Marines use high tech website in the War on Terror.
May 30, 2002 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Marines use high tech website in the War on Terror. Very interesting idea. Use the internet instead of the C4 systems that have already been bought...cause it works better. I believe it. With Wired (via Fark) having an article on "The Marines' arsenal of the future is starting to look a whole lot like the shelves at Toys "R" Us.", and another on powered exoskeletons, and yet another that mentions invisibility cloaks, how long before "The War of the Future" is here? What's it going to look like? I can envision a lot more people interested in the armed forces if they get to play with cool toys like this.
posted by taumeson (14 comments total)
This has probably been rehashed a lot recently, but I find it always an invigorating topic. Imagine a group of SEALS landing at a beachhead in the North Sea, running to Moscow, using invisibility cloaks and powered armor, getting into a scrap and using their exoskeletons and "exo-bayonets"?? in a hand to hand fight. Leaping over 12' high walls. Using remote controlled drones. Working with heads up displays and augmented reality to provide information on where they are and where they're going. Real-time translation to talk to their inside-man. Intense.

Forget full scale conflagrations. I see a BIG rise in EMP weapons to knock out armor and drones.
posted by taumeson at 8:34 AM on May 30, 2002

I just like the idea of General's conferring in chatrooms and using smileys and other emoticons and typing things like "Kaboom in Kabul! Kewl!"
posted by srboisvert at 11:32 AM on May 30, 2002

I dunno, did you see "Return of the Jedi"? Seems to me that a bunch of furry guys with rocks and sticks can beat the crap out of guys with ray guns and exoskeletons pretty easy.
posted by briank at 11:49 AM on May 30, 2002

What's it going to look like? It's not going to look like anything if they use invisibility cloaks.

(Thank you, I'm here all week.)
posted by webmutant at 12:29 PM on May 30, 2002

Given the fact that the mythical high tech wonderland that the The Pentagon and the Defense Depatment lives in has proved to be a failure time and again, I'm not convinced.

Most of those guys have read too many Tom Clancy novels.

Can you say "Vietnam"?

Can you say "Bin Laden and al Qaeda still on the loose"?

Don't put too much trust in cutting edge technology (which works half the time if you're lucky), if you see my point. If the politicians calling the shots are idiots, it doesn't matter anyway.

The Russians and Chinese seem to be a lot smarter about this: let someone else spend hundreds of billions on research and development, then steal it and/or copy it.

Today's cutting edge technology is tomorrow's obsolete garbage.
posted by mark13 at 12:32 PM on May 30, 2002

While I agree with mark13 on what the probable impact of new technology actually will be, I like to be an optimist when it comes to warfare. The quicker we get to a point where the pressure to stay on top of the game gets us out into space, the better.

Hopefully the push into space will include men instead of just computers. It looks less and less likely, however.
posted by taumeson at 12:54 PM on May 30, 2002

taumeson, you're overinterpreting to say use the internet instead of C4 -- this looks like an intranet application running on top of what they already have.

mark13 is a wet blanket. What, as obsolete as those computers in the museum may be today, you don't think they were useful in their time? Preposterous.

And of course some new stuff will prove unworkable. But that's why we're, um, testing it now. In any case the problems surrounding military procurement are non-trivial, and generally involve starting a project around 10 years before you can expect to see it on the battlefield. And the more stuff you start working on 10 years early, even assuming 90% of it washes out, the more working stuff you'll have in 10 years. And technological advances have helped us win wars, and with one notable exception, avoid attacks on our home soil for the last 61 years -- which suggests that mark13 is using an expansive definition of "failure".

A number of the things that have been tried in exercises like the periodic Urban Warrior have flunked out. Others, though, have gradually been incorporated into the force. Already soldiers in Afghanistan are using little helmet-mounted cameras, just like the Space Marines in Aliens, or cameras mounted on gunsights that let them "see" around corners.. No, they don't always work perfectly, yes, they provide more information than can necessarily be processed at any given moment, but they do provide a unique capability that can help with resource management.

