Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Technology Transfer to the Enemy

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 8 months ago

The U.S. is engaging in three categories of technology transfer to the enemy: (1) It is bad but almost impossible to stop, (2) It is extremely bad and we should do a much better job of stopping it, and (3) It is extremely bad and we are intentionally doing it.

It is bad but almost impossible to stop

At Chronicles of War, John Little is covering the issue of the Technical Mujahid.  CENTCOM has published an update to “What Extremists are Saying” that outlines the basics of a new computer hardware, software and file management protocol for jihadists.

The first issue of what is indicated to be a period magazine, “Technical Mujahid

More on Snipers and Body Armor for Marines

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 8 months ago

In Old and New Body Armor for Marines, I discussed the planned deployment of the new Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) to replace the Interceptor System.  Following up on this post, I wrote Snipers and Body Armor, and followed up this post with Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops, in which, using a New York Times article, I showed that snipers in Iraq had adapted and were learning to aim for gaps in SAPI plate coverage in the Interceptor body armor system, and that the new MTV was superior to the Interceptor regarding these gaps in coverage.

While writing and subsequent to these posts, I communicated numerous times with USMC Public Affairs Officers, and they were mostly helpful.  For instance, unless it is explained to you in a word-picture, it is difficult to understand how the MTV handles weight distribution better than its predecessors.  Backpackers can visualize this easily, but others may not be able to as well.  Any back packer who carries a heavy pack, whether internal or external frame, knows that the shoulders cannot withstand all of the weight for very long.  The shoulders need a break.  The MTV gives them the break they need.  The MTV has a design similar to backpacks in which the weight rests on the hips rather than the shoulders, and this may give the Marine the edge he needs to fight more effectively.

The help from the PAOs has withered lately, and hopefully will start up soon as I press the issues I have with body armor.  It has been said to me that the MTV was intended to be an improvement over the Interceptor as it regards comfort, but that “Interceptor offers the same level of ballistic protection as the MTV.”  This contradicts the Strategy Pages and Stars and Stripes, both of which are linked in my earlier posts.  In fact, the MTV apparently offers fully and more integrated protection in the side SAPI plates.  Here is a picture of the side SAPI plate.




The Marine Corps Times has a nice 360-degree flash player that shows the body armor and how it fits the Marine.  There is also an updated article in the Marine Corps Times that says what I have learned from the PAOs, that the USMC will issue the new MTV in or about February, but that they do not know yet which specific units will have the MTV.  For me, this isn’t very satisfying, and I will pursue the matter.

On the issue of snipers which I have covered with a vengeance, the Strategy Page has an interesting update, which doesn’t shed new light beyond what I have already covered, except to say that al Qaeda snipers in Anbar are using children to hunt for snipers, and paying handsome rewards for kids who find U.S. snipers and report back to them.

Our Dirty Little Secret: Technology Proliferation

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 8 months ago

It is extremely difficult to earn a PhD in Engineering.  While PhDs in other disciplines read hundreds of books, perform research and author and verbally defend dissertations, engineering is still a cut above and a category apart from other fields.  To earn a PhD in engineering most often means not only the above, but additionally four to five years in graduate school, along with complicated research and most often computer modeling.  A typical PhD candidate might write the source code, debug and validate a computer code consisting of 100,000 lines of FORTRAN and/or C++ for the purpose of modeling some esoteric problem that possibly only he and his thesis advisor knows about and understands.  The investment in time and resources (monetary) often create circumstances in which it is not worthwhile for U.S. students to go this far with their education.  The pay that a BS or MS graduate in engineering can earn over four or five years, modified by the time value of money, has decreased the number of students in the U.S. seeking advanced degrees in engineering.  Of course, this creates the need for other PhD candidates to fill the gap in order to keep programs open.

Enter the foreign student.  It has for some time been recognized that foreign students are comprising an increasing fraction of the PhD students in U.S. universities.  In fact, universities themselves are aware of the problem and know that it is important, along with the U.S. government, to track such students and be aware of their intentions (will they stay in the U.S. or return to their homeland?).  The “sensitive” disciplines are: nuclear technology, cyberterrorism, chemical and explosives technology (munitions), and biological terrorism, with nuclear technology being the most sensitive.

