Category Archives: Robotic Weapons

E-Bomb – Direct Energy Warfare

6th Generation Aircraft - Airforces to End the Desire for Pilots

The rules of battle have changed over the entirety of military history. Tools such as technology, strategy, tactics and weapons have been the principal elements determining what kind of rules apply to the battlefield. What can consititute to a sixth generation fighter jets – Thats the question I am asking myself since past week. Although it might be too early to think of these questions, when even planes like JSf, PAK-FA or F-22 are not even fully opertional. The contemporary military rivalry is driven mostly by the ongoing military technical revolution. In particular, the weapons used on the future battlefield will play an important role in military affairs. Which weapons can play a key role in the future? I will try not to be too technical, such that the article is applicable to general public as well, however, I have included the research papers and appropriate links for those intending to explore more about E-Bombs or Electromagnetic Weapon Systems.

Sixth generation jet fighters are currently conceptual and expected to enter service in the United States Air Force and United States Navy in 2025-2030 timeframe. The technological characteristics may include the combination of fifth generation aircraft capabilities with unmanned capibility, unrefueled combat radius greater than 1000 nm and Direct Energy Weapon. It is latter which is a subject of this article. One form of this energy is Electronic Bomb (E-Bomb). This article aim to explore the technical aspects and potential capabilities of this type of bomb, target measurements and its comparison with other form of electromagnectic weaponry.

Research has shown that it is possible to develop such kind of device. Directed Energy research originated with research work done to determine the impact to important military systems operating in harsh electromagnetic environments. One of the most threatening and pervasive of all electromagnetic threats is that due to electromagnetic pulse.

These pulses can burst of electromagnetic radiation that results from an explosion (usually from the detonation of a nuclear weapon) and/or a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. However, its not only the nuclear weapon who generates these pulses, Non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NNEMP) is an electromagnetic pulse generated without use of nuclear weapons. There are a number of devices that can achieve this objective, ranging from a large low-inductance capacitor bank discharged into a single-loop antenna or a microwave generator to an explosively pumped flux compression generator. To achieve the frequency characteristics of the pulse needed for optimal coupling into the target, wave-shaping circuits and/or microwave generators are added between the pulse source and the antenna. A vacuum tube particularly suitable for microwave conversion of high energy pulses is the vircator. These HEMP induced stresses can damage or severely disrupt some electronic systems, which are sensitive to transient disturbance. Significant potential damaging effects can occur at long ranges to virtually all systems located within line-of-sight of the detonation point. Thus it is feasible to say, that NNEMP generators can be carried as a payload of bombs and cruise missiles, allowing construction of electromagnetic bombs with diminished mechanical, thermal and ionizing radiation effects and without the political consequences of deploying nuclear weapons.

The fact that an electromagnetic pulse is produced by a nuclear explosion was known since the earliest days of nuclear weapons testing, but the magnitude of the EMP and the significance of its effects were not realized for some time. As a result of the test, a very short but extremely intense electromagnetic pulse was observed. This pulse propagated away from its source with a decreasing intensity, which is also to be expected according to the theory of electromagnetism.

According to the CBS reports dated March 2003 stated the application of experimental EM Pulse:

The U.S. Air Force hit Iraqi TV with an experimental electromagnetic pulse device called the “E-Bomb” in an attempt to knock it off the air and shut down Saddam Hussein’s propaganda machine. The highly classified bomb created a brief pulse of microwaves powerful enough to fry computers, blind radar, silence radios, trigger crippling power outages and disable the electronic ignitions in vehicles and aircraft. Officially, the Pentagon does not acknowledge the weapon’s existence.

Direct Energy Warfare

Military action involving the use of directed-energy weapons, devices, and countermeasures to either cause direct damage or destruction of enemy equipment, facilities, and personnel, or to determine, exploit, reduce, or prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum through damage, destruction, and disruption. The defensive part of Electronic Warfare includes the offensive actions such as preventing the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum through counter measures such as damaging, disrupting, or destructing the enemy’s electromagnetic capability. Such weaponry (DEW) is an evolving addition to the EW.

