Military technology

  • Cyberweapons likely to be an integral part of any U.S.-Syria clash

    A U.S.-led military attack on Syria may have been averted, at least for a while, by the Russian proposal to negotiate the transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks to international control, but had the United States gone ahead with a strike, there is little doubt that cyberattacks would have been used by both sides. If the United States decides to attack Syria in the future, we should expect cyberweapons to be used.

  • Obama: Russia’s chemical weapons proposal may be a “significant breakthrough”

    President Obama on Monday described a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a “potentially positive development,” which could represent a “significant breakthrough.” Obama said, though, that the proposal should be taken “with a grain of salt,” and it was viewed with some skepticism by the administration, with senior officials saying the proposal could possibly be a delaying tactic aimed to undermine Obama’s already tenuous efforts to push for a military strike. The Russian proposal called for Syria to open its chemical weapons stocks to international inspections and give complete account of its stocks; begin the process of supervised destruction of these weapons; and join the Chemical Weapons Convention.

  • Bomb-detecting lasers to improve security checkpoints

    Research has put the possibility of bomb-detecting lasers at security checkpoints within reach by developing a laser that can detect micro traces of explosive chemicals on clothing and luggage. The laser not only detects the explosive material, but it also provides an image of the chemical’s exact location, even if it’s merely a minute trace on a zipper.

  • Researchers fabricate new camouflage coating from squid protein

    What can the U.S. military learn from a common squid? A lot about how to hide from enemies, according to researchers. Researchers show that material that mimics calamari skin is invisible to infrared cameras, which is a good thing since infrared detection equipment is employed extensively by military forces for night vision, navigation, surveillance, and targeting.

  • Pentagon expands Syria attack plan

    The Obama administration, in an effort to mobilize American public opinion to support a strike against Syria, has stressed that any military action would be limited in scope, but the Pentagon is preparing for a longer, and broader, campaign of bombardment of Syria than it originally had planned. The plan includes heavy missile strikes which will be followed by second and third waves of bombing of targets which were not initially destroyed or sufficiently damaged. The plan calls for the use of cruise missiles and aircraft from a U.S. Navy aircraft group in the Red Sea, and long-range bombers from outside the theater.

  • Syria’s chemical weapons stocks will not be attacked

    Military analysts say Syrian president Bashar Assad will emerge with Syria’s chemical arsenal intact if the United States executes a limited airstrike. The United States contemplates a punitive strike in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against Sunni civilians on 21 August – and on about a dozen earlier occasions – but the U.S. attack, if it comes, is not likely to include the depots where the chemical weapons are stored because such an attack may release deadly gases which would cover the neighboring areas with toxic clouds, potentially creating a human and environmental disaster.

  • New detectors for chemical, biological threats

    In the late 1990s, Sandia scientists developed a simple-to-use handheld chemical detector for the military, the MicroChemLab. Ever since, Sandia has improved such microfluidics- and microelectromechanical (MEMS) systems-based instruments that identify chemicals based on gas chromatography, or GC, and resonator-style instruments such as surface acoustic wave (SAW) detectors. The lab’s researchers are building on this sensor work to invent tiny detectors that can sniff out everything from explosives and biotoxins to smuggled humans.

  • Worries grow about Syria’s biological weapons capabilities, intentions

    The debates among experts in Western and Middle Eastern intelligence services and militaries about the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime revolve around how many times Assad has used chemical weapons, not whether such weapons were used. Neighbors of Syria have become increasingly alarmed – and, in private, have expressed their anxiety in discussions with the United States – about another illicit Syrian WMD program: biological weapons. The readiness of the Assad regime to use one proscribed weapon – chemicals — has led to growing unease among Syria’s neighbors that the regime may not find it too difficult to violate other weapon-related taboos. Biological weapons could give the Assad regime an effective means of retaliation because, if the weapon is well-designed, the lethal contents would spread easily without leaving tell-tale signs about the origin of the attack – or even evidence that there has been an attack.

