Weapons that create and shape perceptions

Modern war is fought over strategic influence more than territory. Win the first and the second is gained easily. In this struggle, we are battling over perceptions and in the hyper-communications environment today, facts do not matter. We risk tactical and strategic success as we rely on a lawyerly conduct in war resting on finely tuned arguments of why and why not. Human nature in a crisis doesn’t care about the finer points that exist further up Maslow’s pyramid, human nature falls back on the quick response of emotions and are vulnerable to rumor and simple distortions, especially those reinforced over time.

Sharon Weinberger at Danger Room noted the government’s concern over the potential for the Active Denial System in the war of ideas.

Not only did Pentagon officials refuse to send the controversial weapon to Iraq, they blocked a request that came as late as December 2006. The big concern is clearly the public fallout from deploying a microwave weapon.

Senior officers in Iraq have continued to make the case. One December 2006 request noted that as U.S. forces are drawn down, the non-lethal weapon “will provide excellent means for economy of force.”

The main reason the tool has been missing in action is public perception. With memories of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal still fresh, the Pentagon is reluctant to give troops a space-age device that could be misconstrued as a torture machine.

“We want to just make sure that all the conditions are right, so when it is able to be deployed the system performs as predicted – that there isn’t any negative fallout,” said Col. Kirk Hymes, head of the Defense Department’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

As revolutionary as it is, the Active Denial System is not a sea-change in warfare. It’s simply a hi-tech water cannon. There is, however, a sea-change in warfare coming that is not being accompanied with an equivalent discussion over the impact on perception, even though potential impact and repercussions are several orders of magnitude greater than the ADS.

It’s interesting because my work on this sea-change does use much of the same branding principles found in a recent RAND report. No real details now because I don’t want take away from a report-in-progress I presented as a working draft at a workshop a few weeks ago…

Better tech isn’t always the answer

See Noah’s post earlier this month on NavSec Winter’s comments at the DARPATech:

…he just informed the 3,000 geeks gathered at the DARPATech conference in Anaheim that all their gee-whiz gadgetry may not help at all in the war on terror. 

There’s a tendency to view Islamists as backwards barbarians, Winter said.  This image is “misleading and very dangerous.”  The terrorist enemy is more likely to be a “engineer in a lab” than an “evildoer in a cave.”

Growth in commercial computing power has “eroded” America’s Cold War “technical edge,” Winter said.  The same – or even better – gear gets out to kids worldwide, before soldiers ever see it.  “The playing field has thus been leveled.”  Just look at how Iraqi insurgents have been able to the Internet to recruit, train, and spread propaganda. And check out the network-like “command and control” structures that these guys are using, compared to our old military hierarchies. 

There is more here than command and control, it goes to understanding the value and purpose of technologies. Without an R&D budget that exceeds the GNP’s of many countries as well as the entire defense budgets of many of our allies, we look for the magic bullet in technology, an American tradition.

Continue reading “Better tech isn’t always the answer

Two surveys on robots and war

The first survey is mine, and to those who filled out my short — less than 60s — survey on robots in a COIN/SASO environment, thank you. This survey is intentionally brief and focused on a few points. It is not meant to be comprehensive, which have noted. The survey is still open, so please take it if you haven’t already. The results will be compiled this weekend for a presentation next week. I will post the results here in the next 10 days.

The second survey is what happens when you have a sponsor. Money makes for a bigger survey with more depth. As part of a research project under a grant from the Army Research Office, Dr. Ronald Arkin of the Georgia Tech Mobile Robot lab is conducted a comprehensive (15-25 minutes) survey on the Use of Robots Capable of Lethal Force in Warfare. Take his survey and pass along the survey link to others to help fill out his demographics. I’m very interested to see what he comes up with.

Agent-Based Modeling of Irregular Warfare (ABMIW)

At Danger Room, Sharon Weinberger posted this morning about sims in predicting cause and effect, notably in insurgencies.

