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July 30, 2014 8:57 pm

Israel Debuts Tunnel Robot, Tactical Radar System to Fight Hamas in Gaza

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israeli start-up Roboteam's Micro Tactical Ground Robot, created to survey the dangerous underground tunnel networks built by Hamas. Photo: Roboteam / DefenseNews.

Israeli start-up Roboteam's Micro Tactical Ground Robot, created to survey the dangerous underground tunnel networks built by Hamas. Photo: Roboteam / DefenseNews.

The Israeli Defense Forces have introduced new robot technology to help aid in excavating Hamas’s vast tunnel network and a mobile radar system designed to warn against short-range mortar shelling.

Defense News featured the Micro Tactical Ground Robot, developed by Roboteam, a Tel Aviv-based start-up that beat more established U.S. and Israeli companies in a rush tender for up to 110 shoulder-carried robots, according to its defense and industry sources.

“Several systems are already operating with combat engineering units and specialized infantry against the dozens of tunnels and multiple access points concealed in homes and civilian structures throughout the Gaza Strip,” its sources said.

The robot is two-feet wide, weighs under 20 pounds and is built to clear obstacles, climb 8-inch stairs and maneuver in tight, dangerous terrain, Defense News said.

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The robot has five on-board cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser points to generate intelligence and can provide 360-degree data with voice and video, which it can transmit via encrypted radio. The system can be carried by soldiers, moves on  its own  at 2 miles per hour and has a line-of-sight operating range of a quarter mile.

Defense News said Roboteam was informed of its winning bid last week. The company was founded in 2009 by brothers Wolf and Elad Levy, former junior commanders of an Israel Air Force special unit.

Roboteam is also a priority provider to the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, which has earmarked 100 robots for special forces and explosives units and 35 for U.S. Homeland Security Department and other domestic users.

Israeli business daily Globes featured the WindGuard radar system, which the IDF has also begun to use in the war against Hamas. The WindGuard was developed by Elta Systems, the subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries that also produces the radar used by the Iron Dome.

Unlike the long-range rockets, short-range mortar fire provides very short warning, making it difficult for the IDF to alert civilians of an incoming attack. The IDF found that in the Yom Kippur War and Second Lebanon War, low-trajectory weapons, such as mortars and short-range rockets, accounted for more than a third of Israeli casualties.

The WindGuard system was designed to pinpoint where the mortar is coming from and estimates where the bombs would fall, allowing soldiers to attack their attacker and alert civilians to the incoming bomb. Unlike the Iron Dome, which is fixed, the WindGuard is smaller and lighter and can be installed on moving vehicles used by the forces in the field.

Globes said: “Even though a mortar is a very static and primitive weapon, no real answer to it has yet been found. Because of its short range and flight time, Iron Dome is incapable of dealing with it. Sufficient warning of such a barrage can save many lives by enabling people to take basic defensive measures, such as lying on the ground, which significantly reduces the exposure to the many fragments.”

The WindGuard was unveiled last month in Paris, and the first units were reported to have been put into use this week. Globes said it was unclear whether one of the systems had been deployed near Kibbutz Beeri, where a mortar shell killed four IDF soldiers and wounded six others this week.

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