6 TERRIFYING NEW WEAPONS, COURTESY OF THE PENTAGON
Here is the Pentagon’s bnattlefield vision of tomorrow.
In the future, the power of magnetism will be harnessed to make today’s high explosives seem feeble, “guided bullets” will put the current crop of snipers to shame, and new multi-purpose missiles will strike targets in a flash from high-flying drones. At least, that’s part of the Pentagon’s battlefield vision of tomorrow’s tomorrow.
Ordinarily, planning for the future is not a U.S. government forte. A mere glance at the national debt, now around $14 trillion and climbing, or two recent studies showing how China’s green technology investments have outpaced U.S. efforts should drive home that fact. But one government agency is always forward-looking, the Department of Defense’s blue skies research branch, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
1. Mayhem Without the “Y”
Even in military culture, where arcane, clunky, or sometimes witty acronyms are a dime a dozen, DARPA projects stand out. Sometimes it almost seems as if like the agency comes up with a particularly bad-ass name first and then creates a weapons system to suit. Take as an example the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition or — wait for it — MAHEM.
This program, run out of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, seeks to “demonstrate compressed magnetic flux generator (CMFG)-driven magneto hydrodynamically formed metal jets and self-forging penetrators (SFP) with significantly improved performance over explosively formed jets (EFJ) and fragments,” according to the agency’s website.
If you’re scratching your head about what that could mean, don’t ask DARPA. When I inquired about the basics of how the weapon would function, a simple lay definition for the folks paying for this wonder-weapon-to-be, spokesman Richard Spearman insisted that “sensitivities” prevented him from giving me any further information.
As near as can be told, though, you should imagine an anti-tank round with a powerful magnetic field. Upon impact, it will utilize magnetic force to ram a jet of molten metal into the target. Theoretically, this will pack more punch that today’s high-explosive-propelled projectiles and lead, according to DARPA, to “increased lethality precision.”
2. Hasta La Vista, Baby
In the 2003 science-fiction sequel Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, or T3, a metal monster from the future, a Terminatrix, is sent back to alter the present in order to ensure a future where machines rule the world and humans face extinction. Today, DARPA, the Air Force, and a couple defense industry heavyweights are seeking to change the future of munitions with a monster of their own — “a high speed, long-range missile that can engage air, cruise missile, and air defense targets.” The name of the program? I kid you not: Triple Target Terminator (T3).
Designed to be fired by either manned aircraft or drones, the Triple Target Terminator seeks to “increase the number and variety of targets that could be destroyed on each sortie” by allowing an aircraft to engage in air-to-air combat or air-to-ground attack with the same armament. Just what future air force the U.S. military imagines itself attacking with this weapon is not the sort of thing you’ll find out from DARPA. Spokesperson Spearman told me that “sensitivities” again prevented him from explaining even the basics of the system or its future uses. “A good part of the program itself is classified,” he assured me.
Last fall, Defense Industry Daily reported that Raytheon had received a $21.3 million contract for the Triple Target Terminator (T3) program. This was followed, a few weeks later, by the same sum being awarded to Boeing for work on the project. These contracts constitute an initial one-year attempt to design a missile that meets “program objectives” and will set the stage for future efforts.
In a prepared statement provided to TomDispatch late last year, DARPA declared: “Depending on successful phase completion, follow on efforts will continue in two more phases with multiple-technology risk reduction demonstrations, including live fire from tactical aircraft. The program is structured to last three years, culminating in test demonstrations in 2013.”
3. Anti-Ship Shape
Once upon a time, broadsides and boarding parties typified warfare on the high seas. In the future, the U.S. military has its sights set on something slightly more high tech. To that end, DARPA is now developing a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) that seeks to provide “a dramatic leap ahead in U.S. surface warfare capability.”
Designed to evade advanced enemy countermeasures, this would-be smart weapon is supposed to permit “high probability target identification in dense shipping environments, and precision aimpoint targeting for maximum lethality.” DARPA isn’t talking about this program either. LRASM, Spearman told me in December, was “in the final throes of getting all its contracts awarded. Until that happens and we have an official announcement, I can’t set up any media engagements on that one.”
