Google Earth’s Israel imagery gets flak

Regular reader Rip points to a post on a blog maintained by Israel-based entitled “Iranian made [unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)] Intercepted Over the Israeli Mediterranean Coast“. Relevant bit for our purposes:

The Hezbollah conducts extensive intelligence gathering activity to improve its capability to target sensitive Israeli sites, utilizing signals intelligence (SIGINT), long range observations conducted by its own forces, as well as utilizing intelligence support and weather forecasts (required for accurate aiming of its medium range rockets) provided by Syria. Target analysis, including coordinates gathering has been dramatically improved in recent months, as a significant part of Israel was included in “Google Earth” service, offering everyone a free access to relatively high resolution satellite images of Israel, provided with fairly accurate GPS coordinates which are accurate enough to support the aiming of rocket attacks.

The high resolution imagery of northern Israel by DigitalGlobe added to Google Earth’s dataset in early June 2006 is from 2002 and 2003. It is for sale to the public. Iran and Syria have access to far more recent and accurate satellite imagery. The notion of Hezbollah waiting on Google Earth to acquire target coordinates for their long-standing rocket arsenal is ludicrous, in my opinion. While Google Earth would do a “good enough” job of providing such data for permanent landmarks, any army with pretensions of competency would long have access to such coordinate data.

Rip has his own good points:

Note unguided rockets are quite different than UAVs; their Circular Error Probable (CEPs) upon arrival at the end of their flight are fairly gross. Knowing the exact distance and heading from the launcher to the target likely helps a bit. It reduces the CEP from terrible to very bad. I have seen no comments about any survey (large or small) to compare GE derived ground coordinates to ground truth. In any case, the inventory of Hezbollah UAVs has to be quite tiny so the threat they present is mostly propagandistic.

Yes, GE and GPS do provide weapon guidance potential (i.e., targeting) for “ballpark” (as “in the ballpark”) hits by unguided rockets; but, there are a host of other factors which hugely vary the effectiveness of non-terminally guided munitions.

Welcome to another effect of globalization…

(Caveat empor: This post is about a war. The first casualty of war is often truth. While the source material for this item looks credible to me, I can’t substantiate it.)