Can modeling tools help predict (or forecast) the future? Well, that’s not quite what the Pentagon wants to do, but it’s similar. The goal of “Agent-Based Modeling of Irregular Warfare (ABMIW)” is to use computer models to forecast the consequences of specific actions on, for example, insurgency:

If you’re interested in previous versions of an “Artificial-Life Laboratory for Exploring Self-Organized Emergent Behavior in Land Combat” that doesn’t include sociological variables, you might enjoy EINSTein, the Enhanced ISAAC Neural Simulation Tooklit (ISAAC standing for “Irreducible Semi-Autonomous Adaptive Combat”), available here. (Note: this is a “very” old program.)  I’m sure some of you might enjoy playing with this software, if you haven’t already. It’s fascinating to watch the little guys swarm. 

Multiagent-Based Models (MBMs) incorporate complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory to simulate and understand. EINSTein looks at two living forces colliding, Blue v Red. Unlike EINSTein, newer versions of MBMs incorporating many sociological dimensions (tribe, sect, gang, etc) aren’t freely available for obvious reasons.

Useful for programming robots, no?

Perception management by the insurgency

This is a video of an EOD robot taking one for the team filmed and posted by an Iraqi Sunni insurgents & supporters. More interesting is the back and forth comments on YouTube about its place in the larger media campaign.

silence34342000 (video poster): can you imagine how many resistance videos are released daily each showing at least 4 marines dying(not considering flying rockets on american bases and operations which didnt get videod)? do you know how many Jihadi groups are in Iraq?
you dont know the size of resistance and its abilities.
plz ark get me one video showing the Mujahidin killing innocent ppl

arkgunslinger: Here’s a few
v=PpOHYdMQOkE “There has been a surge in sectarian violence in Iraq”
v=rdJTOIi0vaQ “Ever more Iraqi civilians murdered”
v=3hnkGxT3gAg “Chlorine truck bombs in Iraq”
v=MPAoQ8jQJPs “Many Killed in Iraq Car Bombing”
v=pFmdaWWKGMI “Typical Car bombing aftermath”

silence34342000: i watched them all and i have one comment
show me ONE Mujahid just one in any of these videos.
see Jihad videos theyre marked by a Jihadi group sign or accompained by comment of a Jihadi leader or Mujahidin themselves appearing in the video.
in the videos you brought it isnt clear who did those bombings and all of them just showing smoke and burnt things without a proof that this was done by Mujahidin

silence34342000: see how Jihad media is clear and simple it shows everything starting from planning an operation and ending with excuting it your media brings the burnt things and tells you the evil Mujahidin did it without any proof and without one Mujahid appearing in the video

The poster, an insurgent supporter at the very least, recognizes the need for IO and the value of a clear and simple media product. Taunting the (presumably) American to “Show me one mujahid…in any of these videos” killing innocent people, he shifts responsibility of demonstrating the contradiction of the insurgents message and tactics to the American.

By the way, what’s State doing to counter these messages? Under the “leadership” of Karen Hughes, State has “four of five” bloggers that search through cyberspace and attempt to correct information with official US position statements. Underwhelming to say the least.

Thinking robots

My mind is on robots right now (it is actually directly on target of the core mission of this blog… more to be revealed later)… follow me there and watch this clip. The beginning is ok, but my favorite is the last third when they start the “Pacific Islander” dancing.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Robots

Can I own a South Korean robot or am I it’s guardian? From BBCNews:

An ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea.

The Robot Ethics Charter will cover standards for users and manufacturers and will be released later in 2007.

It is being put together by a five member team of experts that includes futurists and a science fiction writer.

The South Korean government has identified robotics as a key economic driver and is pumping millions of dollars into research.

If you watch technology, you should know that SK is adept at implementing new technology, including real high speed internet connectivity, and robots are part of the natural progression.

A recent government report forecast that robots would routinely carry out surgery by 2018.

The Ministry of Information and Communication has also predicted that every South Korean household will have a robot by between 2015 and 2020.

Will PETR be the new PETA?

(Thanks Gyre.org)

Unmanned Warfare news blast

The category “Unmanned Warfare” on this site is intended to highlight and comment on unmanned & remote warfare. In this context, I will use unmanned vehicles to refer to the collective aerial, ground, and naval vehicles (and vessels). This is better than writing all the acronyms. These may be not, semi-, or full-autonomous. They may be controlled on the battlefield or on the homeland by a civilian or a soldier.