By mid-January when I followed up, the final throes had yet to cease, but just days later DARPA awarded two contracts, totaling $218 million, to military-corporate powerhouse Lockheed Martin for work on two different LRASM missiles. “Lockheed Martin is proud to offer our technology for Navy solutions,” announced Lockheed’s tactical missile honcho Glenn Kuller. “These LRASM contracts will demonstrate two mature tactical missiles for new generation anti-surface warfare weapons capability; one low and stealthy, the other high and fast with moderate stealth.”
4. Bullet Ballet
It’s the farthest thing from a fair fight. A man peers through an advanced telescopic sight. He zeros in on his prey, a figure without a sporting chance who has no idea that he’s being targeted for death. The sniper, who has lugged his 30 pound, .50 caliber rifle up a ridgeline in order to kill with a single shot, breathes slow and steady, focuses, waits, waits, and finally pulls the trigger. A breeze he never felt, somewhere in the 4,000 feet between him and his target, sends the round off course. The sniper doesn’t log another kill. The human target gets to live another day.
To the U.S. military, this is a terribly sad story, and so they’ve turned to DARPA to look for a happier ending — in this case via the Extreme Accuracy Tactical Ordnance, or EXACTO program which aims to allow “the sniper to prosecute moving targets even in high wind conditions, such as those commonly found in Afghanistan.”
The plan is for DARPA scientists to develop “the first ever guided small caliber bullet.” If you’ve ever watched a heat-seeking missile follow a fighter jet in a lame 1980s action flick (or the smart bullet from the 1984 Tom Selleck sci-fi disaster Runaway), then you get the idea. DARPA is focused on creating a maneuverable bullet (controlled by a guidance system) that moves with the target, adjusting in flight to slam into a human head and turn it into a red mist — thus writing an upbeat ending to tomorrow’s sniper stories.
When asked for further information in mid-December, Spearman told me that “the PM [project manager] for EXACTO is in the process of transitioning his replacement into DARPA, making neither of them available for interviews.” About a month later, the new project manager, he said, was still not up to speed and thus both officials remained unavailable for comment.
5. The New Blitz
As Nazi air power pounded London during World War II, England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill sheltered in an underground bunker to stay alive. Today, the leaders of other nations have bigger, stronger bomb shelters than Churchill’s and the U.S. military wants the means to destroy them without generating the negative press that using nuclear weapons might incur.
To bust those bunkers, DARPA’s Strategically Hardened Facility Defeat program is investigating nuke-free, earth-penetrating munitions to counter the “threat posed by our adversaries’ use of hard and deeply buried targets.” Specifically aimed at the “senior leaders, command and control functions, and weapons of mass destruction” employed by “‘rogue’ nations,” these powerful, high-impact weapons will be designed to tunnel deep into the earth before exploding.
6. Things That Don’t Go Boom in the Night
Not all DARPA projects are designed to kill people and destroy hard targets. Some are geared toward delivering men, materiel, and someday robots to do the job instead. Others are aimed at intrusive surveillance, cyber-war, or making silver-screen dreams come true.
One long-term focus of military futurists and DARPA scientists has been the “urban environment.” (Think: the billion or more poor and potentially rebellious people already living in the slum cities of our planet.) The Urban Ops Hopper program, for example, seeks to develop small robots or semi-autonomous land drones — unmanned ground vehicles or UGVs in mil-speak — that can “adapt to the urban environment in real-time and provide the delivery of small payloads to any point of the urban jungle while remaining lightweight [and] small to minimize the burden on the soldier.”
And yes, they might even hop.
For many years, the Pentagon has dreamed of persistent surveillance of planetary hot spots, developing, for instance, drone technologies to serve as spies in the skies across the globe. In 2003, Noah Shachtman, writing for the Village Voice, profiled the military’s Combat Zones That See, or CTS program. The rationale for the effort was, he wrote, to “protect our troops in cities like Baghdad, where… fleeting attackers have been picking off American fighters in ones and twos.” However, he added, “[D]efense experts believe the surveillance effort has a second, more sinister, purpose: to keep entire cities under an omnipresent, unblinking eye.”
This article sourced from http://www.patriotfreedom.org/news_20110209_5987/6-terrifying-new-weapons-being-created-by-the-pentagon/
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