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[infowar.de] High-Tech USA gegen Low-tech Bin Laden
Associated Press, 23.9.2001
High-Tech Weapons Seek Low-Tech Foes
By JIM KRANE, AP Technology Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Spy satellites. Drones. Motion sensors. Smart bombs.
These are some of the high-tech weapons the U.S. military may wield in
the gathering campaign against terrorism.
The shadowy National Security Agency is already believed to be directing
spy satellites to photograph and listen to suspects' camps, while the
agency's supercomputers search recordings for clues to militants'
identities and whereabouts.
The Air Force may send unmanned ``drone'' aircraft to record images and
sounds using sophisticated radar and imaging tools.
U.S. ground troops may scout for hostile forces using hidden sensors
buried in the ground or dropped from the air - and airborne
reconnaissance vehicles the size of birds.
The Pentagon is likely to rely on precision munitions and the
radar-beating B-2 Stealth bomber - perhaps building climate-controlled
hangars for the $2.1 billion bombers at a base closer to the action.
The Defense Department declined to comment on what tools it may use.
``It is our longstanding policy at the Department of Defense not to
comment on intelligence matters,'' Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said
Even with these tools, analysts say the military will find it difficult
to track, capture or kill men who may not wear uniforms and whose words
and deeds may be all that distinguishes them from the innocents in their
In recent conflicts, U.S. military technology sometimes fell short.
Washington and its allies often failed to kill or capture hostile
leaders, or even destroy moving targets like tanks or trucks.
In 1999, U.S. aircraft destroyed a paltry two dozen Serbian tanks in a
78-day air campaign. In 1993, U.S. special forces tried and failed to
capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid. And, during the Gulf War,
Iraq's Saddam Hussein survived several bombings.
Without help from Afghanis, the capture of Osama bin Laden, the main
suspect the Sept. 11 terror, could be just as daunting. Bin Laden
survived a fusillade of U.S. cruise missiles in 1998.
``It's the hardest problem you can imagine,'' said Glenn Buchan, a Rand
Corp. military surveillance expert. ``The places he hides - like caves -
are hard to attack.''
Locating military targets is the first task, analysts say.
In a supplemental budget request, the Department of Defense plans to ask
Congress to fund several weapons and surveillance systems, including
sensors that monitor telecommunications while buried in the ground, said
Mike Vickers, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a
military think tank in Washington.
U.S. intelligence agencies want to focus all available spy satellite
resources on suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan and elsewhere,
looking for evidence of change - more or fewer tents, vehicles or people
- that indicate activity, Vickers said, adding that the Pentagon would
also look to supplement its own satellite resources with commercial
monitoring from Space Imaging Inc. of Thornton, Colo.
Washington has also likely shifted so-called ``signals intelligence''
satellites, which intercept digital and analog radio and mobile phone
traffic, to focus on Afghanistan, analysts say.
``That's a classic first step,'' said William C. Martel, a professor at
the U.S. Naval War College. ``When a target is moving, you have to
integrate land-based, space-based and often sea-based technology to
Satellites, however, are no secret to terrorists. With fly-by schedules
posted on the Internet, suspects know when to duck, said Buchan.
Airplanes are tougher to avoid.
The U.S. military has two types of drone, or unmanned aerial vehicles,
that could see action: The low-altitude Predator, which manufacturer
General Atomics Inc. sells for about $5 million, and the $15 million
high-altitude Global Hawk - technically still in the testing phase -
produced by Northrop Grumman Corp.
Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said a predator was
reported missing over Afghanistan. ``That happens from time to time in
terms of the controls. We have no reason to believe it was shot down.''
He gave the first confirmation of the loss of such an aircraft, used for
years over Iraq and the Balkans for intelligence-gathering.
The eerie-looking windowless planes can hover over a target for up to 40
hours, transmitting high-resolution pictures and video to the Pentagon
in near real time, Buchan said. The unmanned planes might also be
equipped with synthetic aperture radar, which can ``see'' at night and
through clouds, and multi- and hyper-spectral imagery, which can
differentiate between camouflage and vegetation.
Drones might also be retooled to carry weapons and, soon, given
radar-invisible ``stealth'' cloaks, Buchan said. A recent U.S. military
test saw an armed drone destroy a tank, he added. ``We could do it
tomorrow if it were important enough.''
On the ground, soldiers might use tiny Micro Air Vehicles, flying
mechanical scouts about the size of a bird. The MAVs could be sent over
a hill or around a building to relay images to a soldier's handheld
computer. The devices, under testing now, could be equipped to detect
chemical or biological weapons, according to the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency.
To boost its arsenal, Vickers said the Pentagon has ordered $18,000 kits
that can be used to convert ``dumb'' bombs to ``smart'' bombs,
outfitting them with global positioning satellite guidance systems.
The Air Force might also consider using its long-range B-2 Stealth
Instead of flying missions from their base in Missouri, Vickers said the
Air Force might build sophisticated hangars in the region - perhaps at
the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia, an Indian Ocean island. Repairs
to the bombers' radar-evading coating requires climate-controlled
shelter, Vickers said.
Some defense analysts say military gadgets won't be much use in combat
with warrior clans in Central Asia.
``We're like the best hardware store in town,'' said John Hillen, a
former defense analyst and Bush campaign adviser. ``We have all the
latest power tools. They were useful when the problems in the
neighborhood required that stuff. Now the neighborhood has an
infestation of fruit flies. And all we've got is a store full of power
On the Net:
National Security Agency: http://www.nsa.gov/
DARPA Micro Air Vehicles: http://www.darpa.mil/tto/programs/mav.html
General Atomics: http://www.gat.com/
Global Hawk: http://www2.acc.af.mil/library/factsheets/globalhawk.html
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