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Asymmetric underground manoeuvrability and operability is shaping the modern battlespace in urban and complex terrain, offering a clear benefit to the irregular side. The fierce fighting between Israel and the Palestinian terror organisations in Gaza is highlighting the growing need for technologies that can assist the regular military operating in the subterranean dimension.
Operation 'Protective Edge' will be remembered as one of the first military operations where a modern army had to face an irregular enemy mostly in the subterranean operational environment. While irregular forces have exploited the underground dimension in the past, in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Palestinians in Gaza relied on their subterranean tunnel network as a battlespace - gaining mobility, communications, force protection and survivability, and denying the enemy from its main advantage - dominance in intelligence and firepower.
As robots are assuming part of the roles performed by human operators, particularly in dangerous missions, it is obvious they will be used in subterranean environments. However, denied the basic attributes necessary for its operation - navigation, guidance and communications - most military robot are still awaiting some technological solutions when tasked with missions underground
Underground warfare is not new. Since ancient and medical times warfighters have often used subterranean passages, natural or man made, to gain access into enemy fortifications and escape siege. In modern times, underground warfare has been utilised primarily in guerrilla, enabling a weaker side to combat militarily superior opponent, taking advantage of tunnels, caves and other underground infrastructures prepared in advance as part of an orderly military strategy.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza escalated today to new levels, with each sides launching over hundred attacks at the other. For the first time, a Hamas naval commando team manage to reach land north of Gaza but eliminated soon after without reaching its target.