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IDF e la lotta ai tunnel

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IDF Seeks Effective Anti-Tunnel Technologies


By David Eshel




A turning point was reached in asymmetric warfare on Dec. 12, 2004, in Gaza, when Hamas detonated a ton or more of explosives in a tunnel beneath a fortified Israel Defense Forces (IDF) position, killing five soldiers. The terror group had spent four months digging the tunnel, which the Israelis, despite advanced monitoring equipment, failed to detect. The incident focused attention on a recurring issue: How an industrial military can deal effectively with a guerrilla force that uses rudimentary battle tactics.


The answer for the IDF was to develop high-tech ways of detecting tunnels, ideally before they are finished. The approach involves the use of robots, surveillance systems, ground sensors, fiberoptics and even seismic detectors. The technology is being fine-tuned, but still has advantages for militaries and domestic security agencies worldwide.


Fighting in a multilevel urban environment often means that ground forces break through walls to maintain cover and sidestep booby traps. But sewers and tunnels are prime positions and an enemy can be expected to make good use of them. Sewers, especially, provide ready-made access through a city for guerrillas, allowing them to move from block to block, transporting weapons and communicating with each other.


It is not a good idea to go into these passageways and hunt the enemy. The U.S. did so in Vietnam and paid a heavy price. Army and Marine “tunnel rats” fought savage battles underground with Vietcong, whose tunnel-building capabilities included a 200-mi. labyrinth north of what is now Ho Chi Minh City.


To stop the smuggling of weapons through tunnels beneath the Rafah border crossing in Gaza, the IDF has used liquid explosives pumped through airshafts. This practice, always hazardous, caused heavy casualties when an M113 armored vehicle packed with explosives blew up. The IDF subsequently created a unit within its combat engineering corps called Samoor (Hebrew for “weasel”), which was charged with destroying tunnels with technologies developed for subterranean warfare. Many of these proved valuable during the Gaza war in January.


Israel isn’t the only nation dealing with the menace of tunnels. The U.S. Homeland Security Dept., for one, sees tunnels running from Mexico into America as threats to national security, as well as enabling criminal activity (see story, p. 14). The urgent need for robust and reliable tunnel-detection technologies is high on its list of priorities.







Coalition forces, meanwhile, deal with caves and tunnels in the mountains of Afghanistan as they chase Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces. Robots are a safe and viable way of exploring them. They are being sent in to check for insurgents, booby traps and weapons.


Before any measures can be taken to search or destroy an underground structure, it must first be located. And that is proving to be the most challenging problem. Scientists claim that because of different soils and geological formations in the world, it is unlikely that there will ever be a “silver bullet” technology capable of detecting all subterranean structures. A paper presented at an American Geophysical Union seminar on tunnel detection noted that despite heavy funding from the military since the early 1970s, geophysicists have not yet produced tools that are simple and practical enough to meet combat needs.


Using sensors to detect tunnels in urban areas, where pipes and sewer systems frequently create false readings, poses unique problems. Acoustic sensors pick up a city’s background noise. Seismic sensors can indicate ancient streambeds instead of manmade structures.


Coordinating multiple technologies could be effective. Airborne or space-based sensors may be able to find tunnel entrances. A tunnel or cave opening might emit detectable temperature fluctuations. Disturbed soil, picked up by fluctuating colors from a hyperspectral sensor, might also indicate an excavation. Ground-penetrating radar, using pulses of radio-frequency energy, can detect anomalies beneath the surface. None of these methods, however, indicates the depth or direction of a tunnel.





The IDF employs sophisticated seismic and acoustic equipment to detect Palestinian tunnels, but the extensive network of tunnels under Rafah, used for smuggling as well as attacks, still leaves many undetected. Most tunnels begin under buildings and are thus hidden from observation. Others lead via deep shafts straight to the Egyptian border. Realizing the threat of such tunnels, the IDF attempted to destroy them with precision-guided bombs like the Joint Direct Attack Munition, which were dropped at 80-deg. angles into entrances.


Another high-profile weapon rushed into production after the Sept. 11 attacks is the thermobaric bomb. This uses heat and barometric pressure to trigger a two-stage explosion. The first blast occurs when the bomb penetrates a cave or tunnel and scatters explosive dust throughout the area. This is followed a fraction of a second later by another, larger explosion that sucks out oxygen from the target.


Using brute force in destroying tunnels, however, could be politically untenable in a country like Israel, especially when operating in a densely populated area like Gaza. Other means need to be found and developed.


Two Israeli scientists with Hadas Detection and Decoding Systems Ltd. have developed a unique way of detecting tunnels, using fiberoptic cables to create an underground “electronic fence.” A computer is programmed to recognize changes in the strain on a fiberoptic cable that occur when someone digs nearby. By timing how long it takes the light in the cable to return from the point of disturbance, operators can calculate the exact location of the digging.


The system, called Underground Fence Solution, or UltraFence, reportedly detects tunnels more than 20 meters (65 ft.) deep. Marketed by Rafael, it analyzes acoustic noise and seismic changes to distinguish different underground activities such as digging, walking or motorized movement.


Another system being evaluated uses underground seismic antennas. Developed by Electro-Optic Research and Development, a national laboratory affiliated with Technion University of Haifa, it filters out noise to determine the nature and location of underground threats.


One firm, SpiderTech Ltd., specializes in detecting underground activity and passageways with seismic-based early-warning sensors.


To explore and map tunnels, a remotely operated robotic vehicle is used by the IDF. After being lowered down a tunnel, the vehicle charts passages and transmits video back to its operators.


Continuing advances in robotics will make subterranean combat safer. In the near future, it seems feasible that a soldier, operating in an urban environment with a subterranean threat, will be equipped with mini-robots that enable him to probe and determine a safe route through an underground passage. Small unmanned ground vehicles, weighing about 10 kg. (22 lb.), will have a tele-operated control or autonomous operation to help soldiers explore tunnels and sewers without exposing themselves to harm. Such a system would also work well in caves.


Israeli firms have already developed mini-robots for underground warfare. Among these is the lightweight and agile EyeDrive from ODF Optronics. The robot has 360-deg. panoramic vision, carries lethal or non-lethal payloads, can drop communication relays or unattended passive sensors to monitor hostile activity, and deploys “eyeball” sensors to “watch” locations of concern.


ODF and Rafael are developing a lethal configuration for the EyeDrive, in which the robot carries up to 16 miniature rockets capable of killing enemies from 30 meters. The EyeDrive system weighs less than 10 kg.


Underground (and urban) environments limit the transmission and reception of radio signals. One company, Rajant Wireless, has developed communication-relay nodes for use by robots. Called “breadcrumbs” because they are to be dropped along a route, the nodes form ad-hoc networks that link advancing soldiers with one another and to commands.


Photo: Noam Eshel

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  • 3 weeks later...

al Tg5(mi sembra) stasera hanno fatto vedere un robot israeliano...che ha la forma e le movenze di un serpente.

Lo scopo di questo robot è di avanzare tra le linee nemiche ma sopratutto di infilarsi nei tunnel.

Purtroppo non ricordo il nome...

ecco un link

corriere della sera



spero di non essere andato OT, solo che non volevo aprire un nuovo post perchè non mi sembrava il caso...

Edited by F-14
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Guest intruder

Be', sempre di tunnel si parlava dopo tutto. Se metti in ricerca israeli snake robot su google escono parecchie cose interessanti, ho visto, ma ora non ho tempo per leggermele tutte.

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