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Artificial Intelligence Shapes the IDF in Ways Never Imagined

avatar by Yaakov Lappin /

An IDF drill in northern Israel. Photo: IDF.

JNS.orgIn pop culture and science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) is often portrayed as a threat to humanity. But in the real world, AI’s many benefits are just beginning to come to light — and have sparked a quiet revolution inside one of the world’s most sophisticated militaries.

Today, AI is revolutionizing the ways in which Israel defends itself. AI systems are providing recommendations to military commanders, both on the battlefield and in command centers, in ways that no human adviser could.

AI is now affecting every aspect of how the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operates, from monitoring enemies to the ways in which strategic decisions are made, Lt.-Col. Nurit Cohen Inger, a senior IDF officer overseeing the introduction of this cutting-edge technology, told

Inger, who heads the IDF’s Sigma Department — which is a part of the Lotem information technology and communications unit 00 views AI as a game changer for the military.

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One significant boost that AI gives the IDF is the ability to predict what enemies will do, based on an analysis of what they’ve done in the past, and are currently doing, Inger said.

Technologies like machine learning and deep learning are gradually being introduced at all levels of IDF decision making, she added.

While many examples of these changes remain classified, Inger revealed how AI is already assisting the IDF in analyzing its vast quantity of video feeds, which are provided to the IDF by cameras fixated on potential hot spots.

“There are lots of algorithms for video analysis,” Inger said, adding that AI systems analyze real-time video feeds, and then assist the IDF in making decisions accordingly.

Eventually, Inger stated, this technology should replace human operators who watch surveillance video feeds for lengthy shifts around the clock.

“Many roles that exist now will disappear and new roles will appear because of this,” she said.

The same kind of technology is also helping the IDF deal with the avalanche of audio and text-based intelligence that it receives.

In the civilian world, the Internet of Things (IOT), a network of internet-connected devices from cars to kitchen appliances to wearable devices, is taking root. In the IDF, soldiers and platforms are broadcasting vast amounts of data on their activities to the military’s shared data network.

The IDF is using this artificial intelligence to take stock of what its units are doing, which will enable officials to make significantly more effective battlefield decisions.

Important breakthroughs in computing have occurred in recent years, which have been accompanied by a data revolution, Inger said. As a result, a whole new science dedicated to finding patterns in the data has arisen. Only machines can deal with this level of volume, variety and velocity, she added.

The first glimmer of how AI could influence warfare occurred during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“We conducted an analysis of all of the information we had about rocket launches, and the enemy’s conduct in real-time and understood what was expected to happen in the next 24 hours,” Inger said. “You need powerful computers and very complex mathematical algorithms to do this.”

In August of this year, Maj. Sefi Cohen, of the IDF’s Matzpen software unit, told a Hebrew-language outlet, The Marker, that the quantity of data at the IDF’s disposal is “endless.”

“It reaches Petabytes [million gigabyte units] in specific areas,” he said. “This data is for operational use, in other words, for combat.”

Cohen heads the IDF’s Department for the Research of Operational Information, which develops — among other things — applications for commanders in the field that can predict future events.

Cohen’s end goal is to equip every commander in the field with the ability to use big data tools to help make battlefield decisions.

Inger declined to go into details, but said that AI “can influence every step and small decision in a conflict, and the entire conflict itself.”

“For this system to work, it has to function at a very high level,” she added. “AI is a machine that has the intelligence characteristics of a person — in this case, by giving recommendations.”

Human commanders will still make the final decisions, according to Inger, but they will receive “very precise and relevant recommendations. This is happening, and it will happen much more,” Inger said.

Other areas undergoing rapid AI changes include the development of military robots, and how the IDF manages its logistics. For example, the IDF uses AI to figure out what logistical supplies to send where, and in the most efficient way.

In addition, autonomous IDF logistics trucks and aircraft are expected to enter service in the near future.

“It’s no secret that this is the last generation of manned aircraft,” she said.

While she was not at liberty to provide further examples, Inger said that the influence that AI is having on the IDF is “more than can be imagined.”

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