Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is entering the mobile smartphone field. Elta, an IAI subsidiary, has developed a system that makes use of 4th generation cellular technology for military use.
Elta’s Director of Communications, Shalom Natan, explains that smartphones are excellent for transferring visual information. “The new cellular generation is preferable to any other technology in the tactical field.”
Elta has developed an entire line of products that utilize cellular technology to aid tactical units in the battlefield. This way, a commander can receive UAV photography or information from the headquarters to a special cellular device at data transfer rates that are similar to smartphones.
Oded Nehmoni, Elta’s communications product line manager, revealed that an external company is manufacturing military devices for the system, which are currently undergoing development. According to Nehmoni, “The products are very similar to civilian smartphones, and they have many traits that make them useful for soldiers.” The device in question is similar in size to those common in civilian use. However, it also includes traits that make it suitable for military tactical purposes.
A civilian cellular network is comprised of many cells, each with an antenna that transfers information from a portable device to an entire network. In a combat zone, there are no permanent stations deployed in an area. With the use of Elta’s system, an entire military infrastructure can move along with the ground forces.
Many militaries, including the IDF, have two main approaches to tactical communications. The first is based on broadband communication devices, and the second is based on proven civilian technology.
“It is better to use systems based on civilian technology, since this technology has already been proven. This technology is also constantly advancing due to the widespread global use of cellphones.”
Shalom Natan explains that the military can also use the civilian cellular system in various activity sections to decrease costs. Elta recently demonstrated the capabilities of the TAC4G system that is based on 4th generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) cellular technology.
The proposed system includes all the measures required for security, and can be integrated into civilian operator infrastructure that expands the end user’s coverage, while significantly reducing deployment costs at the same time.
Aside from civilian infrastructure, the building blocks of the designated system include four core components. These are an LTE communication core (Network Core Switches), LTE base stations, end units (modems and smartphones), and applications (common or designated).
Recently, Elta successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the tactical communications system that includes support for applications that demand especially high bit rates, support for a multitude of unique applications, and maximum survivability. The demonstration proved the system’s feasibility in military applications.
According to Shalom Natan, the system allows for advanced communication capabilities, starting with the forces operating in the field and reaching the highest command echelons. The system also provides an efficient and advanced response to the requirements needed for future battlefields and their numerous communication applications and challenges.
He added that the capabilities of the system provide end users with high data transfer rates of up to 100 megabytes per second. “A high-definition black and white video has a size of about five megabytes – a figure that illustrates the capabilities.”
Elta officials say that the smartphone, which will run on the Android operating system, will offer built-in applications for various uses and all clients will be able to design their own applications. “There will even be a military version of Outlook. The intent is that soldiers use to civilian smartphones will easily know how to operate the system.”
The army smartphone is incursion-proof, constructed for daily operational use at the tactical level, and can connect to larger communication systems. “Operational considerations were taken into account during the design phase. The cellular system has many base stations, which naturally increases its survivability,” Natan says.
“Operational considerations were taken into account during the design phase.” IAI will have working prototypes of the combat smartphones at the start of 2013, and will then begin to market the product.