Electronic Weapons: October 26, 2003


The use of electronic sensors has long been mainly a naval (sonar and radar) and air force (radar and countermeasures) effort. Ground warfare takes place in a more cluttered environment, and it's only been in the last few decades that more powerful (to sort through all the clutter) electronic devices have become available for ground troops. Some of these gadgets are not talked about much, because too much knowledge of how they operate would limit their usefulness. Case in point is the use of wireless communications to set off roadside bombs or landmines. These weapons have been widely used for over a decade, especially in places like Chechnya and Israel. Now they are frequently showing up in Iraq, and the United States is sending over millions of dollars worth of equipment that can detect, and set off, many types of wireless detonators. Since some wireless detonators (like some kinds of cell phones) are more difficult to detect and zap, you don't want to be talking about what your equipment is capable of. But it is known that the Israelis have been building these "detonator zappers" for over three decades, and continue to do so today because of the Palestinian use of remote control bombs. The Russians have also done some work in this area, perhaps with some assistance from Israel (no one is talking.) The U.S. and Israel closely cooperate on many electronic warfare projects, so one can assume that some effective and battle tested gear is being sent to American troops in Iraq. A number of Israeli made military electronics are already being used in Iraq, although neither Israel or the U.S. is promoting this fact. In addition to new electronic equipment, several aerostats (helium filled balloons that are tethered to the ground by a cable and are shaped so they turn to a stiff wind and remain stable) are being sent over. In 1991, an American made aerostat was in use by the Kuwaitis to point a ground radar across the border into Iraq. This radar spotted the oncoming Iraqi tanks, not that it did a lot of good. The 2003 version carries nigh vision and thermal (heat) imaging cameras that can keep an eye on dozens of square kilometers of ground below. The U.S. has already had great success with UAVs in Iraq, but the aerostats are cheaper to operate. Since most of the Iraqi resistance is coming from a small area (where Saddam's buddies all lived and prospered), it will now be easier watch over any hostile acts in the works. There is apparently other electronic gear that will be used on the aerostats, and on the ground, to enable hostile Iraqis to be more easily, and quickly, spotted. Again, details are not given out, lest the Iraqis can avoid detection by switching to other forms of communication, or changing the way their build their weapons and move around.




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