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IFF is the military acronym for Identification Friend or Foe. For many years, the military aircraft of advanced countries have had special IFF transmitters that automatically identify them as "friendlies" to other military units on the same side.

Unfortunately, infantry soldiers do not enjoy the luxury of having electronic IFF gear. This remains a significant omission in the technology of modern warfare. In the current struggle in Lebanon, Hezbollah forces, through the simple expedient of wearing clothing resembling that of Israeli infantry, are using the increased risk of friendly fire among Israeli forces to improve their battlefield effectiveness.

IDF tank and helicopter crews have no easy means of discrimminating among clumps of green-clad infantry in the fleeting seconds that a target presents itself. If they guess wrong, as they did the other day, they kill and injure their own troops.

What Hezbollah is demonstrating in the current fighting in Lebanon is that much of Israel's huge advantage in technology can be negated by relatively simple tactics of concealment. The advanced state of Hezbollah's camouflage methods suggests that the reason Hezbollah was experimenting with reconaissance drone aircraft was not to spy on Israel, but to confirm the effectiveness of their own concealment methods.

Why don't advanced countries provide foot soldiers with IFF devices? Cost is one factor, but security is probably the biggest obstacle. A captured IFF device would allow enemy forces to stage suprise raids and sow tremendous confusion on the battlefield. An ideal infantry IFF system would rely on biometric techniques to prevent the enemy use of captured IFF devices, but this might still not prevent the misuse of captured soldiers to deceive IFF systems.

The irony of Israel's high-tech arsenal is that it cannot be used to maximum effect because it is still not sufficiently precise to discriminate among hostiles, friendlies, and noncombattants. The infantry IFF problem is further evidence that there is no near-term prospect of advances in "smart" weaponry that will nullify the advantages of intelligently organized guerrilla resistance. It is time for Israel to negotiate.

Originally posted to ANKOSS on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 10:50 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Seems like a good reason (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bayside, testvet6778

    to not start shooting until you're certain of who you're shooting at.

    Flying Squid Studios - Cartoons to Rot Your Brain!

    by Arken on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 10:51:24 AM PDT

  •  It think they could easily come up with a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    man portable iff system.  SOme vehicles are already linked up over a network.  It wouldn't be too hard to do the same thing for a foot soldier.  The only problem would be powering the transmitters.  I don't see a stolen transmitter being a problem.  I would bet at the end of teh day a grunts life just isn't worth the money.

    •  The diarist (0+ / 0-)

      gives a good reason why they don't provide IFF for infantry.  If the IFF device falls into the hands of the enemy, then it's the perfect infiltration/spying tool.  It can fall into enemy hands by being recovered off a dead body or by capturing someone.  There's no self destruct mechanism for IFF devices.

      "Facts are stupid things"-- Ronald Reagan 1988

      by dougymi on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 11:07:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not a problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You could have the thing enter some sort of default mode if it loses the heartbeat of the person it is attached to.  That way people would know that the person is not to be trusted.

        •  It's got to work in combat conditions (0+ / 0-)

          Considering the difficulty of the combat environment, it is a very difficult engineering challenge to make a reliable, secure, non-implanted biometric IFF device. There is a fortune to be made for anyone who can do it.

  •  The low-tech solution (0+ / 0-)

    In my short military experience, I found that the low-tech solution is usually best.  We had air-ground recognition panels, just big dayglo orange rectangles that rolled up.  We put them on top of our tank turrets, where they could only be seen from the air.  Hopefully the Israelis are using them to mark their foward positions.

    "Everything's shiny, Captain. Not to fret."

    by rmwarnick on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 11:32:23 AM PDT

    •  It's still a problem for dismounted infantry (0+ / 0-)

      Hezbollah has few military vehicles, so the Israelis are not likely to accidentally strike one of their own. The big IFF problem is dismounted infantry, and there is no good solution. When the final accounting of casualties is done for the current operation, I would guess that at least 10% of Israeli casualties will have been caused by friendly fire.

  •  Google System of Systems and Future Combat System (0+ / 0-)

    You will find a lot on US future IFF plans.

    6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

    by LunkHead on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 11:48:17 AM PDT

    •  DoD pays contractors for promises (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The US Department of Defense has a lot of experience in paying billions for worthless promises. How about a plane that can take off and land like a helicopeter, is a fragile as a china teapot, and draws SAMs like a magnet? TA DA! The Osprey!

      I'm sure that the Rumsfeld DoD would pay billions for a worthless infantry IFF system that ends up killing US Troops because of "minor" design or production flaws.

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