Border securityRemotely controlled mechanical watch towers guard hostile borders

Published 19 July 2010

South Korea has began to install unmanned guard towers, equipped with sensors and machine-guns, along the DMZ; The South Korean military is emulating the system Israel has built around the Gaza Strip — a system of unmanned, armored towers, about five meters (sixteen feet) tall and two meters (six feet) in diameter; at the top of the tower is an armored shelter that conceals a remotely controlled machine-gun; operators control the surveillance and weapon systems atop these towers from a remote central command-and-control location

South Korea has begun installing unmanned guard towers, equipped with sensors and machine-guns, along the DMZ (demilitarized zone). On the other side of the four kilometers wide DMZ is North Korea. Since the Korean war ended in 1953, the North Koreans have frequently sent commandos across the DMZ to do some damage, or just to show that they could do it. The last two incursions were four years ago. In both cases, South Korea troops fired on the northern soldiers, who then retreated. Last year, in a rare event, a South Korean criminal sought to escape arrest by crossing the DMZ into North Korea, where he sought asylum.

Strategy Page reports that the new, unmanned guard towers on the DMZ are there to spare South Korean troops the tedium of manning such positions, and the risks that the North Korean might shoot at them for no reason. That happens fairly frequently. For these towers, the South Koreans are using ideas and concepts already developed and implemented in Israel (see “Military robotics moves forward,” 3 March 2009 HSNW; “Decision-making killer robots to be used by armies — and terrorists,” 28 February 2008 HSNW; and Autonomous see-shoot systems drawing interest, 15 June 2007 HSNW).

Over the last four years, Israeli firms have developed and installed a network of remotely controlled weapons for guarding the Gaza security fence. This is not just a fence, but a network of sensors for detecting Palestinian terrorists attempting to cross, or set up bombs for use against Israeli patrols.

The Israeli border with Gaza is 51-kilometers long, and most of it is in desert or semi-desert terrain. For a long time, most of the border was patrolled by troops in vehicles, while parts of it, near gates, were also guarded by manned watchtowers. The Palestinian terrorists have been persistent in attacking the fence, and trying to get through it. None has ever succeeded, and survived. The patrols were often attacked, however. One Israeli soldier — Gilad Shalit — was kidnapped four years ago (he is still in captivity, a subject of prisoner exchange negotiations between Israel and Hamas; Hamas is yet to allow the Red Cross to see him), and some are killed or wounded each year.

The solution has been a system of unmanned towers and vehicles. The Sentry-Tech pillbox towers were developed six years ago. These are unmanned, armored towers, about five meters (sixteen