One of the prominent events in Operation Protective Edge was the elimination of a Hamas terrorist squad sent by sea to Zikim on the Ashkelon coast in order to carry out a large-scale terrorist attack. The thwarting of the attack was unquestionably a very great achievement in many aspects: the rapid operational response, the encounter between the IDF unit and the terrorists, and above all the early detection of the threat, which made appropriate preparation possible.
The scuba terrorists who made their way from the Gaza Strip to Israel came through an area of shallow water a few dozen meters from the coast, where swimming is possible, but the water is not deep enough for naval vessels to patrol and operate there. The advanced detection systems, however, can also cover shallow water, which makes it difficult to penetrate Israel territory from this area. This unsuccessful terrorist strike exposed the problem of the threat of marine terrorism, a threat that has already been worrying the world for several years. Israel’s Aqua Shield system, which gives marine terrorists no chance, makes it a global leader in this field.
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There are currently two companies in the world capable of dealing with undersea threats. One of them is Israeli company DSIT, a world leader in undersea technology.
“There are now three main threats in this space, ” explains Yakov (Yaki) Baranes, a senior analyst for the security division of Frost & Sullivan, who has made a special study of the subject. “One is an ordinary diver swimming under his own power, who penetrates a closed area or gets close to energy infrastructure in the open sea or on the beach. Another threat is divers riding an undersea vehicle, and a third, which has become more relevant in recent years, is unmanned undersea systems that can be operated remotely without endangering the divers.”
“When the threat is detected so early, the enemy obviously does not have much of a chance”
What is the breakthrough in this sphere in recent years? “In the past, sonar was an awkward technology on a very big scale. It was available to very large ships, which lowered the sonar into the water using a special crane. It was used to detect very large objects, such as submarines, ” Baranes says. “Over the years, the technology has been improved. The quality of the signal and its processing have undergone about the same process as radar. The technology has become more miniature; now a person in a boat can carry a sonar for detecting divers, lower it from the side of the boat, and operate it. There is almost no need for an operator to decode the signal. The system does it.”
In addition to its mobility and reliability, the Israeli system has extended the detection range from a radius of a few hundred meters to several kilometers, giving the coast guard or the navy a long time to prepare to meet the threat.
Control of market worth hundreds of millions
Baranes’s study shows that not only Israel, but the whole world, takes these threats very seriously. The scope of oil and gas drilling in the open sea has grown in recent years, and world trade is still taking place there. An attack against strategic installations in the open sea or on the beach, such as oil rigs, gas drillings, coastal power stations, nuclear facilities, etc., can cause very heavy damage to entire economies, and can even paralyze an entire country for a few days.
Drilling companies and countries with coastlines are investing enormous sums in this area, and the big winner is DSIT, which currently offers the world’s most advanced detection device. Frost & Sullivan believes that a worldwide total of over $200 million will be invested in this area over the next six years. DSIT currently controls about 70% of the global sonar market.
DSIT’s flagship product in the market today is called Aqua Shield, a land-based sonar designed to protect stationary targets, such as coastal facilities and drilling sites. The detection range of this product is a few kilometers. Of course, it also offers Point Shield, a smaller mobile system with a shorter range, designed for vessels moving about in the open sea.
How did the operation affect sonar sales?
Baranes: “There has always been the idea that an undersea threat is a threat. A diver has to get into the water from some coast or ship. There’s always a risk like this. All the new system has done is to extend the detection range to underwater. The event has been very bracing for the company. That is the nature of threats. They are recognized, but when it becomes concrete, the market is catalyzed.”
Operation Protective Edge is not the first time Israel has faced a threat of this kind. Hamas has tried more than once to send swimmers into Israeli territory to carry out attacks. That is why Israel’s seaports are secured by a sniper unit and an undersea unit.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com