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(en) Pentagon Pursues New Tools

From Tom Burghardt <tburghardt@igc.apc.org>
Date Sun, 29 Mar 1998 10:52:01 -0800 (PST)
Cc amanecer@aa.net.ara@web.net, ats@locust.etext.org, bblum6@aol.com, caq@igc.org, mnovickttt@igc.org, nattyreb@ix.netcom.com, pinknoiz@ccnet.net, sflr@slip.net

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

     The Washington Post
     Sunday, March 29, 1998; Page A02
     By Walter Pincus
     Washington Post Staff Writer
     The speck in the sky approaches in virtual silence,
unnoticed by the large gathering of enemy soldiers. After
hovering for a few seconds, the six-inch "Micro Air Vehicle"
perches on a fifth-floor windowsill, its one-gram, inch-long
video camera observing the men and machines below -- and beaming
the images to a U.S. Army platoon leader two miles away.
     The Pentagon is developing a variety of such reconnaissance
tools for the coming decades, according to James M. McMichael,
manager of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Because of reductions in the number of troops, pilots and
sailors, defense research is focusing on unmanned aircraft,
ground-traveling robots and sensor-loaded space satellites to
decrease the risks to military personnel.
     "These systems will use the most advanced technologies to
let machines perform today's most hazardous missions, thus
minimizing casualties to the military's most important resource,
its people," Larry Lynn, director of DARPA, recently told
     Spending $2.04 billion this year and asking for a similar
amount for next year, Lynn said, DARPA has the role of investing
"in the most speculative technologies . . . those that offer a
spectacular payoff to the military if successful, but that are
high risk."
     Critics of Defense Department spending say such research
spending fuels an arms race inside the Pentagon.
     "The plain fact is that all but a handful of nations lack
the capacity to build, buy, integrate, support and effectively
use cutting-edge military systems in significant quantities,"
according to an article by Carl Conetta and Charles Knight of the
Project on Defense Alternatives. The result, they wrote, is "a
continuous, solitary arms race in which the United States labors
to outdistance its own shadow."
     One of the highest priorities for DARPA is developing
technologies and systems that will give commanders "comprehensive
awareness of the battlespace." Researchers say the battlefield by
2010 will have a variety of sensors -- video, radars that detect
moving targets or penetrate foliage, and devices that detect the
visible and infrared spectrums.
     DARPA is already demonstrating technology that researchers
hope will lead to a breakthrough in finding, identifying and
monitoring targets. Intelligence imagery collected from various
sources, such as high-flying U-2 manned aircraft and unmanned
airborne vehicles (UAVs), would be used to build high-resolution,
three-dimensional models of buildings and terrain in the
battlefield areas.
     A "Moving and Stationary Target Acquisition and Recognition"
project is designed to locate even targets partially obscured by
buildings, foliage or camouflage. Three-dimensional models of
target vehicles are built into its memory. Tests of this feature
last year identified 80 percent of the targets in difficult-to-
see positions.
     Researchers now are trying to hasten the reaction time of
these systems so identification is nearly instantaneous. That
can't be done today because data from a variety of sources take
time to be processed.
     Another semi-automated targeting system not only detects
enemy forces, but compares what it sees with stored data to
analyze the structure of the opponent's force. This system will
be tested in upcoming exercises such as the Air Force's Green
Flag and U.S. Atlantic Command's military utility assessment.
     A new "Foliage Penetration" radar, mounted on aircraft, is
intended to provide all-weather, 24-hour detection of targets
hiding in foliage. Tests of this sensor will be done aboard a
manned aircraft, but the system is compatible with the unmanned
Global Hawk air vehicle. Another version will be readied for use
from U-2 aircraft.
     To help these automated intelligence systems differentiate
friends from foes, DARPA is working on a "Radio Frequency Tag" to
be carried by U.S. and allied ground forces or attached to their
equipment. When located by radar, the "tag" will allow units to
be tracked during the chaos of combat. DARPA is aiming to keep
the cost at $300 per "tag" to make it economical for U.S. allies.
     A new space-based tactical radar program is in development
to collect high-resolution images of moving targets on the ground
that are one meter or smaller. This system, known as STARLITE,
would be based on a constellation of 24 low Earth orbit
satellites. They would allow radar to revisit a spot anywhere on
Earth every 15 minutes or less. It is a joint program of DARPA,
the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Its
goal is to produce satellites costing $100 million apiece.
     Unattended ground sensors are being modernized for
battlefield use. Planned as low-power and low-cost, they are
designed to be fired as an artillery round. Either stationary or
mobile, they will have sensors that capture images, sounds or
chemical information. Their data will be sent short distances to
hand-held receiving units with U.S. troops in the field.
     There have been demonstrations of such seismic and acoustic
sensors using U.S. vehicles as practice targets. Next year, tests
are planned to demonstrate the survivability of these sensors
after they are fired from the air and implanted in the ground.
     One of the more exotic programs uses "Tactical Mobile
Robots" in urban assault operations. These robots are planned to
work in teams having advanced sensors for "vision" and
navigation, as well as mapping capabilities. The robots would be
able to climb stairs and have on-board processing. The robot
concept will be developed this year. Demonstrations of
perception, autonomy and locomotion capabilities in urban
settings are to follow next year.
     Teams of tiny "Micro-Robots" are being planned to go where
human soldiers cannot. DARPA is attempting to develop a Micro-
Robot perhaps less then two inches in diameter. It would be used
for surveillance and other information collection, including
going inside buildings and detecting unexploded ordnance, as well
as biological and chemical weapons agents.
     The "Micro Air Vehicle" is a miniature flying device
programmed to be used by individual soldiers operating in urban
areas. It will be designed to reconnoiter urban terrain,
including inside large buildings. It is also supposed to identify
targets and detect biological and chemical agents.
     The designs for the vehicles vary from propeller-driven
models to one with flapping wings. The goal is to get prototypes
flying in the next three years.
     What is labeled the "Warfighter Visualization" program is
developing technologies to give individual soldiers access to
imagery and video from unmanned flying vehicles. This would be
done using displays attached to the soldiers' helmets to present
overhead and ground views beyond the range of normal vision.
     Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
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