November 1, 2008: One of the more
successful counter-terrorism technologies has been a new, and portable, version
of an old one. The old tech is backscatter radar. Originally developed during
the Cold War, to provide a long range (over the horizon) radar, there is now a
portable (carried in a van) version called the "Ruggedized Detection
Imaging Modules" (RDIM). In five
years, nearly 200 of these portable devices have been delivered or ordered. The
U.S. Department of Defense alone has about a hundred of these units, mainly in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Z Backscatter technology is
basically X-Ray machines that can see through clothing, and inside vehicles,
and distinguish between organic and inorganic material. RDIM provides a photo
quality image in seconds. The subject has to stand in front of the RDIM. Now
normally, you could check someone for bombs on their person by just patting
them down. But suicide bombers tend to set off their bombs when they perceive a
pat-down coming. So a RDIM could be set up so that the operator and the
subjects are far enough away from each other that, if a suicide bomber is
encountered, you only lose the machine. That can be expensive, for these rigs
go for about a million dollars each, and cost over $10,000 a month to maintain.
The Department of Defense began with four RDIMs in early 2005, but quickly
obtained more when it was discovered how useful the units are.
Foreign countries, particularly in
South America and the Middle East have been ordering a lot of them, especially
for providing security for VIPs and critical locations. Z Backscatter
technology is the most expensive, non-intrusive and thorough kind of security
you can get. But as the price continues to fall (Z Backscatter units cost about
50 percent more just two years ago), more of it will be used.