January 14, 2004: The latest futuristic electronic gizmo developed by the military is WolfPack, a six pound sensor/jammer that is dropped into enemy territory to get information and, if needed, jam enemy communications.
Hollywood isn’t the only place where old hits are recycled. Such miniature gadgets were first developed and used in the 1960s. These early devices were just a microphone and transmitter. An aircraft overhead could pick up the transmissions, record them, and get them back to a base where the activity (trucks, troops marching, or whatever), where it occurred and the time, could be recorded. In this way, operations along the carefully hidden (under the tall jungle canopy) “Ho Chi Minh” trail could be studied, plotted and bombed. The trail, run by the North Vietnam through Laos (just east of Vietnam), was vital to keeping their troops in South Vietnam supplied.
In the 1980s, there was an effort to add self organizing networking to a series of smart mines (later called WAAM). This networking is in WolfPack, but didn’t survive the end of the Cold War for the 1980s WAAM. One thing discovered with WAAM was that enemy troops would have an incentive to search for them, and kill them (with gunfire.) To make that a more sporting exercise, some anti-personnel mines were to be deployed from each WAAM once it landed (dropped from an aircraft or rocket shell.) This idea was later dropped, as the anti-personnel mines were too likely to later endanger civilians and friendly troops. This made WAAM somewhat less effective, but hardly worthless.
WolfPack will face the same problem airdropped sensors in Vietnam did; the enemy will go looking for them once they realize the sensors are a danger to them. During the Vietnam war, a partial solution to this problem was to build some of the airdropped sensors so they looked like a bamboo plant. This deception would not stand up to close scrutiny, but the enemy troops were not going to closely examine every bamboo plant when they were sweeping an area for sensors. So this worked (except when, after the war, surplus sensors of this type were shipped to Europe for use their in a future war.) At present, WolfPack is not disguised (except for camouflage paint.) This may change once they are tested extensively with American troops deploying them against each other in field exercises.
When the four inch wide, six pound WolfPack units are dropped in enemy territory (or manually placed outside friendly positions), they will not only pick up electronic information, but will be able to jam enemy signals (including cell phones) on command or as part of their programmed instructions. The ability of WolfPack units to detect other WolfPack units and form a network, and then collectively sort out who is doing what electronically, is a major advance in sensor and jamming warfare. Even if some of the WolfPack units are destroyed, the network will just reconfigure itself. The units cost $10,000 each, and if they work as predicted, the troops will always try to recover them for reuse.
I don’t like reprinting stuff whole normally, but this appears to be a news page with rolling updates and no obvious archives and I want to keep it for later.
Technorati tag: Military