The stuff for military novels (2)

The flying assassin

In line with what some readers suggested, and also in line with Sharon Weiberger’s post over at Danger Room, the new secret technique that the Americans have brought to bear in counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan (possibly) involves unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with a networked “tagging, tracking and locating” system.

The new system now being deployed was first used on aircraft in Afghanistan, then was installed on Predators in Iraq starting about a year ago. Officials said introduction of the devices coincided with the 2007 U.S. troop buildup in Iraq, and was an important, but hitherto unknown, factor in the subsequent drop in violence in that country.

The technology allows suspects to be identified quickly. “All I have to do is point the sensor at him,” said a military officer familiar with the system, “and a missile can be off the rail in seconds.”

The devices are roughly the size of an automobile battery, but are heavy enough that outfitted Predators in some cases carry only one Hellfire missile instead of two. At times, the systems also have been in short supply, requiring that crews move the devices from one Predator to another as they land and take off.

The unique capabilities have prompted competition among U.S. forces for access to specially equipped Predators, military officials said. The fleet being assembled for use in Pakistan has been assigned to the CIA and U.S. Special Operations Command, meaning fewer of the aircraft are available for conventional forces. [LAT, linkthanks Vivek Hirpara]

5 thoughts on “The stuff for military novels (2)”

  1. Oh.. IIRC, Steve Coll described this in “Ghost Wars” in quite some detail. The system was tried in Afghanistan long ago, and wasn’t considered good enough back then. It was also tested in Eastern Europe, if I am not mistaken.

    The Hollywood-esque bit was that the planes could be controlled with a joystick in Langley (or anywhere). The co-ordinates could be relayed to, say, a warship in Arabian Sea (their UAVs couldn’t carry much weight back then, I think) and then a missile could be launched. The whole thing from identification and confirmation to firing of missile took only a couple of minutes. Quite networked and precise, provided that you identified the target correctly.

    I don’t have the book at hand right now, but I think I’ve got the broad details right.

  2. Fascinating. Thanks for the update – was puzzling over it. To plagiarize a little – I used to think, Now I read 🙂

  3. As the danger room article indicates, were talking of some kind of system which can verify an individual’s unique biometric signature. A system analogous to a fingerprint scanner, but only from a Reaper and which verifies some other inherent unalterable unique characteristic of a person.

    If this system is indeed working wonders then it would imply (maybe confirm) that deaths of women and children have been accepted as an acceptable damage.

    Another point; the fact that the system is being patched up on the reaper, reducing its original payload, may indicate that the system was initially conceptualized to be fitted on a more powerful aircraft, long before the reaper became so critical to COIN operations. So the idea may have originated long before GWOT started.

    Very Bond like. The inner geek in me smiles.

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