Daniel Estrin
The Statesman
December 2, 2010 - 1:00am

An Israeli military unit on Wednesday showed off a new system to counter chemical attacks. It quickly measures temperature and wind direction to determine areas to evacuate and then feeds hospitals casualty assessments.

The high-tech Lotem unit gave a rare exhibition of the technologies it has developed to protect against rocket attacks — one of Israel's main security fears. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah lobbed 4,000 rockets into Israel in 2006, and Hamas has launched thousands from Gaza. None of those rockets contained chemical warheads, but Israel claims neighboring states have them.

"We need to bring in advanced technology to meet these needs," said Brig. Gen. Ayala Hakim, commander of the Lotem unit that manages the military's computer and communications systems.

Military officials described the new technologies as "next generation" infrastructure, comparing it in sophistication to the rapid innovation of smart phones and other gadgets on the commercial market.

They said one technology, dubbed "Deer Horn," analyzes a rocket's trajectory within seconds to estimate where it will land, and activates sirens in the targeted area. It can also override media broadcasts to issue warnings.

An additional system being developed would send cell phone text messages to civilians in the line of fire.

Another communications system now in use — code named "Mountain Rose" — is a portable satellite dish on the roof of a Hummer vehicle that secures communications between the battlefield, commanders and headquarters.

The new technologies integrate the individual communications systems of each military unit into one platform. Many of them were developed following lessons learned from Israel's 2006 Lebanon war, said Lotem's Lt. Col. Orit Tatarsky.

An Israeli inquiry into the military's actions in Lebanon said the military did not provide an effective response to a sustained, deadly barrage of rocket fire from Hezbollah guerrillas. In the meantime, Israel has developed the "Iron Dome" system that is designed to shoot down short-range rockets. It is said to be nearly ready to deploy.


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