Thursday, October 29, 2009

VADER, to the Rescue in Afghanistan!

The latest from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is out! A new aerial sensor, called VADER (I know, right?), or Vehicle Dismount and Exploitation Radar, serves to detect and track bombs and eventually individuals on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The system employs digital tracking and mapping to prevent losses from IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and hopefully track down particularly annoying Talibanis. If only DoD had access to an Afghani Marauder’s Map

The VADER system is a response to the difficulty of efficiently detecting IEDs. Apparently DoD has used everything to no avail: “radio frequency jammers to hulking trucks to blimps to lightning guns.” Lightning guns can’t get these things?! Obviously these devices are an extreme obstacle to obtaining an acceptable level of security in Afghanistan. Moreover, an April estimate attributed 75% of coalition deaths to IEDs. Something must be done to detect and deter use of these explosives if any sort of progress is to be had in Afghanistan.

VADER is also specifically designed with the Afghani populous in mind; according to Lt. General Thomas Metz, “Ground movement indicators were very valuable in Iraq … But the enemy kind of rode to work in Iraq. The enemy walks to work in Afghanistan. So we are developing a sensor that can see dismounts – and therefore can cue other sensors to those dismounts.” This observation signals that DoD is getting smarter about weaponry and technology use in Afghanistan: cultural traits and memes matter. The first test flight of a drone equipped with a VADER system was completed this week by Northrop Grumman. Hopefully these systems will be out in the field soon.

Mischief managed!

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