The critical question driving this is that the front-line soldier is the most valuable person in the force. That soldier, in today's transforming force, can bring in the firepower of an entire air wing. He's much more than just a guy with a gun. What makes that possible are things that we today in 2002 take entirely for granted -- handheld GPS units relaying precise location, little computer-controlled winglet gadgets that attach to gravity bombs and glide them to their targets, infrared night vision devices that can see simple things like IR-reflective tape that allow a soldier on the ground to do IFF (identification friend or foe), and so forth. Indeed the US technological advantage is such that the DoD prefers to do battle in the dark -- unlike almost every other military on earth. That's not a failure in my book.
posted by dhartung at 1:51 PM on May 30, 2002

Mark13, just out of curiosity, could you give an example of a fielded weapons system that fails 50% of the time? Could you give an explanation of your reference to Vietnam? (What failure of technology -- other than misuse -- caused the US to lose that war?)
posted by joaquim at 1:53 PM on May 30, 2002

The law of unintended consequences (by Edward Tenner) is going to wreak havoc with the Department of Defense. Like the nuclear bomb, we are investing in superweapons and technology which will probably lead to our own destruction.

I would admit though, that technology can help win wars, or help prevent them, but any technology is limited by the people who use it. By the time we come up with the technology that can completely prevent someone from carrying a suitcase sized nuke into a major urban area, there will be a new, easier way to kill millions of people. Which brings me to my next point: the more sterilized the killing environment is, the easier it is to kill. The end result will be even more death and destruction. It's a lot easier to kill someone if they aren't right in front of you. Sure, in the short run, less American soldiers may die, but can't you imagine the havoc a generation of American children desensitized to violence could wreak on people all over the globe, given the right technology? Look at how much damage we did from thirty thousand feet with two bombs, in World War II? You can avoid the problem of the morality of killing if it is nigh impossible to distinguish the difference between simulation and reality.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:06 PM on May 30, 2002

The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea.
They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots. Thank you.

posted by signal at 2:10 PM on May 30, 2002


The Pentagon doesn't exactly publish this sort of information for current weapons systems. However, many examples in the recent past are telling:

The Polaris missle, for which the warheads would fail to detonate 100% of the time years after deployment.

The S-3 aircraft, which most of the time was unable to properly communicate with its sonobuoys, a problem that went unnoticed for years, and unfixed for a while as well.

The AIM-7, which when first deployed, could barely hit anything. In fact, no BVR weapon worked to pilot satisfaction until the Gulf War.

And I think the point of the Vietnam comparison is that the DoD seems to think that technology can cure all that ails them, while that is simply not the case. Technology can cure many things, but makes many others worse.
posted by Ptrin at 2:46 PM on May 30, 2002

Cool--I know someone who is working on one of the vehicles in the Wired article. Good science, though a bit disorganized.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:57 PM on May 30, 2002

The military has been working on networked systems for a while. (The Force21 digital battlefield program is at least 10 years old.) It's more intranet than Internet, and hasn't really advanced beyond a certain point because everything has to be designed to work with old equipment and there are massive legacy systems integration problems. Equipment that's being manufactured now (i.e. new BRadley fighters and Apache Longbows) has this stuff embedded.

Everything else gets mounted with minimal hardware/software under the "Applique" program - which is exactly what it sounds like - a bunch of disparate systems hacked together. special ops people get the cool stuff; everyone else gets Vietnam era crap with GPS-enabled laptops "bolted" on.
posted by lizs at 7:11 PM on May 30, 2002


I talked to engineers at Lockheed and they were baffled by your claims about the Viking and Polaris. I haven't heard from Raytheon about the Sparrow yet. Do you have any references I can show to LM and RSC? Thanks.

The DoD does not believe that technology can solve everything. They are convinced, however, that correctly applied technology can reduce the risk to US forces and enhance those forces' capabilities to carry out their mission. Part of my business is selling technology to DoD, so I have first-hand knowledge of their skepticism.
posted by joaquim at 11:14 AM on May 31, 2002

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