Daily Archives: July 5, 2009

Warfare will never be the same….

When I was working for NRL, I had an opportunity to work on a biomarine project that had to do with seeding the ocean with time released pills that would attract sharks and other man-killing creatures (sea snakes, squid, rays, etc.) with the intent of protecting naval vessels.  The object was to find a chemical mix that would be a powerful attractant that could be put into the water and it would work for hours or days.  The attractant would bring in killer sharks or other sea creatures that would reduce or eliminate the underwater threat.  We called the program BAIT – bio-attractant interdiction and targeting. 

 We quickly found that we had to encapsulate the chemicals in a manner similar to time-released medicines in order to make them last more than a few minutes.  I was surprised to find out that the science of micro-encapsulating chemicals was extremely well developed and that precise timing could be achieved with the right selected coating.   

 Even with long time delays of many days, we did not achieve the levels of protection we wanted.  It was decided to try to release these attracting chemicals after they had made actual contact with an enemy diver or min-sub.  Again I was surprised at how much had already been developed in terms of micro-encapsulating chemicals that would release their chemicals upon contact with specific materials – in this case the foam rubber of wet suits.  We got it to work but like a lot of bleeding edge weaponry, it was shelved as being too much trouble for too little gain.  We also to a lot of flack from the Navy Seals that regarded the underwater arena as their battlefield and they did not want it contaminated with other creatures.  The BAIT program was shelved. 

 What it impressed upon me was the whole science of micro-encapsulation and its possibilities.  Late on, when I went to work for DARPA, I recalled this knowledge to solve one of their most ambitious projects.   This is one of those topics that they don’t want me to talk about but technically and officially, the cat is out of the bag and the restrictions are off so here it is…. 


The art and science of camouflage is very well developed and getting better all the time.  We are not too far away from near invisibility using light bending materials or projections but those are for what they call Dynamic Camouflage (DC) used for moving objects like aircraft, ships, soldiers and tanks.  There is a much less well developed science for Static Camouflage (SC) used to hide fixed installations, field units, artillery, command posts, and even entrenched soldiers.  SC is actually not much more developed than it was in WWII – using colors and patterns on tarps and netting to hide under.  To be sure, the colors and patterns are getting better at duplicating the environment but they are still pretty crude. 

One advance that has made these cover-ups more effective is that they have been made to reflect or block radar and IR sensors so as to match the surrounding environment.  This is a big gain because it makes everything under the tarps and nets invisible to aircraft or recon autonomous vehicles.  

In fact, the latest covers used in SC are so good that it has proven to be a serious problem to find and disrupt troop movements and supply lines.  Trucks can simply cover up until the aircraft are out of the area. Or they can even travel with the tarps covering most of the vehicles.  With virtually no radar image, no visible contrast with the surroundings and no IR signature – the only give-away to their presence is the small dust or exhaust trail. 

 DARPA has wanted an effective anti-camouflage capability for years.  I gave it to them and called it METs – micro-encapsulated tags.  It is actually a fairly simple idea that uses the same technology that I used at NRL on the BAIT program.  The signature of the materials used to make most of the equipment that the enemy uses can be uniquely defined in terms of precise chemical formulas for the dyes, paints, fuels, metals and plastics used in their manufacture.  As long as we could find one distinctive chemical that separates their vehicle paint or their clothing dye from ours, we could make a tag for that unique item and all like it.

  The METs were simply small (much less than 1 mm) colored glass balls with an opaque gelatin coating outside.  The glass beads are very round and have a unique coating on them.  The outside coating is like the side of a one-way mirror that you can see thru.  The coating facing the interior of the glass bead is like the mirror side of a one-way mirror.  This is not some new technology.  This design has been used on road signs and reflective markers since the early 1960’s.  It is very effective because it reflects light like a corner reflector – back to the light source – no matter what angle the light comes from.  

The gel-coatings were made to react with those unique chemical compounds found in specific enemy equipment.  Until they make that contact, they are almost totally passive but once they make contact with their design target material, they will immediately get sticky to that material and glue themselves to it.  Green glass balls were on METs that reacted to the paint on their vehicles.  When the green glass METs come in contact with an enemy vehicle, the reaction simply consists of the coating on the glass liquefying and flowing off the glass – exposing the glass.  The coatings do not react to any other chemicals and cannot be washed off.  After it melts off of the top of the glass bead, the coating then hardens slightly, holding the glass bead in place for a short time and then it also dissolves and the glass bead will fall off – clean of any gel-coating at all.  That’s all it does.  

