Bringing in-depth reporting of crime and corruption in high places




By David Guyatt


 Warfare is set to dramatically change in the 21st century.  Major set-pieces battles of the size and complexity of Desert Storm will increasingly grow less and less.  Instead, numerous small scale “police actions” will become the order of the day.  Standing in the vanguard of these will be the USA, acting in its self-proclaimed role as global supercop.  On the rare occasion that pitched battles are fought, battalions drawn from many nations will gang up on individual states, kicking them into shape.

 Some observers predict that future war is more likely to be fought on home streets, rather than the desert wastelands of the middle east.  But they warn that home streets - as we now know them - may themselves become a thing of the past.  Alvin Toffler, author, futurist and Pentagon war-game player in his book “War and Anti-War - Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century (LittleBrown 1994) looks at the potential fragmentation of nation states into zones of wealth and poverty.  He goes on to portray a possible future where nation states have been replaced by “…hundreds, even thousands of mini-states, city-states, regions and noncontiguous political entities.” 

 Riccardo Petrella, director of science and technology forecasting for the European Community agrees.  His view is that by the mid 21st Century, the “real decision-making powers… will be transnational companies in alliance with city-regional governments.”  These Petrella believes, could form a “high-tech archipelago… amid seas of impoverished humanity.”

 Visions such as these have led the Pentagon to define new strategies.  One, known as “Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MUOT),” is the “capability to operate and conduct military operations in built-up areas.”  Remove the jargon and glitzy phrases and we are left, simply, with “street-fighting.”  But street-fighting with a difference. 

 The new MUOT soldier is dubbed an “individual warfighter.”  Wearing improved small arms “protective vests” they will be clothed in “multi-spectral signature reducing materials.”  These are fabrics designed to reflect infra-red heat and other detectable emissions.  Thus invisible, the warfighter is to be air inserted into urban terrain in a covert manner, where he will undertake both combat and non-combat operations.  The latter is a barely concealed euphemism for crowd control.

 But invisibility to the enemy - whoever they may be - is just one of a number of MUOT capabilities.  New “high resolution” helmets will carry miniature video cameras instantly relaying images, via satellite to HQ.  The same sensors will also aid in the acquisition of “targets,” via use of a range of night-vision, “through-wall sensors” and other “sensor-to-shooter linkages.”  This Pentagon vision of a 21st century Darth Vadar, will in addition have some ingenious weapons to back him up.

 One of these is a “counter-sniper system.”  A portable computer which is able to track a moving bullet fired by a hidden sniper, locate the shooter’s precise position and return pinpoint accurate counter-fire in the blink of an eye.  In addition, it is almost certain that sophisticated laser and radio frequency weapons will also be key MUOT weapons in the new-age armoury.  Not surprisingly, developments in these areas remain Top Secret.

 Yet, there are even more exotic advances on the drawing board.  Some of these fall in the realm of “Bio-systems.” During 1992, US Green Beret, Major General Sidney Schachnow, presented a “restricted” lecture to the John F Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  He spoke on such sci-fi subjects as “Synthetic Telepathy,” “Surreptitiously Acquired DNA Identification,” and “Whole Blood Replacement.”  Seeking more information The X Factor, phoned Fort Bragg.  An embarrassed spokesman told us that General Schachnow could not locate his notes for this lecture. 

 We then spoke to a number of medical experts, asking them what “whole blood replacement” entails?  Dundee’s Professor Derek Pounder, felt that “synthetic blood” could have considerable benefits for battlefield casualties.  It would be a critical life-saving development, he thought.  Another expert mused carefully before replying.  “Theoretically,” he said, synthetic blood would possess “huge oxygen carrying” abilities.  Being able to infuse such into special forces troops prior to sending them on missions under Artic conditions - or in mountainous terrain - would enable them to operate with almost super-human endurance and ability.  If this sounds fantastic, it’s nothing compared to other concepts under discussion. 

 General Schacknow’s reference to secretly acquiring DNA identification remains largely unexplained.  However, there are dark rumours surrounding the secret development of genetic weapons.  Some fear these may emerge as the 21st Century weapons of mass extermination.  The International Committee of the Red Cross acknowledge that such weapons “… seem technically applicable on a large scale,” adding ominously “… the possibility exists of their misuse for political ends…”  It is known that work, especially in the former Soviet Union, has been conducted on virulent infectious diseases which are then seeded with “virulence genes.”  This procedure can increase the potency of a killer disease almost beyond measure.

 In addition, considerable concerns have been raised over “Gene Specific Biological Weapons.”  These are said to be able to attack specific races.  Little is publicly known about them.  However, a 1994 US Military publication sketched out a fictional war set in 2010.  The authors state “Certain biotechnical weapons - considered by some to violate the biological warfare convention to which the United States is a signatory - also may transgress American values regarding appropriate means.”  They continue by discussing the public reaction to these weapons that would target “…Africans, Jews, Koreans, Hispanics etc.”  America is a vast melting pot of races and ethnic groups - who collectively account for a significant portion of the entire US population.  Significantly, the authors do not mention European or Anglo-Saxon minorities in their potential “ethnic-cleansing” targeting list?

 But ethnic concerns aside, developments in Bioengineering has advanced so rapidly that some experts now talk in terms of “para-humans.” These are biological entities - half human-half machine - that are set to become the new warriors of the new age.  It’s a case of Robocop coming of age.  But even supporters agree that such spectre’s are, thankfully, still a long way off. 

 However, considerations of blood, biology and Robocop’s grandchildren don’t come into play when it comes to micro-robotic soldiers.  Robotics developments have leap-frogged over the last decade, along with ever smaller minaturisation.  Lewis Franklin, a former vice president of the massive US defence contractor TRW, anticipates an irruption of military robot warriors during the next two decades.  Experts believe these could be “custom-designed” to operate in the harshest battlefield conditions.  Their advantage, they say, is the cheapness of production over more regular weapon systems.

