Intelligence: November 29, 2003


Combat troops have always been unhappy with the billions spent on intelligence, and the inability of all that money to get them information when they need it. Time is a matter of life and death in combat, and timely information is something the grunts rarely get from all those expensive satellites and high tech recon aircraft. This explains interest, by combat troops,  in smaller UAVs. But even these micro-aircraft require 5-10 minutes to get into action. Not fast enough when the enemy may be nearby. So to solve this problem, the Office of Naval Research (working for the marines) has developed a camera and transmitter that can fit into something as small as a 40mm grenade (normally fired from a tube attached underneath the front of an M-16.) It's called the "recon round" and it's been tested in an 81mm mortar shell version. Shorter and lighter than a normal 81mm round (that weighs about seven pounds), this recon round is six inches long and weighs two pounds. Once fired, the round goes as high as 2,000 feet, before it's special parachute (designed to keep the descending round stable in windy conditions) deploys and the round takes about 80 seconds to reach the ground. In that time, it takes and transmits about four photos, which can be picked up by a laptop with the antennae attached via the standard USB port (and the software for immediately viewing the photos.) Since infantry officers regularly travel with their laptops open and in use, all they have to do is call back to their mortar section, give the location over the hill or wherever, and call for "recon round." When the round hits the ground, a small explosive charge destroys it, thus depriving the enemy of a souvenir, or the ability to dissect the recon round and build their own. Once the tests of the 81mm version are over, work will begin on similar rounds for 60mm and 107mm (4.2 inch) mortars as well as 40mm grenades (which would be useful for light infantry and commandos). The rounds are not cheap, and will probably cost about $1000 each, unless they are produced in really large (over 100,000) quantities, in which case the cost could get down to a few hundred dollars each. But the timely information of what's "over the hill" or "in the village" would save American lives. Just ask any infantryman who's been in combat. 




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