Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Time To Mobilize Our Scientists

EU Referendum has a helpful Christmas gift list of weapons for the Brit forces in Iraq and Iran. To add to that, here are three weapons we might develop to improve the combat effectiveness of coalition forces in both theaters.

EU Referendum's suggestions seek to upgrade the quality and quantity of Brit fighting equipment to US and Israeli levels.

But across all coalition forces, there's a need for new weapons to defeat the proxy armies of Iran and Syria. That's because our current weapons were developed for an intense European land war, and the battles we're now fighting are quite different.

Increase our rate of developing new weapons and tactics

In WW2, we produced a flood of new weapons, from the radar that won the battles of Britain and Malta, the Enigma code breaker and its US equivalent that cracked Japanese codes, through the Mulberry Harbor that enabled the D-Day landings, to the gyroscopic gunsight that enabled our slower fighters to knock down two Germans jets for each loss of our own.

One major reason for that was the mobilization of the scientific and engineering establishment - in the UK this included the splendid
Dr R V Jones.

So far as I know, the only scientific mobilization in the GWOT has been the US counter-IED program - here are three other suggestions.

Non-nuclear EMP weapons

Electromagnetic Pulse weapons create very high energy fields that fry electronics.

Our forces in both theaters face massive infiltration of fighters and weapons across borders - from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and Syria and Iran into Iraq.

A regime of EMP interdiction could sanitize these borders - men would still get through, but their electronic equipment - including vehicles - would not. So they'd have to fight without communication or mobility.

The Brits are developing
non-nuclear EMP weapons, and that program needs national priority to get more money and the best engineering and scientific talents.

Automatic force protection

This weapon would use radar to track incoming bullets and RPGs, and automatically fire back to destroy the shooter. It has to be small enough to mount on a Warrior, Bradley, or Stryker so it can provide convoy and point protection.

The naval
Phalanx system shoots down incoming missiles, and the clever Canadians have ripped theirs off ships to defend against Taliban mortars and rockets. The land based C-Ram version defends Baghdad's Green Zone.

Because bullets and RPG rounds are smaller than mortar shells and rockets, force protection radar has to be higher resolution - probably millimetric. Also in a firefight there are thousands of objects flying, so it needs faster computing and smarter software than the Phalanx.

I think this is a solvable engineering problem, and the sooner we start, the sooner our troops and bases will be protected. The Israelis are building a tank protection weapon along these lines for their Merkava, so we might solicit their help.

Suicide bomber tracking

Individuals carrying suicide bombs behave differently to normal people - that's why expert Israelis spot all but a tiny percentage of would-be Palestinian "martyrs".

With good remote sensing and pattern recognition software, that can be mechanized - it won't perform as well as the skilled Israelis, but should be much faster and so capable of carrying out mass screening at airports, mosques and marketplaces.

The Brits developed very powerful face recognition systems to track the IRA, which they now use to ID speeding drivers. That's a good base to start from.

Any one of these weapons would transform our capabilities in the current wars, and if we will it, we can probably get them all!