The U.S. Army is developing a
one pound sniper detector that can be carried by individual infantrymen. The
two sound sensors are on the shoulders, while the cell-phone sized electronics
package is clipped to the uniform. An ear bud provides verbal information
("shooter at 7 o'clock, 125 meters"). There might also be a small
visual display worn on the wrist. The
main problem at this point is not the technology, which has been around for a
while and can be miniaturized, but putting it together so that the soldiers
will be able to use the information quickly and effectively enough to locate
detectors have been a work in progress for the last five years. So far, vehicle borne acoustic detectors have had the
most success, and over a thousand of them have been shipped to Iraq and
Afghanistan. Another 8,000 are on order.
detection systems provide directional information about where the snipers are.
Several generations of these systems have showed up over the last four years.
The usefulness of these anti-sniper systems has increased as the manufacturers
have decreased the number of false alarms, and improved the user interface.
There other reasons for all this progress, including major advances in
computing power, sensor quality and software development. The latest
improvement is providing nearly instant, and easy to comprehend, location info
on the sniper.
all the manufacturers are American. The French firm Metravib, has been turning
out several generations of their Pilar system, since the 1990s. This is a high
end system, costing about $70,000. That gets you the acoustic array, a laptop
size device containing the signal processor (specialized computer) and a laptop
that displays the results, and controls the system. Pilar has recently received
a companion system, Pivot, which will automatically point a camera at the
source of the fire, and display the video wherever it is needed. Pivot costs
$200,000, and could substitute a machine-gun for the camera. But no one wants
to go there just yet.
U.S. firm, iRobot, which makes the most widely used combat robot, the PackBot,
has developed a similar system. Called REDOWL (for Robot Enhanced Detection
Outpost with Lasers), it mounts a 5.5 pound device on a PackBot that contains
an infrared (heat sensing) video camera, laser rangefinder and acoustic gunfire
detector. When the device is turned on, the camera and laser will point to any
gunshot in the area. This makes it a lot easier for nearby troops to take out
the sniper. REDOWL can also be mounted on vehicles, or anywhere, for that
matter. In tests, REDOWL has been right 94 percent of the time. Some developers
suggested equipping REDOWL with a machine-gun in place of the laser. But the
U.S. Army isn't ready for an armed robot
that will identify and fire on targets all by itself. Pilar has one edge over
REDOWL, longer range. Pilar can find snipers who are as far as a thousand
meters out, about twice the range of the iRobot system.
has produced a similar system, SADS (Small Arms Detection System), that also
has a thousand meter range. On the low end of the cost scale, there is the U.S.
Boomerang system. This one has been around for several years, costs about
$5,000 each, and has been effective enough to get new orders and lots of work
from troops that are used to it. The Boomerang has been the most successful
sniper detector, and is the most widely used.
decades, sniper detectors were theoretical darlings of military R&D geeks.
But now, with lots of need, better technology and money to buy several
generations of a system, the devices are actually making themselves useful. Not
all units have officers or troops who can make the most of sniper detection
systems. But those that do, are hell on the local sniper population.