IDF to field-test two tunnel-seeking technologies

Senior officer says that if the trials are successful, a system could be installed within a year

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Hamas tunnel discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade in the northern Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
A Hamas tunnel discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade in the northern Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces is set to conduct field trials with two technologies that it hopes will prove successful at revealing tunnels, offering a possible means to detect subterranean passages dug by Hamas under the border with Gaza, a senior army officer revealed on Monday.

Both systems have already passed laboratory tests paving the way to more extensive trials that are already being set up, revealed the officer, who was not named, Israel Hayom reported.

If the tests prove that the systems work, it would take about a year to install them all along the border with the Gaza Strip, at a cost of NIS 1.5-2.5 billion ($430-720 million), he estimated.

The IDF official explained that, in recent years, more than 700 ideas have been tested in thousands of trials to find a solution for detecting tunnels, but that they all failed. The two projects that are now facing more-extensive tests also failed in the past, but have since been improved to the point of offering a realistic solution.

The use of technology to thwart the tunnel threat would be the latest in a long line of high-tech solutions used for military problems, including, most recently, the Iron Dome short-range anti-missile system.

Other — low-tech — ideas to stymie the tunnels have also been floated.

“A physical obstacle like a moat or an internal wall is possible, but costs a lot of money,” noted the officer, and added that the IDF will likely recommend a combination of both a physical and a technological defense.

He added that a physical barrier would be installed where the geology makes it suitable and around sensitive locations, while the technologies would involve a two- or three-layer solution that is connected with the ability to detect, through different methods, the tunneling or when there is movement in the tunnel.

The IDF representative continued that the hope is that such precautions will curtail the motivation to dig tunnels in the first place.

The officer also commented that, in his professional opinion, there are no tunnels under the northern border, a fear that many residents of the region have raised.

During the course of the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge, launched on July 8, security forces located and destroyed over 30 tunnels dug by Hamas under the border into Israel. On several occasions terrorists succeeded in infiltrating into Israel to ambush IDF forces. Eleven soldiers were killed in the attacks.

Most Popular
read more: