Microwaves, Lasers, Retired Generals For Sale
from blog at Washington Post. How Directed Energy weapons are the "hot new thing" at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition
Friend's tell me that this week's Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition at the Washington Convention Center was all that an orgy of self-congratulation can be. Contractors galore, beltway bandits, luncheons, awards, howitzers, all topped off with a speech by Dick Cheney.
The buzz on the floor was "directed energy" laser, high-powered microwaves, and acoustic weapons that are getting a boost from the prolonged fighting in Iraq. Supporters are hoping that these new exotic technologies will help in the battle against improvised explosive devices and in countering snipers and hidden insurgents.
Directed energy is also the star of this week's Air Force Futures Game 05, being held at Booz Allen Hamilton in Herndon. The game, which posits a major war in the 2025 time frame, has high powered microwave and laser weapons zapping the bad guys.
Highly controversial directed energy weapons have been pushed for almost two decades as the next silver bullet. It's been two decades because along the way, they have run into complications, some having to do with the technology itself -- aim and controllable effects, compact power sources, military ruggedness -- but mostly their problem has been moral principles. Military leaders have been concerned about legality. Commanders have been hesitant or skeptical about new technologies with uncertain effects.
Those concerns are being brushed aside as the weapons advance along the familiar development path of boosters and patrons feeding information to war gamers who feed study participants who feed researchers who feed manufactures. At the end of the day, it is hard to tell whether high powered microwaves and laser came into being because someone conceived it out of need or because its existence in the laboratory created the need.
This week, for example, one of my favorite directed energy patrons -- retired General Ron Fogleman -- received appointments at two corporations, as a "senior advisor" to the Galen Capital Group, LLC; and as a member of the board of advisors of Novastar Resources.
The former chief of staff of the Air Force is a military-industrial legend, head of his own consulting company Durango Aerospace Inc. with a client list that includes Boeing, FMC, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and RSL Electronics.
A quick check on the web shows that Fogleman also serves on the boards of no few than 14 corporations: AAR Corp, Alliant Techsystems, IDC, Mesa Air Group, MITRE Corporation, Rolls-Royce North America, Thales-Raytheon Systems, First National Bank of Durango, International Airline Service Group, ICN Pharmaceuticals, DERCO Aerospace, EAST Inc., World Airway, and North American Airlines. He is also Senior Vice President of something called Projects International, a DC consultancy and is or was a partner in Laird and Company, LLC. And he is a member of Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, on the NASA Advisory Council, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Advisory Board, chairs the Falcon Foundation and the Airlift/Tanker Association. This guy is busy!
Fogleman gave up the job as the most powerful man in the Air Force on principle when he could no longer serve Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Since leaving, however, he has dispensed so much wisdom one wonders how much principle could be left.
One of Fogleman's first jobs upon leaving the Air Force was to chair the 1998 Directed Energy Applications for Tactical Airborne Combat study (known as "DE ATAC") which identified 65 concepts, particularly microwave weapons, selecting 20 for further analysis. The laboratory then awarded short-term concept development contracts for the five most promising to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Coherent Technologies, and Sanders.
All during the 1990's, money flowed into continued development of directed energy weapons, but frankly not much happened. Everyone talked about an E-bomb being used in Iraq in 2003, but once again for a variety of technical and ethical reasons, and because the real world intervened, the silver bullets remained on laboratory benches or in the world of "black" super-secret contracts, waiting for an opportunity.
And with the quagmire in Iraq, that opportunity came. So it just a coincidence that Fogleman's company Alliant Techsystems was awarded a contract earlier this year to develop the Scorpion II high powered microwave weapon "capable of defeating ... improvised explosive devices (IEDs) currently threatening U.S. and allied troops in Iraq." Maybe Fogleman had nothing to do with the directed energy work already flowing to Boeing and Raytheon.
The introduction of a completely new weapon -- particularly one that could cause excruciating pain, blindness, and hearing loss -- requires the most deliberate process, and the unintended consequences -- humanitarian, public relations, the possibility of the same weapon ending up in the hands of our enemies -- needs to be carefully weighed. The United States may indeed have within technological reach the ability to disperse rioters with a beam and not a bullet, and it might be able to cripple a modern society with the push of a button, but then again, so too does the United States possess the technology to turn Baghdad into a radiating ruin.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article