Blue glass beads are inside METs that react to a unique quality in their rubber vehicle wheels.  Red glass beads are inside METs that react to the soles of their boots. Yellow beads react with fuels and oils….and so on.  We have over 300 METs now using various shades of colors plus more than 900 others that reflect different colors for the same surfaces or targets.  This helps in long term surveillance. 

 These METs are so small that you would have to get very close to one – inches – to see it.  Since it looks so much like all the rest of the dirt and dust of the combat zone, it is nearly impossible to see, find or remove.  Millions of these METs are discharged from a high flying aircraft to cover a combat area.  As they fall, the winds spread them out over vast areas.  Sometimes, they are released in even larger quantities during storms so as to blend in with the dust or rain.  Since they are unaffected by rain, snow, heat, or cold, they can remain “active” for months after being deployed. 

 Once the METs have been put into an area, a drone recon plane with some special gear on board is dispatched to scan the area.  The special equipment is a rapidly scanning and modulated laser beam that scans out 45 degrees either side of the flight path using a very narrow beam that is linked to an array of sensors and a GPS.  When the laser beam strikes one of the exposed MET glass beads, the laser light is reflected back to the drone.  The reflected beam is verified as being what was sent out by matching the modulation of the light and then it is timed and recorded so as to determine the exact GPS coordinates of the reflected beam.  The light color is analyzed and verified with repeated scans so that it can be determined what color MET was found.  Once found, the drone will scour the area for other METs. 

  Since the beam is modulated and constantly moving and is not visible to the human eye, it is nearly impossible to detect.  Since the drones cannot be heard on the ground and they travel at night and have a very tiny radar cross-section, the drone itself cannot be detected.  This means that both the dropping off and the detecting of these METs are undetectable and almost totally passive.  No emissions to be jammed.  Nothing to shoot down or avoid.  No way to avoid being detected. 

 The temporal aspects of using METs give them even more value.  Dispersing a layer of METs on day one, allows you to see if anything moves in that area for days after.  Putting down a section layer using slightly different color METs, over time can give a record of when travel occurred and by what volume.  Laying down a coating over a large area and then scanning each day for signature reflections can monitor any traffic in the area.  This works great for locating tracks and trails of enemy traffic during times nighttime or when we are not there but it has its greatest benefit to SCs.  

Static Camouflage (SC) used to hide fixed installations is often very good but

METs will penetrate that camouflage easily.  In fact, because the METs can be made to react to the actual materials used to create the camouflage, these locations now light up like Christmas trees to the scanning drones.  SC is no longer a problem for DARPA or our military.  METs can see into the past by showing us where they have been.  It can make the best camouflage in the world obsolete while being unstoppable to deployed, undetectable by the enemy when in place and cannot be blocked, jammed or fooled. 

  Even telling everyone this now serves no advantage to the enemy since they cannot avoid MET detection.  Our ability to adapt to new materials being used and rapidly produce unlimited quantities of METs will keep us ahead of any attempt to alter or disguise their equipment and therefore we will always be able to find them, no matter where or when they hide.  

 The last I heard, a contract had been released that would create smart bombs and cruise missiles that will use METs as a final fire control aim point.  They will be able to target by color of MET and concentration levels so as to be able to pick and choose targets on a cluttered and massive battlefield or combat zone.  This opens the application to being applied to Dynamic Camouflage (DC) targets as well as SC’s.

 You will see in my other report on the new MDR192 (Military Digital Rifle) that its aiming “system” is also adaptable to using METs.   The MDR192 is a semi-autonomous sniper system that can be operated entirely by remote-control.

 I am not working on it but I have heard that DARPA is also working on a MET that works on the RF frequencies so that air-to-air missiles can use previously deployed METs that paint enemy aircraft.   These new RF METs will essentially be nano-size corner reflectors similar to those used in survival situations.  It was discovered that nearly perfect reflectors could be made with bubble technology on a nano-diameter scale while creating a RCS (radar cross section) that appears to be as much as 400 times larger than the actual target.  This almost totally defeats the use of stealth technology, non-metallic construction (carbon fiber) or very small very fast missiles.