Characteristics of Direct Energy Weapons

The most common characteristics of the direct energy weapons is that they attack at the Speed of Light. This pose some advantage over conventional weaponry, This helps in defeating targets
such as theater and ballistic missiles before they can deploy defense-saturating sub-munitions. Another advantage of such weapons is that they can be used against multiple targets at the same time. The direct energy weapons are classified into four catagories; High Power Microwave (HPM), Charged Particle Beams (CPB), Neutral Particle Beams (NPB) and High Energy Laser (HEL). It is the latter which is highly potential for military applications (both stratagic and tactical missions). However, for E-Bomb it is HPM is a base. But offcourse when compared to Laser technology, the microwave technology lags in terms of research. HPM – use electromagnetic radiation to deliver heat, mechanical, or electrical energy to a target to cause various, sometimes very subtle, effects. When used against equipment, directed electromagnetic energy weapons can operate similarly to omnidirectional electromagnetic pulse (EMP) devices, by inducing destructive voltage within electronic wiring. The difference is that they are directional and can be focused on a specific target using a parabolic reflector. High-energy radio frequency weapons (HERF) or high-power radio frequency weapons (HPRF) use high intensity radio waves to disrupt electronics. However, High and low power, Pulsed Microwave devices use low-frequency microwave radiation which can be made to closely mimic and interact with normal human brain waves having similar frequencies. Although belong to the same family of technology, the E-Bomb deployment differes from that of HPM.

Potential for Aircraft Operations

Scleher, D. Curtis in Electronic warfare in the information age, has defined the potential of these kind of weapons for Aircraft Operations. DEWs have great potential for aircraft operations since crews can enhance their own survivability in the battlefield, where the aircrafts are susceptible and vulnerable to missile threats, by protecting themselves with electromagnetic shields. In such environment, DEW systems may prevent the aircraft from threats by decreasing the detection and targeting capability of enemy. They may also aid in hit avoidance by deflecting, blinding, or causing the incoming missile to break lock and finally, where necessary, to destroy the missile itself before it reaches its target. An additional approach might be to defeat the fusing system of the incoming missile. However, when deploying these bombs, getting the projectile successfully right is the key, such that useful damage can be produced. Further information about the deployment of these DEWs can be accessed from Electronic warfare in the information age. By this stage one difference between HPM and E-bomb is apparanet, despite belonging to same technological family, and this difference is their deployment. HEMP – High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse is not a directed energy weapon. The reason why HEMP is defined as an electromagnetic weapon is that it produces similar effects in electromagnetic spectrum and can cause similar impacts on electronic devices. The potential effects of a designed HPM weapon strongly depends on the electromagnetic properties of the target. Since it is difficult to get the required intelligence, the complexity of real systems poses technical difficulties. A typical HPM weapon system basically includes a prime source that generates the intended power, an RF generator, a system that shapes and forms the wave into the intended form, a waveguide through which the generated wave travel, an antenna that propagated the wave, and the control unit that manages all the steps.

AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon l

Delivery system considerations for E-bombs are very important. The massed application of such electromagnetic weapons in the opening phase of an electronic battle delivered at the proper instant or location can quickly lead the superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum. This package might mean a major shift from physically lethal weaponry to electronically lethal attacks (via e-bombs) as a preferred mode of operation. Potential platforms for such weapons delivery systems are AGM-154 JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) glidebomb (shown above) and the B-2 bomber (shown below). The attractiveness of glidebombs delivering HPM warheads is that the weapon can be released from outside the effective radius of target air defenses, minimizing the risk to the launch aircraft, which can stay clear of the bomb’s electromagnetic effects.

B2-Bomber refueling

Another delivery method of e-bomb may be the use of UAVs. The technology of UAVs is still developing and partly immature; however, improvements can be expected in the next decade.

The e-bomb targets mission essential electronic systems such as the computers used in data processing systems, communications systems, displays, industrial control applications, including road and rail signaling, and those embedded in military equipment, such as signal processors, electronic flight controls and digital engine control systems. I must point out that when e-bomb outputs are too weak to destroy these systems but strong enough to disrupt their operations, system performance can be degraded. The relation between the altitude (shown below) where the e-bomb is detonated and a representation of the lethality range. Target information (to include location and vulnerability) becomes an important issue.

E-Bomb Footprint: Source <a href="http://cryptome.org/ebomb.htm/">Carlo Kopp</a>

E-Bomb – Science Fiction or a Fact?