UAV- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (news here)

UGV- Unmanned Ground Vehicle (info here)

UUV- Unmanned Underwater Vehicle

USV- Unmanned Surface Vehicle

News on both UUV/USV available here

Reports on:

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2005-2030 from Office of SecDef Aug 2005

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Uninhabited Combat Aerial Vehicles, Defense Science Board, February 2004


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The pace of unmanned vehicles, increasing sensors and even increasing autonomy will have a visible impact in the near future on the conduct of war. Just as private military companies affect foreign policy, military effectiveness, and national images through intended and unintended means, unmanned or remotely manned vehicles will alter policy. Perhaps PMC use is a foreshadowing of the mass deployment of unmanned vehicles. I suggest that decision-making modeling for the AI of semi- and full-autonomous unmanned vehicles be based on private security contractor decision-making. Eliminating the outliers of national fanaticism and opportunist mercenary, in the middle we have a skilled operator professionally and wholly committed to the job. However, this operator (as the older veteran, likely with a family) will avoid suicide missions, will have different cost-benefit analysis to live another day.

In the deployment of unmanned vehicles, what are we to expect? There are some hints today, including failures to communicate (including between robot and personnel… hopefully not too reminiscent of RoboCop). What about the Laws of War when an unmanned vehicle, “driven” by a civilian on the battlefield, in the US, or even sitting in an allied country kills a US soldier, a civilian, IGO/NGO personnel, or an allied soldier?

With that, here is a blast of unmanned vehicle news, mostly from the UAV blog, but not all:

  • Boeing to Perform Front-Line UAV Support for USMC, Navy
    Boeing contractor support personnel… have been involved in front-line support for their Scaneagle UAVs for some time now, and those UAVs have proven useful in campaigns like Fallujah and al-Anbar, operating from forward-deployed land locations and even from onboard high-speed ships.
  • UAVs get smaller: the Micro Air Vehicle nears readiness
    As each new conflict redefines war based on the technologies coming of age at that time, the Iraq campaign has seen the coming of age of the UAV in its many wonderous forms. It is the most-requested capability among combatant commanders and in the last 18 months, UAV numbers in Iraq have jumped from fewer than 100 to more than 400 and there are now nearly 600 UAVs in the Afghanistan and Iraq theatres. Even more interesting is the dizzying array of unmanned aircraft used in traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAV roles.
  • Israeli UAV Fires Upon Own Troops
    The IAF revealed on Tuesday that it had prevented a severe disaster on the previous day when it had halted the fire that a UAV was shooting at Israeli troops.
  • Unexpected Consequences of UAVs
    ‘While the U.S. Army has come to use its growing number of UAVs with great success, there have been negatives as well. For one thing, there are so many UAVs in the air, that the U.S. Air Force, which manages use of air space for all three services, has sometimes declared that even the smallest UAVs have to file flight plans. This usually means planning your UAV use 24 hours in advance. Ground combat commanders do not always have the luxury of 24 hours notice, and often find themselves calling for army helicopters or air force jets, already in the air, to please stop by and give them some top-down views of a ground battle in progress. These restrictions tend to be in effect only in busy areas like metropolitan Baghdad.’
  • UAV Planes’ tiny brains could save lives in war
    The brains of the Mosquito, as with all unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), is a tiny electronic circuit board called an autopilot that controls the flight and the camera. The Mosquito’s autopilot comes from Winnipeg-based MicroPilot Inc., a leader in a suddenly hot market.
  • Drone aircraft may prowl U.S. skies
    A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday (March 2006) heard testimony from police agencies that envision using UAVs for everything from border security to domestic surveillance high above American cities. Private companies also hope to use UAVs for tasks such as aerial photography and pipeline monitoring.

More to come later.

Related to unmanned vehicles is unmanned warfare, the title of this category. Below are is remote sensing link:

  • Mini-Sensors for "Military Omniscience"
    Spotting insurgents, sorting out friend from foe – it’s beyond tough in today’s guerilla war zones. So tough, that no single monitor can be counted on to handle the job. The Pentagon’s answer: build a set of palm-sized, networked sensors that can be scattered around, and work together to “detect, classify, localize, and track dismounted combatants under foliage and in urban environments.” It’s part of a larger Defense Department effort to establish “military omniscience” and “ubiquitous monitoring.”

Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems

News brief from DigitalJournal.com on "The Remote Controlled Military and the Future of Warfare":

In a secluded desert in California, two sleek 27-foot-long planes zip across the sky, dipping and swerving like air-show hotshots. But the flying turns vicious when a pop-up target appears and the Boeing aircraft quickly communicate with each other to determine which has the better chance of destroying it. One plane drops a 250-pound GPS-guided bomb from 35,000 feet, hitting the bull’s-eye. Before the planes can react, an anti-aircraft missile zooms towards them, and they each safely roll out of the missile’s path.

Transitioning from precision-guided munitions to the next generation of weapons will have a huge impact on war, peace, and everything in-between. The flashy world of "smart bombs", with their fantastic public relations / media entertainment value (Xbox masquerading as CNN), is really a world of "obedient weapons". These are devices, remotely controlled either by a pilot, RWO, or even some other grounded operator. Firing a Hellfire into a vehicle or a building from a Predator is a great extension of the long arm of the law (perhaps I shouldn’t use "law" since it implies police… are we in a war or a police action? nevermind…).

Real smart weapons are what is coming in the area of "unattended,
unmanned, and remote war technologies". These semi or fully autonomous
devices include remote sensing, discriminating, and detonating or
alerting devices are force multipliers. They may also be boon or bane.
The notion of plausible deniability went out the window a while ago, or
did it?

Larry Pintak comments that our media coverage looks at us through a lens of what we do (action, not being). Comparatively, our media looks at "them" as what they are
(being, not action). If our direct actions are excusable because it is
just something we did, which "in reality does not reflect who we are",
how might this be extended when actions are indirect? When semi or
fully autonomous technologies execute war for us. Is it them something
we did?

Consider the two examples Robert Entman dissect in Projections of Power. Analyzing the media, Entman finds attribution to "technical glitches" as causal factors in the shooting down of the Iran Air Boeing by the USS Vincennes. The personification of the incident, specifically naming Captain Rogers, and visually implying a dizzying area of technology the US operators were supposed to work with, all pushed readers toward the conclusion it was something that just happened and wasn’t who we are. The counter-example of the KAL 007 shoot-down (in fact, why can I recite the KAL flight number and not the Iran Air flight number?) was de-personalized and framed explicitly that the Soviets "should have known" it was a civilian airliner. The USS Vincenees was never put in the position, by the US media, of "should have known". The whole story of the KAL shoot down was the "saturated with morally judgmental words and images". The Iran Air tragedy was not. What we do, who they are.

How will this translate into remote warfare and the use of the Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle and other fun toys (also see Autonomous Operations (AO) for Future Naval Capabilities).
The realm of unmanned, unattended, autonomous, and remote monitoring
and warfare will likely fall into the same legal gray area of private
military companies, privateers, piracy with indirect accountability,
fall-back claims on technology malfunctions etc. I also see an impact on Public Diplomacy as what we do is what we are to other people.

Update: Blackwater Air goes lighter than Air

Artist rendering of the Blackwater BlimpBlackwater USA is a prominent, and possibly cutting edge, private military contractor. The only private firm with air resources (side note, they’ve taken casualties… one was shot down last April with fatalities) will expand into remotely piloted craft:

Blackwater Airship’s initial focus will be the development and deployment of small remotely piloted airship vehicles (RPAVs) that can operate from 5,000 – 15,000 feet, move and hover, and stay aloft for up to four days. The airships will be equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and detection equipment that can detect, record, and communicate in real time to friendly forces the movement and activities of terrorists.

Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater USA said, "This project is in keeping with Blackwater’s support of peace and security throughout the world."

Follow-on phases of the project will include larger airships that will carry tons of payload in support of remote humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Blackwater, who is already involved in stability operations throughout the world, continues to innovate in support of peace and security, and freedom and democracy everywhere.

Personnel provider expanding into vehicles, blimps:

The Moyock -based company has established a subsidiary, Blackwater
Airships, to market a blimp that can hover over dangerous areas and detect trouble ahead. Together with an armored vehicle called the “Grizzly,” the company is expanding beyond its usual stock and trade of personnel and tactical gear.