 Earlier studies have shown that the size of the MET can be so small that it can be deployed as an aerosol that hangs in the air or is absorbed by clouds.  These METs are on the order of 1/100th or less than one millimeter in diameter and were renamed as Nano-Encapsulated Tags or NETs.   NETs are so small that they hang in the air like smoke and can form clouds of aerosol NETs.

 NETs will allow autonomous defensive weapons called CIWS (close in weapons systems) like the Mk 15 Phalanx to have an additional mechanism to ID an intruder that has simply flown through a cloud of nano-sized NETs.  Using NETs in combination with the new millimeter radar and the forward looking infrared radar (FLIR) and the visual high resolution multi-spectral data acquisition systems will make the ship’s defenses nearly impenetrable.  Even the best stealth anti-ship missiles traveling at MACH 5 or higher will be unable to reach their targets.


Finally, DARPA has adapted the NET technology to work above and below the ocean’s surface.  Floating METs and NETs activated by passing ships create trails so visible that they can be tracked by satellite.  Using the same NET technology as in the CIWS aerosols and cloud seeding, the Navy can lay down a barrier of liquid tags released at multiple levels from air-dropped bouys.  These tags respond to the rapid and large scale changes in pressure and movement when something as large and as fast as a submarine moves through the tagged water.  Using visual blue-green lasers scanning from multiple levels of a cable dropped from a bouy, the activated tags can be spotted and tracked using RF transmitted signals from the above-water bouy.  This allows precise location and targeting without the target sub even being aware he has been discovered. 

With the advent of METs or NETs on land, in the air and at sea, the idea of hiding or making a surprise attack is a thing of the past.  Warfare will never be the same again.

We now have a gun you would not believe….

I was recently a part of a beta test group for the MDR192 – Military Digital Rifle.  This new weapon is a cross between a video game and a cannon.  In its prototype form, it begins as a modified Barrett M82, 50 cal. sniper rifle in a bullpup configuration.  This SASR (Special Applications Scoped Rifle) uses an improved version of the moving recoil barrel and muzzle mounted recoil deflector to reduce recoil while improving the ability to reacquire the sight picture.


A further modification consists of a small box attached to the monopod socket of the rear shoulder rest and another small box attached to the underside of the fore stock where the detachable bipod would normally be attached.  Inside these two boxes is an intricate mix of servos, gyros and electronics.  There is a quick-mount connection between these boxes and two motorized and articulated tripods that fully support the rifle at any predetermined height and angle.  These boxes are extensions of the Barrett BORS ballistic computer that integrate optical ranging with digital and computer interpolated capabilities. 


The sight has been replaced with very sophisticated video camera with superior optics.   The sight’s camera feed and the two control boxes are then connected to another small box that sits beside the rifle with a radio digital transceiver that uses frequency hopping to avoid jamming and detection.


The system is not done yet.  There are at least two additional video camera sights (VCS) that are placed at some distance from the rifle on their own motorized and articulated tripods.  Up to 6 scopes can be used with this system and they can be placed to completely surround the target area at distances up to 4,000 yards.  This gives a target circle up to 8,000 yards in diameter or about 3.4 miles.  The rifle mounted sight and the multiple VCS’s all have night vision capabilities and can switch to infrared imaging.


The MDR192 shoots a modified M82 50 cal round that uses depleted uranium for weight and an oversized action and barrel to withstand the more powerful gunpowder used to push the 12.7x99mm bullet up to 3,977 fps out the 62 inch barrel.  The rated effective range is 8,290 feet with a maximum range of 29,750 feet; however, this cartridge is lethal out to 24,000 feet.


The perimeter video camera sights (VCS) and the one on the MDR192 are all fed into a laptop computer that communicates with all of them by a wireless network.  The shooter can be located as far away as 500 feet from the rifle.  The computer is on his backpack.  He wears a pair of video goggles that gives him a 3-D image of the target area and using the depth of filed, interpolation and imagery of the multiple VCS’s, he can move his point of view to any position in the target zone that can be seen by or interpolated by the VCS’s and computer.  This includes the real time position of moving human targets.


