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In Iraq, urban techno-war begins in earnest

New technologies root out evil-doers...AND get them running!
Here's a look at next-generation gadgets and systems designed as a usable interface for the modern techno-warrior, in what is after all an interconnected real-time "global" fight against "terror."


From the Seattle Times 3/29/04

The Command Post of the Future is a DARPA-funded project that is designed to take the hassle out of illegal occupation.

"The Command Post of the Future is designed to streamline the command bureaucracy, letting senior officers collaborate in real time with visual tools...Each bank of computers has three screens: one for the user's own work, one for 3-D simulated battlefields and a third to peer into whats happening on other systems throughout the city...The network is designed to sharply reduce the need for commanders to crisscross the city for meetings, while hastening the flow of information. Instead of sending an e-mail request, for example, they can simply drop in on each other's computers for data they need."

Or morale-boosting diry images for that matter.

Baghdad is a dangerous city though, and now officers can telecommute from the relative safety of the Green Zone, or from Kuwait City or Qatar perhaps. They can issue e-orders and order e-strikes against real time virtual targets. When the dust settles, only one network will be standing.

Command Post of the Future is being developed by Maya Viz in Pittsburgh, and three other companies. 50 of the systems have been or will soon be sent to Iraq. Pricetag: alot$$


from the LA Times 3/7/04

The Sonic Scream is a pain and/or deafness causing megaphone the size of a satellite dish.

"Marines arriving in Iraq this month as part of a massive troop rotation will bring with them a high-tech weapon never before used in combat--or in peacekeeping. The device is a powerful megaphone the size of a satellite dish that can deliver recorded warnings in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing tone so excruciating to humans, its boosters say, that it causes crowds to disperse, clears buildings and repels intruders."

Sounds great, but there are legal and ethical questions, just like the ones that stopped the Pentagon's development of a blinding machine: "Despite intense lobbying over the years the Pentagon leadership has been skeptical of such 'wonder weapons.' In 1995, then-Secretary of Defense William Perry decided to ban Pentagon development of nonlethal laser weapons intented to permanently blind. His decision led to a subsequent international ban."

That answers the question "Are there actually people who lobby on behalf of blinding machines?" Yes, there are. But back to Sonic Scream:

"The new megaphone being deployed to Iraq can operate at 145 decibels at 300 yards, according to American Technology, well above the normal threshold for pain."

Its an experiment at this point, and Iraq is the testing lab. Sonic Scream sounds to me like an illegal torture device, but what is "legal" these days? What is "torture?" Sonic Scream is produced by American Technology Corp. in San Diego.


From the Washington Times 4/14/04

We've all seen the PackBot--he's a little tank-like object with a robotic arm used by bomb squads and SWAT teams, and even by the Army in Iraq. Well say hello to PackBot's little brother--Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or SUGV for short. This robo-warrior doesn't exist yet but is being developed by IRobot of Burlington, Mass. SUGV is designed to take the fight to the insurgency. Weighing in at a slight 25 pounds, a soldier can lug it around with him into combat, then send it through enemy lines where its spy cameras can send back real time info to a laptop-like device. Great for calling in airstrikes, directing stealth raids, or just watching the stupid things insurgency does when it thinks no one's looking!

"SUGV at this point is supposed to be only for reconnaissance, but putting a simple rocket launcher on top would be possible. Putting a satchel charge or Claymore mine on it would be simpler yet. The Army has thought of all this."

The SUGV will put a usable interface between real time boots on the ground and virtual elements of insurgency. Could virtual democracy be too far behind?


On April 11 an unmanned Predator drone was used to kill a number of suspected insurgents near Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad. The drone fired a number of Hellfire missiles at people allegedly attempting to fire mortars at the base. This is probably the first time the Predator has been used in Iraq for combat operations, or at least the first time its use has been announced. Predator is more commonly used to provide real time data to the ground concerning location and movements of enemy fighters, be they Saddam loyalists, insurgents, foreign jihadists, terrorists, or just armed thugs. Now there's Dragoneye Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, a tiny model spyplane that weighs in at five pounds with a wingspan of 45 inches. Dragoneye is in use by the Marines, and flies a preprogrammed route using GPS waypoints to navigate. It uses on-board sensors to gather and transmit imagery back to a laptop at ground control station.

Again, Dragoneye serves as a usable interface between virtual hostile elements and real time engagers. Dragoneye is not weaponized at this point, but it is conceivable that it could transmit data to a Predator drone for automatic airstrikes with Hellfire missiles. This type of coordinated mission could be done by a soldier from a Baghdad cafe, or Kuwait City, Qatar, etc.....

It won't be long before insurgency drops its weapons and embraces the omnipresent iron techno-fist of democracy.