But this alleged knowledge of who is earning advanced degrees in the U.S. has not held in abatement the increasing number of foreign students in sensitive disciplines, many from surprising countries.  According to a study entitled “The Importance of Foreign Ph.D. Students to U.S. Science,” the authors point out that concerning the sensitive fields of nuclear and organic chemistry, chemical and nuclear engineering, bacteriology, biochemistry, biotechnology research, microbiology and neuroscience, and atomic, chemical, molecular and nuclear physics, approximately 10% of the degrees awarded in these areas were awarded to students from 26 countries that are on the State Department “watch” list as being state sponsors of terrorism, including Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan is ostensibly an ally in the global war on terror.  In fact, the newly released “Militant Ideology Atlas” from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point notes that the most influential jihadist cleric in the world today, al-Maqdisi, resides in Jordan.  Also, we have covered the Iranian push for nuclear weapons technology.  In further demonstration of the Iranian duplicity in claiming that the pursuit of nuclear technology is for peaceful purposes, CNN, the Telegraph, UPI and the Strategy Page are all covering the Iranian weapons exchange for Somalian uranium that was recently exposed by the IAEA.

Development in U.S. nuclear forensics technology includes, in part, signature methods to ascertain the origin and history of radioactive materials.  For example, materials irradiated in reactors have trace constituents that are informative of the original target composition, reactor type and irradiation history.

For my readers who have written before to complain that the prose on this web site that “issues forth from my pen” (e.g., concerning snipers) informs the enemy of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, they should consider the fact that (in this instance) Iran already knows U.S. vulnerabilities and forensic capabilities, and is attempting to exploit them by purchasing uranium from Somalia.  In the future, when a nuclear device explodes in a U.S. city or somewhere in the Middle East, presumably Israel, if the uranium was deemed to be originally from Somalia, Iran has a alibi, or at least, so they think.

Pointing out U.S. vulnerabilities is the honest thing to do, and ignoring them the dangerous and unethical thing.  Henceforth, when we observe developments in nuclear technology, chemical and biological warfare capabilities, and the other myriad things that can cause mass injury and death to American citizens, we should keep in the forefront of our thinking: “The U.S. has possibly aided the enemy by training him to kill us.”

Boasting in Our Technology

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 8 months ago

In Why Rumsfeld Had to Go, we discussed the grand new approach to warfare, enabled and spurred by the use of technology, proxy fighters, political pressure, and financial persuasion.  Here is an eerie reminder of the overprediction of the power and usefulness of our technological advantage, from just before the Iraq war:

WASHINGTON — As the nation prepares for war with Iraq, military officials say space-based assets in Earth orbit are ready to give U.S. troops and their allies a significant edge over the enemy.

“Whether it’s Iraq or any other enemy of the United States and its allies, I would tell you that we’re so dominant in space that I would pity a country that would come up against us,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Franklin J. “Judd” Blaisdell, director of space operations and integration.

“The synergy with air, land and sea forces and our ability to control the battle space and seize the high ground is devastating,” Blaisdell said March 12 during a Pentagon briefing for reporters. “I don’t believe that many of them understand how powerful we are.”

Unfortunately, structures, systems and components in space cannot kill guerrillas.  Group-think is a dangerous thing in any profession, but in the superlative degree as it regards war.

Snipers and Body Armor

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 8 months ago

In “Old and New Body Armor for Marines,” I discussed the existing Interceptor body armor system and its replacement, the Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) by Protective Products International.  Stars and Stripes has given us a glimpse of the MTV.

MTV Back View, Courtesy of Stars and Stripes

MTV Side View, Courtesy of Stars and Stripes

In addition to more efficient weight distribution, the MTV claims better protection to the lateral torso, with less exposed area on the side and under the arms.  This is an example of the United States Marine Corps being just about as far ahead of the curve as is possible.  The Army is lagging behind, and for the Marines, the MTV is scheduled to go into service early 2007.

