Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Objective: Defending Energy Sources - Ami Rojkes Dombe

by Ami Rojkes Dombe

The discovery of oil and gas reserves positioned the task of defending the “exclusive economic zone” as a top priority. Rafael has consolidated a holistic defensive concept for the naval arena to suit these scenarios. Exclusive interview

Offshore energy production is gaining momentum worldwide, and while international energy corporations are searching for gas and oil at the depths of the ocean, at Rafael they are already thinking about securing the energy resources on the naval arena. Consequently, they have come up with a holistic defensive concept designated Security Integrated Systems for Strategic Asset Protection or SIS in short. This concept is relevant to the maritime and land environments and utilizes various capabilities developed by Rafael and its subsidiaries.

The concept consists of four primary elements – surveillance, communication, command and control and response measures. “Today’s clients seek ‘end-to-end’ solutions by a single supplier,” explains Gadi L., Head of Naval Warfare Systems at Rafael. One of Rafael’s advantages for the naval arena is the Protector – an Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) that has already proven its operational effectiveness. Additionally, Rafael has executed several projects involving land defense and terrain dominance in recent years, and applies this experience to the naval arena.

Modularity is the Name of the Game

According to L., the solution is made up of several elements. First and foremost – the command and control system. This system collects information from all of the various sensors and fuses these data into a real-time battle picture. Rafael offers two systems in this category: the first is based on technology by mPrest, a Rafael subsidiary noted for the command and control subsystem of the Iron Dome system and the “Information Grid” command and control system designed for the Israel Electric Corporation. Both systems are based on a flexible architecture that enables the integration of almost any sensor type in the command and control system. Rafael’s IMILITE system is a complementary element performing visual fusion of data from various sources. The objective is to provide the client with a real-time status picture.

The next element is communication. In the context of naval or land scenarios, surveillance is provided by an extensive range of sensors in space, in the air, at sea and on land – stationary and mobile – and all of those sensors must communicate with the command and control system. The communication traffic consists of voice, video and data and should reach the point where fusion takes place at the highest possible quality. Rafael’s IMILITE system plays a major role in this context, too.

As far as surveillance systems are concerned, Rafael uses optical and Radar systems, either mounted or stationary. Radar systems are normally acquired from third-party vendors. Optical systems include Rafael’s own products such as RecceLite, SpotLite-P, Stalker, Toplite and Recce-U. Once again, the idea is to integrate different systems. Additionally, the people at Rafael say that there is an intention to employ, for the naval arena, a UAV helicopter by Schiebel (e.g. Camcopter) or a UAV by Aeronautics fitted with a payload by Controp, as well as a surveillance aerostat by Shilat Optronics, both of which are Rafael subsidiaries. Another system category Rafael offers consists of electronic warfare systems for the naval arena, including integrated decoy systems.

A Suitable Response for Every Target

The fourth element consists of the response. After the target has been identified, classified and defined as hostile, it must be addressed. For this purpose, Rafael offers such weapon systems as the Spike missile system and The Typhoon series of Remotely Controlled Weapon Stations (RCWS). These weapon systems may be mounted on board the Protector USV and the vessel may be dispatched to engage the target. As it is a remotely-controlled, unmanned vessel, it offers a quick and effective solution that reduces the risk to human life and is capable of dealing with fast targets as well.

According to L., the Protector is a modular platform that may be adapted to various response configurations, including configurations fitted with 7.62mm/0.5” caliber Mini-Typhoon RCWS or even with a water cannon when a non-lethal response is required (as in the vicinity of an offshore drilling rig). Along with the response weapons, the Protector may also be fitted with surveillance measures, thereby extending the situational awareness range of the naval force.

“The operational concept of the Protector includes protection for naval forces – not just for individual platforms,” says L. “For example, when a task force consisting of several vessels departs on a mission, it can launch several Protector USVs to provide it with protection as well as with intelligence by forming an external circle around it.” The Protector USVs may be commanded from multiple command centers, for redundancy purposes, with just one command center actually communicating with the USV at any given moment. If one command center fails, command may be handed over to an alternate command center.

The actual operation of the naval defense layout is carried out by means of shore-based systems and systems mounted on naval platforms. According to L., the layout may be operated from the shore or from the platform. The shore-based layout may be located at a permanent base, either stationary or mobile, in the form of command trailers and mounted surveillance systems, for situations when the user wants to exercise ad-hoc command over the naval layout in the context of an on-going operation. “The operator can be located at a command post on the shore and operate the naval defensive layout. It may be fitted in a mobile trailer, or it may be operated from a naval vessel. We know how to provide operational flexibility,” says L.

In addition to the shore-based systems and mounted systems, the people at Rafael say that they also have dedicated solutions for offshore drilling rigs, but were not forthcoming with any additional information.

Open-Ended Architecture

Admittedly, a holistic defense concept like the one presented by Rafael for the naval arena sounds more “correct” from an operational point of view, but the question is whether you can sell a ”defense concept” to clients overseas. Eventually, it is more complex to sell a complete naval defense and response layout than to sell a stand-alone system, whatever it may be. In this context, L. says, Rafael’s sales people normally encounter one of two situations on the global market.

In the first and less complex situation, the client does not have a naval defense layout to begin with – not even a partial one. In this case, Rafael’s people, along with the client, consolidate the operational need and the operational concept and match the defense and response measures. According to L., Rafael is currently executing a project of this type for an unnamed country.

In other cases, Rafael’s people come to a country that already has such a layout, or parts of it. In such cases, the command and control system and the defense and response measures should be integrated in the existing configuration. “This is the reason why we chose an open-ended architecture for our command and control system. In this way, it may be adapted to the client’s existing systems,” explains L. “In this category, too, we are currently executing a ground project in the field of HLS. The open-ended architecture enables us to integrate third-party elements in the complete layout. One example is the integration of Radar systems. Rafael does not develop Radars, but Radars are integrated in our SIS layouts nevertheless.” 

Ami Rojkes Dombe


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