 For decades, pilotless reconnaissance aircraft have flitted above battlefields collecting raw intelligence.  But soon, miniaturised versions - not much larger than a shoe-box - boasting a broad range of “sensors” will enter service.  Accompanying them are likely to be a host of miniature “smart” robot mines.  Seeded from aircraft, these burrow beneath the surface, laying in wait for enemy tanks.  Hailed as the new, safe way to seed mine fields, they can be programmed not to explode under direct pressure.  This, their adherents claim, will minimise human casualties.  However, detractors, even inside the armed forces, are worried by visions of smart machines running amok.

 Despite these reservations, developers are ploughing fast ahead.  The successful construction of an electric motor no more than a millimetre long, has led to an explosion of new ideas.  These include “robot-ants” - tiny mechanisms possessing artificial intelligence computer chips.  So small as be almost invisible, it could be of tremendous value, not only as a weapon but as a spy.  Specialists in this field speak of the coming dawn when these devices will be self-replicating - literally breeding themselves.  They are said to be best suited to infiltrating and destroying electronic battlefield equipment.  Rendered electronically blind and deaf, enemy formations can then be attacked by more conventional means.

 This may be accomplished by “Arnold,” a large robot field gun.  Arnold, too, will be kitted-out with a sillicone brain.  This will allow “him” to harness his advanced optical and acoustic sensors to locate a target and then deliver a barrage of unerringly accurate firepower down on it.  Planned to be in production by 2002, Arnold will not only “sense” targets but autonomously decide when to open fire and on what target.  Arnold, however, has an Achilles heel; his size. 

 Large enough to be easily seen by satellites or pilotless spy aircraft, “he” is destined to come under attack by “Aerobots.”  These are canisters that can be dispensed from robot aircraft and then steer themselves close to their assigned target.  Once there, dozens of tiny micro-weapons are disgorged and pre-programmed to artfully sneak up on the slumbering giant.  Gaining entry, they set about attacking circuits and sillicone processors with minute doses of acid.  The result is catastrophic.  For all it’s high-tech components, Arnold, the robot-gun - and other autonomous smart weapons - are rendered brain dead.

 Even though many of these future weapons come under the concept of “non-lethality” - in these examples, machines killing machines - bloodless war is still a long way off.  Stingray is a US Army laser weapon mounted on a Bradley armoured vehicle.  It can accurately be described as “dual-use.”  Possessing the ability to refine it’s energy output, it could simply blind an enemy soldier.  Turn the dial up to maximum and the soldier will be surgically sliced apart.  Acoustic weapons also have this dual ability.  At low output they can be used to demoralise, stun and even physically destabilise attacking troops.  Wind the power up and the same weapon is excruciating and extremely deadly - a modern sonic equivalent of Joshua’s trumpet, which with one blast brought down the walls of Jericho.

 Not least in this whole battery of new war-fighting strategies is “Cyberwar.”  This, simply, is Information warfare, where soldiers in suits wrestle with software packages, and data algorithms.  This is warfare that sounds almost gentle, but don’t be fooled.  The artful manipulation of information in the 21st Century could turn regiment against regiment, send enemy aircraft plunging to earth, or target robot guns on their own troops.  Whoever wins the information battle will win the war, it is believed.  Moreover, unseen, unheard and unknown wars could be fought in cyberspace that never reach the light of day. 

 Whether it be machine-war, infowar or microwar or bloody-war, one thing is certain.  The 21st century is destined to remain a battlefield.  As Riccardo Petrella observes, the casualties will remain the impoverished.  Peace, it seems is not on the agenda.

The re-emergence of “Private” armies

History is set to repeat itself.  The re-emergence of private armies is hot on the agenda.  Author, Marvin Toffler, argues for the creation of “volunteer mercenary forces organised by private corporations.”  These, he suggests, could “fight wars on a contract-fee basis for the United Nations.”  Toffler’s idea springs from the growing unwillingness of governments to send “…their own young men and women to die in combat…” and so the answer is a “rapid deployment force for hire.”  He adds that such peacekeeping corporations could be allowed “to do what it takes, ranging from legalized bribery to propaganda to limited military intervention…”  Unfortunately, the “seas of impoverished humanity” - you and I - will not form part of the corporate equation.

 Private “Prowler” the stupid-smart Robot guard

 Operated from a distance of up to 19 miles, “The Prowler” is the brainchild of huge defence contractor, Bechtel Corporation.  Able to circle the perimeter of designated installations, the robot is jam-packed with high-tech sensors.  Laser range-finders enable it to maintain precise position and other electronic gizmo’s help it easily traverse difficult terrain.  Not least it can be heavily armed with a wide variety of weapons.  However, there are recognised problems.  Terrorists smart enough to manipulate the robot’s computer programme could gain free entry to a military installation.  Once inside the re-programmed robot then stands guard over them, ready to open fire on anyone sent to stop them.

 Future weapon - the Electromagnetic pulse tank

 Britain’s Defence Research Agency has grand ideas for the future of tank warfare.  The EM tank, they think, may be the answer.  With a budget of £10 million over three years, things are not going exactly to plan.  However the concept is creating considerable excitement.  The tank, if it gets off the ground, may become so powerful and accurate that it will revolutionise tank warfare.  The idea is to harness potent bolts of electromagnetic energy to propel metal darts out of the tank’s gun tube.  Able to dispense with normal chemical propellants, the EM tank should be capable of extremely rapid firing.  Just a few could clear a battlefield of opposing tanks in short order.


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