Military technology

  • Head of UN panel investigating 2014 Gaza war quits after his work for PLO comes to light

    The controversial Canadian academic William Schabas, who was appointed to head the UN inquiry into Israel-Hamas war of summer 2014, said yesterday (Monday) that he would resign following revelations that he was paid for consulting work he did for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Schaba has long been subject to Israeli allegations that he was biased against Israel.

  • Assad regime employed Skype to steal military plans from moderate rebels

    A FireEye report details the activities of a cyber-espionage group that stole Syrian opposition’s strategies and battle plans. To undertake this operation, the threat group employed a familiar tactic: ensnaring its victims through conversations with seemingly sympathetic and attractive women. As the conversations progressed, the “women” would offer up a personal photo, laden with malware and developed to infiltrate the target’s computer or Android phone.

  • Color-changing film detects chemical weapons

    In today’s world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). Scientists are reporting progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs — an advance that could help save lives and hold aggressors accountable.

  • Boko Haram expands attacks as Chad’s military joins fighting

    Early Sunday, Boko Haram Islamist militants have attacked Maiduguri, the biggest city in north-east Nigeria, from four fronts overnight. The militants, employing artillery and rocket fire, bombarded the city throughout Sunday. Yesterday’s assault was the third attack Maiduguri in the past seven days. The pitched battles of the past seven days saw the first participation of Nigeria’s neighbors in the fighting against Boko Haram. Several fighter jets from neighboring Chad bombed the Islamist forces out of the city of Gamboru on Nigeria’s north-east border with Cameroon, a town the insurgents had held since last August. Last Thursday a Chadian army ground force liberated Malumfatori by evicting the Islamists from the border town, which was under their sway for months.

  • U.S. plan to train “moderate” Syrian rebels raises troubling questions

    The U.S. reluctance to become decisively committed to the complex quagmire in Syria is understandable. However, its plan to insert a U.S.-trained-and-equipped “moderate rebel” force into the mix is deeply concerning — on several levels. While U.S. efforts to support rebel groups to date have been less than successful, there is so much that could go wrong with this course of action, and so little that could go right. There are no easy solutions to an issue as complex as Syria. The uncoordinated, short-term actions of some of the regional states have simply exacerbated what was already a hideously difficult operating environment. If there hasn’t been a military solution to the problem that has worked in the nearly four years of the conflict, then the introduction of another 15,000 armed rebels over several years, with an indistinct aim, is unlikely to do much more than further muddy the treacherous waters.

  • Does Obama face the prospect of boots on the ground in Yemen?

    For the past three years the Obama administration has been deeply reluctant to engage in Yemen, Iraq, or Syria with significant deployment of ground troops. The preferred option has been termed “remote control” with greater reliance on armed drones, privatized military, special forces, and other means. The turmoil in Yemen exposes one core problem with this approach: The drone operations in Yemen, which were run both by the CIA and U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, were highly dependent on intelligence on AQAP obtained by Yemeni government security and intelligence branches. Furthermore, they had the approval of the government in Sana’a so the Obama administration could claim legitimacy for its actions. With the ousting of the Hadi government, both elements are now in question — the intelligence will probably dry up and if some kind of reasonably stable government replaces Hadi then a new regime could claim infringement of sovereignty. If that regime is Houthi-dominated, as seems likely, then while the Iranian-supported Shi’a Houthi have little liking for AQAP, they are equally opposed to U.S. policy. When the air strikes against Islamic State started last August, Western leaders said that that was as far as it would go. This is clearly not the case and not only is mission creep already happening in Iraq and Syria, it now looks highly likely in Yemen as well.

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  • No technologies currently available to track, disable small drones

    Monday’s drone incident on the White House lawn exposed a security gap that Secret Service and counterterrorism officials have been studying for years, but for which they have yet to develop a solution. Four days before the incident, lawmakers examining White House security protocols in response to a series of intrusions, were warned by a panel of experts that the Secret Service’s inability to identify and disable drones remained a top vulnerability, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.Security experts say proposals for a higher fence around the White House, together with increased surveillance and environmental sensors, are not enough to easily to identify and disable a drone before it lands.