The belief that private enterprise can provide services quicker and at lower cost than public enterprises is rooted in the American corporate experience. In the distant past, private armories and outfitters developed independent armies for hire by the Crown because of insufficient funds to maintain a standing army or navy (most recently in the American experience consider Jefferson gutting the US Navy when he came into office forcing a greater reliance on American privateers during the War of 1812). In the modern economy, it may be that on its face private providers can deliver at lower cost, but this may not be a true net cost savings. when the entire package is factored in.

Consider the value of military procurement when the two options are private firms or public agencies and the private pitch is high efficiency at a lower face value than public agencies. Not included in this first level of analysis is the loyalty and trust of the public agency, for example the US Marine Corps and soldiers on kitchen duty. Additionally, dollar for dollar comparisons oversimplify long-term costs of private markets which fail to be perfectly competitive with hidden and substantial transactional costs. Hidden costs of the private-public partnership include higher finance costs (the government can always can borrow money at lower rates), vendor incentives to skimp on quality or adhere to the letter of the contract not the spirit, future public costs to return outsourced skills in-house, and transactional costs of writing, enforcing, and monitoring contracts. Most important is a lack of committed loyalty to the project or consequences of under-performing. Further, the private business may seek contractually-allowed alternatives when uncertainty is likely in any war situation when other outcomes are desired by the client. This, along with unpredictability of warfare, results in expensive cost-plus contracts.

Ok, regardless of the perceived or real contract costs, there are other non-monetary value to PMCs. With the question of a PMC / PSC providing their own air support, the PSC becomes more capable of operating independently in a greater variety of operational environments with greater capabilities (intel, fire control, etc). Will a PSC acquire and operate their own (not on behalf of the USG) UAVs? UGVs? How do we, if we do, distinguish between Tim Spicer and Gary Jackson run operations? How about the other firms who operately quietly and under the radar? How are moral codes enforced?

Press release available here and WashingtonPost article here.

Controlling Webcams

A WiredNews article about hackers and spy cams could portend problems with remote warfare against a technologically advanced adversary that might, say, have a government-sponsored Tiger Teams (and here)?

The Wired article focuses on Axis cameras that can remotely controlled and their images edited. Back in Oct 2005, Yorkshire Ranter shed the same light on the issue, along with technical details.

A quick google search turns up an airport cam, a swiss cam, and others. Search for yourself using this Google search (which will only bring up Axis cameras not properly protected on the Net).

I did not find anything interesting but the technology warning is
ever present: be careful with technology because nothing is secure.

Remote Warfare… some comments

Remote and/or unattended warfare & monitoring is a field that will grow in importance and visibility over the coming years. Its impact on the composition and format of the US military over the next several decades will be substantial. Advances in technology may already be seen in the current UAV Roadmap of 2005 (PDF on GoogleDocs) that will be further strategized and propagated with the upcoming QDR that will be taking its “final shape” next week.

Continue reading “Remote Warfare… some comments

Camera Grenade and Other Thoughts

From the unattended & remote warfare department is this tool:

"The HUNTIR Round is a fixed-type
cartridge designed to be fired from 40mm Grenade Launchers M79 and M203
(attached to the M16/M16A1 rifle) or a Milkor MK-1/[MGL-140] Grenade Launcher.
The round consists of a cartridge case assembly, and a metal projectile body
containing a first fire charge, a pyrotechnic delay column, an ejection charge,
a CMOS Camera, and a parachute assembly. Upon firing, the projectile assembly is
propelled to an average height of 700 feet, the first fire charge ignites the
pyrotechnic delay element, which ignites an ejection charge that effectively
ejects the CMOS Camera, which is attached to the parachute. The CMOS Camera
provides up to 5 minutes of real-time streaming video to a handheld device with
a correcsponding transmitter."

See the category Unattended and Remote Warfare for more

Intelligenct Munitions

News brief on Intelligent Munitions System (IMS) continuing the conversation / awareness of remote controlled warfare.

Matrix system uses a laptop computer to remotely control both lethal M-18 claymore munitions and nonlethal M-5 modular crowd-control devices, which contain rubber pellets. Matrix is ideal for firebase security, landing-zone security, and both infrastructure and check-point protection.