by David Crane
defrev at gmail.com
The September 2007 (Vol. 6 No. 8 ) issue of C4ISR Journal (The Journal of Net-Centric Warfare) magazine has an interesting article on The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Expendable Local Area Sensors in a Tactically Interconnected Cluster (ELASTIC) initiative. The goal of ELASTIC is to develop and eventually field "a set of small, ballistically distributed optical imaging sensors able to form ad hoc wireless networks", which "should also be able to support heirarchical networks (sensor networks) for aggregating and up-linking high-bandwidth image and other sensor data directly to personnel on the scene." Wow. Try saying that fifty times in a row.
After being ballistically launched, the networked sensors would
report back to local nodes, so infantry warfighters could then use the information acquired to make tactical decisions. It’s an interesting idea, at least on paper. Provided they can overcome all of the obvious challenges, like ruggedizing the electronic hardware adequately to enable the sensors to survive the ballistic launch and remain operational under adverse combat conditions, making the complete system light enough to carry and deploy with infantry units (squad and/or platoon levels), and giving the system adequate transmit range, just to name a few, the concept looks promising.
CDM Optics, teamed with the University of Arizona, Nova Research, teamed with Innovative Wireless Technologies and Johns Hopkins University, TechFinity, teamed with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Toyon Research Corp., teamed with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were all Phase I awardees for ELASTIC. According to Mark Mellini, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center Acoustic and Network Sensors Office at Picatinny Arsenal, Toyon’s work, specifically, "complements an existing U.S. Army program, SMADSnet (Small Arms Deployed Sensor Network). SMADSnet has been developing other sensor types (acoustic, magnetic) that would be housed inside a low-velocity 40mm grenade round (40mm shell), and thus launched ballistically via low-velocity 40mm grenade launcher like a single-shot M203 underbarrel-mounted grenade launcher or 6-shot Milkor USA M-32 MGL (Multiple Grenade Launcher). The M32 MGL would allow infantry warfighters to launch the sensors accurately up to a distance of 800 meters inside medium-velocity 40mm grenades, provided that the sensors’ electronics can handle the g-forces generated by the ballistic launch/explosive event.
DefenseReview is going to follow this technology (ballistically-launched tactical sensors) as it progresses and matures.