Among all of the first-rate technologies employed by the IDF, a special few deserve the spotlight. One of those few is called the “Tzayad” (Hebrew: “Hunter”) Digital Army Program.
The program allows units to share information on the location of friendly and hostile units, much like a GPS program in your car or phone enables you to easily locate restaurants or sites. In this way, all of the participating units are able to stay updated with the location and moves of other units, and focus on winning the fight rather than on gathering information.
During the early 90s, older versions of the system were used to guard the borders of Israel, but it could only pinpoint vehicles and people. However, following the Second Lebanon War, Tzayad received a makeover. It can now collect data from multiple sources simultaneously and interpret the data into a single stream, offering commanders the information they need to make instant decisions while under fire.
“Before we invented Tzayad, different commands in the Ground Force used radio systems in order to collect information, and drew the information on an actual map,” said Col. Chain Chaviv, Head of Technological Administration of the Tzayad Program in the Technological Division of the Ground Force.
“Due to this, there wasn’t enough time left to plan actions and give orders back to the field and when the orders were eventually transferred, the situation would be different than before and the commands would be irrelevant.”
The IDF’s Waze
Commanders can upload information about their squad, including its position, number of soldiers and current weapons cache. Based on this data, Tzayad determines if soldiers need more ammunition or supplies and automatically requests missing items.
In addition, much like the popular smartphone application Waze, which displays traffic information on roadways, Tzayad can plan routes for officers and pinpoint hazards along the road for others. Enemy positions are highlighted in red, while friendlies are in blue.
Tzayad can also send messages in real-time to helicopter pilots who are using the device, allowing for the rapid evacuation of wounded soldiers. Tzayad informs the pilots of the unit’s exact location as well as topographical information necessary for a smooth landing.
What about hackers?
Should a Tzayad unit ever be intercepted by an enemy, it can be remotely be shut down by the IDF’s central command. Moreover, the IDF developed some information security methods just for the Tzayad system, such as the digital dog tag. Just as every soldier in the IDF receives a personal dog tag that holds his or her information, every soldier who is entitled to use the Tzayad system has a digital dog tag that allows him or her to log in to the system and only see information that is relevant to the specific soldier.
Different applications for Tzayad are being developed all the time. New versions are always being planned.
The system is also environmentally friendly and uses a minimal amount of energy. “We used Ultra-low-voltage CPUs that are used in tablets and laptops that allow to save energy, said Col. Chain Chaviv.
“We also chose a monitor that uses the technology that uses the minimum energy. Moreover, we are working with rechargeable batteries and portable charging cases in order to charge them.”
Tzayad comes in different sizes depending on the specific needs of each unit. Due to space limitations in the field, infantry and ground soldiers carry a Tzayad that is about the size of a tablet computer. Every field officer must complete the 15-day training course necessary to operate the program.
Tzayad is the army’s GPS, navigator and communications system all in one–a crucial aid for IDF forces today.