press the
PTT and never let go for the next 2 weeks, clogging up entire frequency
ranges from end to end (including their own). Frequency hopping,
decryption, switching nets - all of these and other more discreet
techniques will be rendered useless. Under such extreme conditions, radio
discipline is virtually meaningless because the mainstay of radio traffic
will simply cease to exist. And I've never been a fan of atmospheric
radios - they're far too susceptible for natural interference and far too
complex for the layman RTO to operate under battlefield conditions,
especially in smaller formations. They're good for communications between
ventilated remote HQs and not on the frontlines.

Cellular telephones have excellent, uninterrupted, coverage in many of
our border, desert & training regions. Each time I report to Zeelim or
the other training grounds, the clear reception possible even in the most
remote places never ceases to amaze me and keeps improving and expanding
year after year. While hardly impossible to block individually, there are
millions of telephones out there. They are also much newer, relatively
reliable (although of course not under battle conditions) and easy to
operate. Some reacher armies are adopting independent cellular nets, not
to mention ultra range, jam impervious, satellite phones. So, in
conclusion, while they definitely should not replace conventional radios,
cellulars are always good to have around, even if only as an emergency
backup measure. For better and for worse, we have to learn to coexist
with them.

As for strict radio discipline, this has pros and cons, many of which
have already been covered. First of all, remember that the IDF's is
largely a `people's' reserve army and these are not well paid weekend
warriors - these are once a year, one week to two week, `what the hell
am I doing here?' underpaid warriors. Many of them are getting older,
some (yours truly included) are in their 40's. Memory is usually
declining, reaction times are slower. These reservists are no longer
proficient in the full spectrum of radio discipline. The last time they
used the correct code words to describe what was going on around them or
relay orders was 5-10-20 years ago.

IMHO, under these imperfect constraints, it is much more logical to allow
free communication under relaxed security protocols. This way chances are
the right information will get to its right destination. This is the most
important principal of radio traffic. `Great, but the enemy will also
hear it' you say. So what? By the time this pertinent information is
disseminated all the way down from EW to intel to its proper end user,
the information will either be totally irrelevant or the end user will
probably already be Merkava bait. Anyway, unsecured radio transmissions
open up the wonderful world of initiated misinformation. There have been
numerous occasions where young IDF regulars were purposly fed bad info
just to see where the leaks are, instigate unplanned enemy movement etc.
The potential of disinformation is almost as captivating and far reaching
as that of unsecured radio traffic analysis.

Just my two NIS.


Alon Harksberg

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