The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been quietly embedding AI systems in deadly military operations for several years now, encompassing intelligence analysis, cyber operations, drone swarms, autonomous weapons, and air defense. It has extended the deployment of these AI systems across multiple units, aiming to establish a prominent position as a world leader in autonomous weaponry. Israeli defense contractors have constructed some of these systems, while others, such as the StarTrack border control cameras, have been engineered by the army itself, utilizing thousands of hours of footage to detect individuals and objects.
Together, these elements form an extensive digital framework designed to analyze immense volumes of drone and CCTV footage, satellite images, electronic signals, online communications, and other data, all tailored for military purposes.
In 2021, Israel called its conflict with Gaza the world’s first “AI war”, based on its use of AI to speed up analysis of intelligence on Palestinian resistance in the impoverished region. While the military refrains from discussing particular operations, authorities acknowledge the adoption of an AI recommendation system capable of analyzing extensive data to identify targets for air strikes.
Subsequent missions are promptly organized through an AI model referred to as Fire Factory. This system leverages data pertaining to military-approved targets to determine ammunition requirements, prioritize and allocate targets across aircraft and drones, and propose a mission schedule.
Fire Factory plans air raids based on approved targets. It can create action plans in just a few minutes. It is part of Israel’s multi-tier air defense alongside the David Sling System and the Arrow-3 system.
David Sling System
David’s Sling, a collaborative effort between Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and American defense contractor Raytheon, is an air and missile defense system engineered to intercept various threats, including enemy planes, drones, tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets, and cruise missiles. These threats can be fired at distances spanning from 40 to 300 kilometers (25 to 190 miles).
The Arrow-3 system, a collaborative endeavor between the US and Israel, focuses on crafting an exo-atmospheric interceptor to counter long-range ballistic missile threats. Integrated within Israel’s multi-tiered air defense setup, which encompasses the Arrow 2, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome systems, Arrow-3 aims to bolster defense capabilities. Having been in operation with the Israeli Air Force since 2017, this system is reported to possess a range of up to 2,400 km and also holds the potential for use as an anti-satellite weapon.
Iron Dome intercepts rockets launched from Gaza. It employs a Multi Mission Radar (MMR) to detect incoming rocket trajectories. Once detected, the system’s command and control center swiftly assesses the rocket’s path and projected impact area. It then determines if the missile poses a threat to populated areas. If so, it launches an interceptor missile to destroy the rocket in mid-air. It has a success rate of up to 90 per cent. It was designed to respond to short-range threats from Gaza and southern Lebanon.
Although human operators oversee these systems in evaluating and endorsing individual targets and air raid plans, an IDF official mentioned that the technology remains beyond the scope of any international or state-level regulation. Advocates contend that these advanced algorithms could potentially outperform human capabilities, allowing the military to reduce casualties, while detractors express concerns about the potential lethal repercussions of growing reliance on increasingly autonomous systems.
Fire Factory and Iron Dome are two examples of AI tools that Israel devised specifically to counter surprise attacks by Iran and its proxies. Despite Israel’s use of AI in enhancing its military performance, it was still attacked by Hamas on Saturday in a surprise operation that involved aerial, sea and ground operations. The attack overwhelmed Israel’s Iron Dome system and caused hundreds of Israeli casualties.
The recent events have demonstrated that no system is impervious to surprise attacks. It underscores the importance of continued innovation and vigilance in maintaining national security.