Using an arm mounted control panel, which includes a button joystick, he can move a tiny red dot around on the screen of his goggles.  This red dot represents the impact point of the MDR192’s bullet.  The computer will fade the red dot to a yellow one if the bullet must penetrate something before hitting the designated target and it fades to blue when it is unlikely that the bullet can penetrate to the target.


The 20 round clip is loaded with Raufoss Mk 211 mod 5 round which is called a multipurpose projectile having the depleted uranium core for armor-piercing, an explosive and incendiary component giving it the HEIAP qualification but these modified rounds also have an adaptive trajectory using one or more of 5 small jets on the boat-tail of the bullet.  These tiny jets do not propel the bullet but rather steer it by injecting air pressure into the slipstream of laminar airflow around the moving bullet.  The gain is the ability to steer the bullet into as much as a 22-degree curve in 2 dimensions.  Given the high explosive aspects of the bullet, hitting within 6 feet of a human would be lethal.


The shooter’s target dot placement controls a laser pointer on each of the VCS’s and the rifle in order to place the hit point on anything that can be hit or killed.  The actual laser dot that the shooter sees in his goggles is not actually projected from the VCS’s but rather is created artificially inside the digital camera as if the shooter was placing it.  This gives the advantage of placing a designated hit spot onto a target that is not actually visible but within the capabilities of the rifle to hit using its penetration, explosive or bullet bending capabilities.


There is, however, a laser and ultrasonic acoustic emission from each of the VCS’s that allow for the precise determination of the air movements in the target zone.  This includes measures of air density, humidity, movement, elevation, etc.  This data is automatically fed into the computer to correct the rifle aim point to compensate for these parameters.


Once the VCS’s are set up and the rifle is mounted on its computerized tripods, the shooter can move away from the rifle’s location and activate the wireless connection to all the scopes and tripods.  The shooter has the ability to move the tripods up and down and left and right.  The rifle’s tripods can actually relocate the rifle by walking the weapon across the ground to reposition it, recover from recoil or to hide it.


The computer is preprogrammed with the full capabilities of the rifle and its ammo so that it will give an accurate and very precise aiming of the weapon based on the dot target and the guns capabilities.  This means that it has been programmed with the exact bullet trajectory so that it can accurately aim and him targets at the extreme range of the bullets – out to 24,000 feet (4.5 miles).  The computer uses this data plus the corrections for air movements and the capabilities of the weapon with respect to kill radius, bullet bending and penetration to accurately aim the rifle to hit the point that the shooter has designated.


The MDR192 passed its beta testing.  My part in the testing was to work on just the trajectory aspects of the computer programming since I had a hand in the original M82 testing to create the adjustable trajectory optical sight that is used on that weapon.  Since I was working with the weapon’s accuracy, I was privy to all of the tests and results.  The official word has not come back yet but from what I observed, it passed its tests with flying colors.  At just over $15,000 each with three VCS’s, this will be a weapon that will be deployed to Afghanistan within the next year.


Modifications that are already being alpha tested include digital timed projectiles similar to the XM25 “smart bullets”.  This will allow for increased reach into protected locations.  They are also developing an add-on to the VCS’s that will sense RF emissions and portray them on the shooters 3-D goggles as shades of colors.  This will allow the pinpointing of cell phones, radios, transmitters, etc.  A third modification is the use of advanced shotgun microphones to pinpoint acoustic emissions.  This will be integrated into existing inputs to refine and improve target locations.


As the inventor of the microencapsulated tags (METs), I was asked to create an interface with the MDR192 and METs.  Once this is done, camouflage of any kind will be completely obsolete and it opens the door for all kinds of possibilities.  For instance, a completely automatic sniper rifle that can autonomously fire at targets that have been precisely verified as enemy combatants.  It can prioritize targets by their threat level.  METs also allow the use of Exacto rounds (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance) currently being developed by Teledyne.  Currently laser guided bullets are the focus of the guided bullet program but using MET’s, the bullet could be guided by the target – no matter how the target moves.  My computer modeling is almost done and I will be turning over my finding to DARPA by the end of Sept.  I suspect they will move on it quickly as they have earmarked $10 million to develop a guided bullet.