  • Need for oil the most important reason for interfering in another country’s war

    Researchers have for the first time provided strong evidence for what conspiracy theorists have long thought — oil is often the reason for interfering in another country’s war. Civil wars have made up more than 90 percent of all armed conflicts since the Second World War, and the research builds on a near-exhaustive sample of sixty-nine countries which had a civil war between 1945 and 1999. About two thirds of civil wars during the period saw third party intervention either by another country or outside organization. The researchers found that the decision to interfere was dominated by the interveners’ need for oil over and above historical, geographical, or ethnic ties.

  • CODE program would allow UAVs to fly as collaborative teams

    The U.S. military’s investments in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have proven invaluable for missions from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical strike. Most of the current systems, however, require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator as well as a large number of analysts, all via telemetry. These requirements severely limit the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and pose operational challenges in dynamic, long-distance engagements with highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments. DARPA’s CODE program is offering the opportunity to participate in discussions to help develop groundbreaking software enabling unmanned aircraft to work together with minimal supervision.

  • New technology proves effective in thwarting cyberattacks on drones

    Engineering researchers from the University of Virginia and the Georgia Institute of Technology have successfully flight-tested scenarios which could threaten drones, including ground-based cyber-attacks. The demonstration of U.Va’s System-Aware Cybersecurity concept and Secure Sentinel technology was part of a research project led by U.Va. engineers to detect and respond to cyber-attacks on unmanned aerial systems.

  • Invisibility cloak closer to reality: Concealing military airplanes, and even people

    Since the beginning of recorded time, humans have used materials found in nature to improve their lot. Since the turn of this century, scientists have studied metamaterials, artificial materials engineered to bend electromagnetic, acoustic, and other types of waves in ways not possible in nature. Now, Hao Xin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona, has made a discovery with these synthetic materials that may take engineers one step closer to building microscopes with superlenses that see molecular-level details, or shields that conceal military airplanes and even people.

  • Yemen upheaval hobbles U.S. counterterrorism efforts there

    Following the abrupt resignation of Yemen’s president, prime minister, and cabinet after Iran-backed Shi’a Houthi rebels took over the presidential palace, the United States has halted some counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda militants operating inside the country. The move has dealt a blow to what President Barack Obama recently called a successful counterterrorism partnership between Yemen’s president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the United States. “The [Yemeni government’s] agencies we worked with . . . are really under the thumb of the Houthis. Our ability to work with them is not there,” said a senior U.S. official closely involved in monitoring the situation.

  • Revolutionary weapon to be showcased at Future Force EXPO

    The Electromagnetic Railgun program continues to move toward scheduled at-sea testing in 2016. Its revolutionary technology relies on electricity instead of traditional chemical propellants, with magnetic fields created by high electrical currents launching projectiles at distances over 100 nautical miles — and at speeds that exceed Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound. The Railgun will play a significant role in the future of the U.S. Navy, and it will be on display to the public for the first time on the East Coast 4-5 February at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology (S&T) EXPO in Washington, D.C.

  • Smart grenade seeks, finds enemy hiding behind barriers, walls

    The Small Arms Grenade Munition (SAGM) round — a 40mm counter-defilade, air-bursting grenade designed for both the M203 and M320 launchers — will undergo evaluation in July 2015. The SAGM allows a soldier to target an enemy who is protected behind a barrier and have the munition explode, in the air, above the target. The SAGM does not require the soldier to conduct any kind of pre-fire programming sequence. The soldier aims the weapon and fires, and the round detects where a wall is and then explodes, in the air, after passing the wall. The SAGM round has been under development since January 2012.

  • Reducing uncertainty in designing complex military systems

    Uncertainty is sometimes unavoidable, but in the world of scientific computing and engineering, at least, what is worse than uncertainty is being uncertain about how uncertain one is. Understanding with confidence the level of uncertainty in computational models used for designing complex military systems can be enormously beneficial, reducing costs and development times. DARPA program seeks novel mathematical research for quantifying and predicting uncertainty in design models as alternative to costly and repetitive testing.