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ISRAEL DEVELOPS SECURE ARMY MOBILE PHONE SYSTEM

13 Nov 02. Israel’s military said it planned to launch a cutting-edge secure mobile phone system that will be hard to disable and will ensure army brass can contact field commanders anytime, anywhere.

Dubbed “Mountain Rose,” the $90m system developed with Motorola Israel Ltd, a unit of Motorola (NYSE:MOT – News), is expected to revolutionise the modern battlefield once it becomes fully operational in 2004, according to army officials.

“The system is basically for secure voice communications in the field,” said Colonel Avi Berger, head of the communication department in the military’s Signal Corps. “It will also be valuable in a time of crisis because of its increased capacity and high survivability.”

By 2004, field commanders will no longer have to dash under fire to a secure mobile telecommunications unit but will have terminals sewn into their battle vests over which they will be able to receive and confirm instructions from top army brass.

Natan Gidron, a senior Motorola executive, said the system and some of its robust handsets, like those designed for combat vehicles, are unique.

“This is the first time that we have implemented a system like this using a standard system adapted to a military application,” he said.Not even Motorola knows the secret behind the encryption and information security software developed by the Israeli army’s Signal Corps, which has been embedded into its commercial TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio Access) system.

Asked about possible security breaches should a Mountain Rose device fall into enemy hands, Berger said without elaboration that the army had ways of taking any handset out of service “so it can’t be used against us”.

“We haven’t made a special effort yet, but once the system is running, we shall try and offer it to other militaries as well,” said Gidron, whose sales pitch would highlight the Mountain Rose encryption, transportable units and armoured vehicle installation. Berger was reluctant to say if other countries had shown interest in the system but said Mountain Rose could be implemented abroad without compromising Israeli security. “The secure implementation was done here in the army, and if someone is interested in it we will find a solution.”

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