The MTV could not be issued soon enough.  The New York Times had an article on November 3, 2006, entitled “Sniper Attacks Adding to Peril of U.S. Troops,” in which the following nugget of gold may be found: “Most of the time, the marines said, the snipers aim for their heads, necks and armpits, displaying knowledge of gaps in their protective gear.”  The Interceptor has gaps on the side torso that the MTV promises to remedy.

I will be publishing a commentary soon on enemy sniper activity in Iraq (including recommendations on responsive tactics by the U.S.), which in my estimation will constitute the most significant threat of mortality for U.S. troops throughout the balance of deployment in Iraq.  Until then, it should be noted that the sooner the MTV can make its way into the field, the better.

Report from Kirkuk

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

Three days ago I had a chance to debrief a soldier with the 101st who recently came back from deployment in the Kirkuk area.  The discussion was too long to report here, but two interesting things emerged.  First, according to this soldier, the Shia generally want us there and seem genuinely thankful that the U.S. has made the sacrafices that we have made.  The Kurdish have a wonderful relationship with the U.S., as years of protection from Saddam’s forces has made Kurdistan a thriving, peaceful, lively and self-sufficient region of the country.  The Sunni are still bitter and harbor ill feelings towards the U.S.  They are on the losing end of the deal, and they blame the U.S.  Our forces do not generally trust the Sunnis, and the Sunnis do not trust the U.S.  Ironically, they are in the position of having to rely upon the U.S. for protection from the radical Shi’ite forces who want revenge for years of oppression by the Sunnis.

The second thread of the discussion emerged when I asked him about his body armor, telling him that a new system called the Modular Tactical Vest will soon be issued to Marines.  He then embarked upon an impassioned discussion about body armor.  On his first deployment the rules allowed the soldiers to choose for or against wearing side armor plates, and many chose not to due to the obstrusive nature of them.  They use the side of the vest to hang fragmentation grenades and other gear.  Too much bulk causes their arms to hang out at an angle.  During this most recent deployment, the rules had been changed to require them to wear all plates.  Also, when I mentioned that the newer system promised to give better balance to the armor, he responded that balance was a big deal.  Because weapons and gear is hung on the front and especially the sides of the vest, Marines and Soldiers have to lean back in order to stay balanced.  When you see pictures of our men leaning backwards in order to stand or walk, you will now know why.  It is made worse by the firearms and ammunition, especially for the SAW gunner (Squad Automatic Weapon, or M249).  Finally, he discussed body armor design and add-ons, as well as angles and body parts.  They worry about things such as bullets coming into the body armor and ricocheting around the armor and up into the neck (which happened to one in their unit).

Body armor is something that a Marine or Soldier lives with every day.  He wears it; he hauls it with him and on him; he sweats in it and soaks it down; it hurts him and exhausts him; it protects him and might save his life.  It is a big deal to him.  Any advancements that can be made in heavy battlefield weight, distribution and balance, and comfort are worth the expenditure by the Department of Defense.

Heavy Battlefield Weight

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 12 months ago

Over at, there is this interesting piece on battlefield weight:

The Marine Corps is involved in a delicate balancing act. It wants to field the most capable Marines, equipped with the latest gear and protected by the best body armor. However, Marines are saddled with 70-100 pounds of gear — the combat load — and simply adding more equipment and armor can make them tired and less agile, which potentially could cancel out any benefits the new gear may offer.

Read the entire piece here.

I know that my son, Camp Lejeune, 2/6, hates “humps.”  They carry 80+ pound backpacks on humps of 20 miles.  So it isn’t like they don’t train to carry this much weight into battle.  That doesn’t mean, though, that we shouldn’t push for technological development to lighten the burden.

I know this.  When he deploys to Iraq early 2007, the deal I am going to make with him is this.  He doesn’t ever go out into potential combat situations without wearing his body armor.  EVERPERIOD.  It was disturbing to read that some Marines are opting to leave their body armor behind.

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