Technology adapts to our new war Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Most military people will tell you that no matter how hard we try not to, we always train to fight the last war. That's because wars are unique. The time, terrain, technology, enemy and other variables make each conflict a one-of-a-kind, and what any military ends up doing is adapting its tactics to the tempo and techniques of its latest enemy.
Advances in technology are one reason why all wars are different. The longbow decimated the charges of armed knights who had once owned the battlefield and had made the shield wall obsolete. Gunpowder supplanted the longbow and made castles death traps. The machine gun forever changed the face of land warfare and air power made all parts of an enemy's nation subject to attack and decimation.
Our military is now in Iraq learning a new war. Mostly urban combat (considered the most dangerous and deadly of combat)its close quarters nullify most of our advanced military force multipliers such as artillery, tactical air and helicopter gunships. Instead it is man against man in the most primitive of engagements. New tactics and new techniques are being learned and shared. Additionally, we've ramped up our technology to assist in this very difficult type of warfare. One of the little goodies that have come out of this is a squad level hand-held radar system which can see through concrete walls:
Troops conducting urban operations soon will have the capabilities of superheroes, being able to sense through 12 inches of concrete to determine if someone is inside a building.
The new "Radar Scope" will give warfighters searching a building the ability to tell within seconds if someone is in the next room, Edward Baranoski from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Special Projects Office, told the American Forces Press Service.
By simply holding the portable, handheld device up to a wall, users will be able to detect movements as small as breathing, he said.
The Radar Scope, developed by DARPA, is expected to be fielded to troops in Iraq as soon as this spring, Baranoski said. The device is likely to be fielded to the squad level, for use by troops going door to door in search of terrorists.
The Radar Scope will give warfighters the capability to sense through a foot of concrete and 50 feet beyond that into a room, Baranoski explained.
Think of the advantage to troops engaged in house-to-house searches and raids. No more nasty surprises. You'll know if someone is in the room. No signal of anyone in a room? Then no need to clear it immediately and no reason to enter it and risk it being booby-trapped. Now troops can prioritize, target and efficiently clear a building with less risk to themselves. That's all good.
Just as phenomenal is the cost:
It will bring to the fight what larger, commercially available motion detectors couldn't, he said. Weighing just a pound and a half, the Radar Scope will be about the size of a telephone handset and cost just about $1,000, making it light enough for a soldier to carry and inexpensive enough to be fielded widely.
The Radar Scope will be waterproof and rugged, and will run on AA batteries, he said.
Conventional batteries and a very reasonable price tag (someone award the procurement officer for heaven sake).
Naturally they see even better applications for this technology down the road:
Even as the organization hurries to get the devices to combat forces, DARPA already is laying groundwork for bigger plans that build on this technology.
Proposals are expected this week for the new "Visi Building" technology that's more than a motion detector. It will actually "see" through multiple walls, penetrating entire buildings to show floor plans, locations of occupants and placement of materials such as weapons caches, Baranoski said.
"It will give (troops) a lot of opportunity to stake out buildings and really see inside," he said. "It will go a long way in extending their surveillance capabilities."
The device is expected to take several years to develop. Ultimately, servicemembers will be able to use it simply by driving or flying by the structure under surveillance, Baranoski said.
Of course, even as this is being fielded our enemies will be trying to find ways to mask themselves and beat the system. And the cycle of change and adapt, change and adapt, change and adapt will continue to resolution.
But I've got to tell you, if this performs as advertised, I'm glad to see it will be in the hands of our troops soon.
Now if we could only find a technological answer for neutralizing IEDs.
...but this technology will probably also be used to establish probable cause in the future, because something that can detect weapons caches could probably be tweaked to detect meth labs and drug caches...
Do you think this defines the libertarian/conservative split? While your commenters fear the use of this by government I fear the use of it by terrorists, crime gangs and others to point from the inside of the building to the outside to reveal when the SWAT teams are arriving. It’s not that I have complete faith in our government-it’s just that it’s a lower priority than terrorists.
Do you think this defines the libertarian/conservative split?
Not really. I think a libertarian would also be concerned with its use by terrorists (just like I’ve always been concerned with the use of night vision devices by our enemies, because it gives us such a great tactical advantage).
It’s not that I have complete faith in our government-it’s just that it’s a lower priority than terrorists.
Well, they’re really two different subjects. On the one had we’re talking about government abuse of rights and on the other hand we’re talking about nullifying a military advantage. I’d suggest they’re two different discussions.