  • Administration's Syria plan: limited operation with “downstream” effect

    Three leading administration officials yesterday presented, in general detail, the plan of attack on Syria. The plan emphasizes the destruction of delivery vehicles – missiles, rockets, planes and their airfields, and artillery pieces – used in the delivery of chemical weapons. The three officials – Kerry, Hagel, and Dempsey — agreed that such an attack, even if its purpose would be to degrade the regime’s ability to deliver chemical weapons, would have “downstream” effect: these delivery vehicles also deliver conventional munitions, so their destruction would more generally degrade the regime’s ability to fight, thus making the battlefield between the regime and the rebels more level. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is today drafting a new resolution which would permit up to ninety days of military action against the Syrian government and bar the deployment of U.S. combat troops in Syria but permit the deployment of a small rescue mission in the event of an emergency. The White House also would be required within thirty days of enactment of the resolution to send lawmakers a plan for a diplomatic solution to end the violence in Syria.

  • Lawmakers mull oversight of U.S. cyberattack capabilities and operations

    There has not yet been a public discussion of U.S. offensive cyberattack capabilities — and of actual U.S. cyberattacks — and the subject had been classified until a few years ago. Even after the subject came more into the open, only the fact that the United States had the capability to initiate offensive cyberattacks was acknowledged. With the growing attention to cyber operations – both defensive and offensive — the question of oversight is set to follow.

  • Kerry leaves no doubt: U.S. will attack Syria within days, no UN approval sought

    In a speech today, Secretary of State John Kerry left no doubt that the Obama administration, within days at most, will launch a series of attacks against the Assad regime for attacking Syrian Sunni civilians with chemical weapons. The chemical attack – not the first one by the regime this year — killed 1,429 people, including 426 children. Kerry said punishing the offending regime was not only the right thing to do morally, but it is essential to protect U.S. national interest and the interests of U.S. allies. The administration has circulated a report, prepared by the U.S. and U.K. intelligence communities, detailing the evidence pointing to the Assad regime’ responsibility for the chemical attack. Kerry: we “make our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our own values and interests”

  • British Parliament vote complicates U.S. Syria plans (updated)

    In a heavy defeat to Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Parliament voted against British military contribution to or involvement in an attack on Syria in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons last week. The vote is an embarrassing defeat for Cameron, and a major set-back for President Obama’s plan to put together a coalition of the willing to strike military targets in Syria. The parliamentary vote has no military significance, as the British contribution to the actual military operations would have been minimal at best. The U.K. vote, rather, is a political blow to the United States as it highlights on-going skepticism among Western publics – including U.S. public opinion — about yet another Western military involvement in the Middle East. The British vote is a blow to the United States more generally, as Britain has been the U.S. most loyal ally, and has taken part in every major U.S. military offensive in recent years.

  • U.S. military doubts purpose, efficacy of U.S. strike on Syria

    The Obama administration’s plan to attack military targets in Syria is not greeted with enthusiasm by a U.S. military still carrying the scars of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing deep budget cuts.Many in the military have reservations about a military action in Syria, with the main reservations concerning the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria. Both supporters and opponents of a strike on Syria, though, agree on one thing: “Remember, with respect to policy choices concerning Syria, we are discussing degrees of bad and worse,” one officer said.

  • New analysis suggests war has not disappearing

    While some researchers have claimed that war between nations is in decline – see, for example, Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined — a new analysis suggests we should not be too quick to celebrate a more peaceful world. New study finds that there is no clear trend indicating that nations are less eager to wage war. Conflict does appear to be less common than it had been in the past, but this is due more to an inability to fight than to an unwillingness to do so.

  • British MPs vote against U.K. military participation in attack on Syria

    In a heavy defeat to Prime Minister David Cameron, , the British Parliament voted against British military contribution to or involvement in an attack on Syria in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons last week. The vote is an embarrassing defeat for Cameron, and a major set-back for President Obama’s plan to put together a coalition of the willing to strike military targets in Syria. The parliamentary vote has no military significance, as the British contribution to the actual military operations would have been minimal at best. The U.K. vote, rather, is a political blow to the United States as it highlights on-going skepticism among Western publics – including U.S. public opinion — about yet another Western military involvement in the Middle East.