1 May 2002

May. 2, 2002

IDF now using device to prevent friendly fire

The IDF has started using a special device that its inventor claims helps prevent soldiers from shooting each other while on combat missions in the territories.

The Israeli invention is usually mounted on helmets and when gunfire erupts it automatically activates a special marking, usually a light, that identifies the soldier as friend and not foe.

The device has been in service for about six months, but received wide use during the recent Operation Defensive Shield, said Perry Amitai, general manager of the AP Emlach Company.

Friendly fire has always been a deep concern of all armies and the IDF has long used special marking lights and other devices that soldiers turn on when combat begins. The Herzliya-based AP Emlach, however, has taken this further and developed a special sensor that automatically turns on the special marking lights, usually placed on helmets.

“It is like a voice activated system,” Amitai said. “The moment there is shooting it starts to operate.” At least two officers were killed by friendly fire during the recent operations in the West Bank. In each of these cases they were deliberately shot by snipers who mistook them for armed Palestinians. This sort of device would not have saved them. But it may have saved other soldiers in combat, particularly in the crowded urban setting, said Amitai.

“It works, but it is hard to say statistically how many people were not shot because of this device,” he said.

“When two forces are approaching a house and want to do so without turning on their [lights] they may find that they are too busy to turn it on once shooting begins,” he said. “Now, they don’t have to worry about it and concentrate on the battle because every second is critical.” While he declined to say how many of the devices he has sold to the IDF or what they cost, Amitai said that they are used by elite units as well as anti-terror units in the police.

He said the device could be set to go off only when certain types of weapons are discharged.
The device was developed as a result of the botched attempt by Duvdevan in August 2000 to capture a wanted Hamas terrorists. Three soldiers were shot to death by their own troops after being mistakenly identified as Palestinian gunmen.

“This is important because it helps solve a problem that exists all over the world,” he said.