Military technology

  • Destroying Syria's chemical weapons in the midst of war

    Close to 1,400 tons of chemical weapons are stored at twenty-three locations scattered throughout Syria. To destroy this stockpile, officials will need multiple strategies. The most dangerous are the munitions filled with “live” chemical agents, such as mustard gas, sarin, and VX. Dealing with these weapons will require bringing specialized equipment into the war-torn country.

  • Marines test latest battlefield IT at Agile Bloodhound ‘13

    Marines in Hawaii last week demonstrated that using handheld devices and special software automatically to sift through loads of data can help ease information overload and deliver made-to-order intelligence to the front lines. “We’re trying to create a user-oriented world view for Marines,” said Col. William Zamagni. “Whether they’re in command centers with PCs, in vehicles with laptops or on foot with smartphones, Marines need access to the most pertinent information possible.”

  • France to offer counter-terrorism support to Libya

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has confirmed that France is considering providing Libya additional aid in counter-terrorism and police training. Since the NATO-supported revolt removed Muammar Gaddafi from office two years ago, Libya has not had an effective central government, and the country has turned into a battleground for rival militias and al Qaeda-linked militants.

  • Security agencies concerned about plastic guns

    The Undetectable firearms Act of 1988, which makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, process, transfer, or receive a firearm which is not detectable by walk-through metal detection, is set to expire on 9 December 2013. If Congress fails to reauthorize the law, plastic guns will no longer require metal components which are detectable by metal detectors. “When these 3D firearms are manufactured, some of the weapons can defeat normal detection such as metal detectors, wands, and it could present a problem to public safety in a venue such as an airport, an arena, a courthouse,” says ATF assistant director Richard Marianos.

  • Sticks over carrots: the rationale of Assad’s counterinsurgency “madness”

    Counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts by the West, particularly over the past decade, have emphasized the limitation of violence and the importance of the local population. Western COIN practice focuses on establishing the perception of state legitimacy in the area around which the insurgency is taking place. The objective is to sway influence away from the insurgents and towards the regime by providing security, services, stability and growth. By contrast, Syrian efforts in counterinsurgency have not only avoided securing the civilian population, but have actively targeted it. Whereas Western COIN prioritizes “the people,” the Syrian strategy focuses on the elimination of the militant opposition regardless of the collateral violence. Assad’s “enemy-centric” approaches to counterinsurgency utilizes intense violence — targeting of refugees, schools, hospitals, and using chemical weapons — to divide public support from the insurgency by punishing the civil population.

  • The Ergonomics of bomb-making at sea

    In an effort to stem work-related injuries and speed the assembly of munitions aboard aircraft carriers, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) spearheaded the development of a more efficient and ergonomic way to build bombs at sea. The ONR-sponsored improvements will allow sailors to move around more freely and assemble multiple bombs simultaneously on smaller, individual stands.

  • Emulating stingray movement to build next generation of submarines

    Stingrays swim through water with such ease that researchers believe that emulating the fish’s unique way of swimming could improve deep-sea vehicles’ agility and fuel efficiency. “Most fish wag their tails to swim. A stingray’s swimming is much more unique, like a flag in the wind,” says one researcher.

  • Insects’ way of flying inspires design of tiny flying robots

    Researchers have identified some of the underlying physics that may explain how insects can so quickly recover from a stall in midflight — unlike conventional fixed wing aircraft, where a stalled state often leads to a crash landing. The analysis improves the understanding of how insects fly and informs the design of small flying robots built for intelligence gathering, surveillance, search-and-rescue, and other purposes.

  • U.S. Navy dominates competition for number, quality of patents

    The IEEE evaluated more than 5,000 organization patent portfolios, across the seventeen industry sectors evaluated in its scorecard, for the number of patents issued as well as the growth, impact, originality, and general applicability across their respective portfolios. A laser with the potential to jam heat-seeking missiles and sniff out chemicals was one of 358 technologies patented by the U.S. Navy in 2012, helping the service dominate the government category in an annual ranking of patent portfolios published 23 October. It is an achievement the Navy has held since the scorecard added the government category in 2008.

  • Navy blimp returns to Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. skies today

    The U.S. Navy’s only manned airship, a modified American Blimp Corporation A-170 series commercial blimp, will return to the skies of Maryland today, 12 November, to conduct week-long testing of experimental avionics systems.Results of this research may ultimately help protect forward deployed U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps troops around the globe.

  • DoD ends ambitious blimp program

    The Department of Defensehas decided to end its Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) project.The blimp was supposed to fly for as long as three weeks at a time, gather intelligence using 2,500 pounds worth of the most advanced cameras, sensors, and other intelligence technology. Operating at an altitude of 20,000 feet, the airship was designed to withstand enemy fire with its blend of fabrics, including kevlar. The Pentagon spent $297 million on the airship, but last month sold it back to one of the contractors which built it for $301,000.

  • Kenya, Somalia to create joint anti-terrorism task force

    Al-Shabaab’s attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last month has prompted security officials in Kenya and Somalia to consider the creation of a joint task force which will share intelligence, monitor activity, and track finances relating to terrorist groups operating in East Africa. Also under discussion is the establishment of a joint East African paramilitary force with jurisdiction throughout the region.

  • Weakening cybersecurity to facilitate NSA surveillance is dangerous: experts

    In the wake of revelations about the NSA surveillance programs, an expert on surveillance and cybersecurity recommended a re-evaluation of those surveillance practices that weaken commercial products and services. These practices include weakening standards and placing “back doors” into products that are accessible to U.S. government agencies. The expert – Jon Peha, former chief technology officer of the FCC and assistant director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology — said deliberately weakening commercial products and services may make it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance, but “this strategy also inevitably makes it easier for criminals, terrorists and foreign powers to infiltrate these systems for their own purposes.”

  • Nuclear experts: world is safer, but risks remain

    Speaking at a two-day short course on Nuclear Weapon Issues in the Twenty-First Century earlier this month, leading nuclear weapons scientists and policymakers said that despite some troubling areas, the world is a safer place than in past decades, and they expressed cautious optimism it is continuing in that direction. They warned, however, that despite this progress, crises involving nuclear weapons can still spiral out of control.

  • The irreducible elements of a Freeze Plus interim agreement with Iran

    Iran and the P5+1 are set to resume talks on Iran’s nuclear program tomorrow, Thursday, 7 November in Geneva.The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has developed a list of what it calls “irreducible elements” which a negotiated interim agreement should aim to achieve. These four elements are: Stopping the advance of Iran’s centrifuge and Arak reactor programs; extending breakout times; capping the Iranian centrifuge program and ensuring that it will not expand beyond this cap (in terms of enrichment output) during the next 5-15 years; and increasing the chance of finding a secret centrifuge or plutonium separation plant.