Electronic Weapons: August 26, 2005

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The U.S. Army is testing whether supercomputers can be used to find underground bunkers. The idea came from the long time use of such systems by oil companies, looking for underground structures that are likely to hold oil. The software used would be modified to seek out bunkers or caves closer to the surface. The oil exploration sensors that already exist are rugged pieces of equipment, for the exploration is often done in out of the way places. Troops would set up the sensors, and send the data, via the satellite links they already use regularly, to the supercomputers back in the United States. The analysis takes less than an hour, producing a picture of what is under the area the troops are on. Sensors could also be dropped by air, along with communications gear, to automatically send data back. The tests are to see just how accurate, and practical, this approach would be. The military has been using seismic sensors for over four decades, but mainly to detect vehicles or troops moving nearby.

The oil exploration technology has been used for decades, and has gotten faster and cheaper as the cost of supercomputers has nose dived. If the bunker seeking system works, it is possible to put a powerful enough supercomputer into the back of a hummer, or a 20x8x8 foot shipping container (so that each combat division could have, for all sorts of analytical tasks.) But its more likely that the army will stick with satellite datalink approach. The army calls this reach back, a technique that keeps support equipment back in the United States. This gives the troops in the combat zone one less item to take care of. 

 


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