Sor, can this hypothetical e-bomb be a significant weapon for the future battlefield? Theoratically, the military advantage obtainable with e-bombs is related mostly to their operational significance. Will future battlefields will be won by the countries that best manage the revolution in military affairs or technological revolution? If latter is the case, then one has to remind himself that technology is not a winner on its own, but it has been, and it will continue to be, a critical enabler. If everything else is equal, the side with better technology will win. Finally, can the country that first develops this new weapon have a significant and exploitable military advantage against other powers? Is is feasible for a nation to invest in this kind of bomb ? – The Debate Continues

As I have mentioned earlier, this piece is not research but infact just collection of some work, to explore the potential of EM technology in modern warfare as well as extending our previous discussion of Electronic Warfare For further reading about the subject I strongly suggest to read the following researches

References
Kopp, C. 1993. A doctrine for the use of electromagnetic pulse bombs. Air Power Studies Centre. Paper No. 15.
Kopp, C. 1996. An introduction to the technical and operational aspects of the electromagnetic bomb. Air Power Studies Centre. Paper No. 50.
Kopp, C. 2006. Directed Energy Weapons-Part 1. Defense Today May/June Publication.
Mazarr, Michael J. 1993. Military Technical Revolution-A Structural Framework. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Washington, D.C.
Scleher, D. Curtis. 1999. Electronic warfare in the information age. Boston: Artech House.

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War Toys: Artificial Intelligence on Battlefield

Humanity at High-Tech

The following article was published in New York Times (27 November), written by John Markoff and can be accessed HERE As I highlighted the importance of unmanned vehicles in modern warefare, and use of electronic warefare equipment – this article highlighting the application of Artificial Intelligence (A.I) takes the discussion further by introducing the How Robots can win War for humans (if they can). Althogh it will not be fair to undermine the potential of human on war-ground, but a combination of drones in air, and robots on ground may serve the purpose well. However, one must not neglect the ethics involved, warefare rules and most important of all laws of Robotics.

While smart machines are already very much a part of modern warfare, the Army and its contractors are eager to add more. New robots — none of them particularly human-looking — are being designed to handle a broader range of tasks, from picking off snipers to serving as indefatigable night sentries. In a mock city here used by Army Rangers for urban combat training, a 15-inch robot with a video camera scuttles around a bomb factory on a spying mission. Overhead an almost silent drone aircraft with a four-foot wingspan transmits images of the buildings below. Onto the scene rolls a sinister-looking vehicle on tank treads, about the size of a riding lawn mower, equipped with a machine gun and a grenade launcher. Three backpack-clad technicians, standing out of the line of fire, operate the three robots with wireless video-game-style controllers. One swivels the video camera on the armed robot until it spots a sniper on a rooftop. The machine gun pirouettes, points and fires in two rapid bursts. Had the bullets been real, the target would have been destroyed.

“One of the great arguments for armed robots is they can fire second,” said Joseph W. Dyer, a former vice admiral and the chief operating officer of iRobot, which makes robots that clear explosives as well as the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. When a robot looks around a battlefield, he said, the remote technician who is seeing through its eyes can take time to assess a scene without firing in haste at an innocent person. Yet the idea that robots on wheels or legs, with sensors and guns, might someday replace or supplement human soldiers is still a source of extreme controversy. Because robots can stage attacks with little immediate risk to the people who operate them, opponents say that robot warriors lower the barriers to warfare, potentially making nations more trigger-happy and leading to a new technological arms race. “Wars will be started very easily and with minimal costs” as automation increases, predicted Wendell Wallach, a scholar at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and chairman of its technology and ethics study group.

Civilians will be at greater risk, people in Mr. Wallach’s camp argue, because of the challenges in distinguishing between fighters and innocent bystanders. That job is maddeningly difficult for human beings on the ground. It only becomes more difficult when a device is remotely operated. This problem has already arisen with Predator aircraft, which find their targets with the aid of soldiers on the ground but are operated from the United States. Because civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan have died as a result of collateral damage or mistaken identities, Predators have generated international opposition and prompted accusations of war crimes. But robot combatants are supported by a range of military strategists, officers and weapons designers — and even some human rights advocates.

“A lot of people fear artificial intelligence,” said John Arquilla, executive director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “I will stand my artificial intelligence against your human any day of the week and tell you that my A.I. will pay more attention to the rules of engagement and create fewer ethical lapses than a human force.” Dr. Arquilla argues that weapons systems controlled by software will not act out of anger and malice and, in certain cases, can already make better decisions on the battlefield than humans.

“Some of us think that the right organizational structure for the future is one that skillfully blends humans and intelligent machines,” Dr. Arquilla said. “We think that that’s the key to the mastery of 21st-century military affairs.” Automation has proved vital in the wars America is fighting. In the air in Iraq and Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft with names like Predator, Reaper, Raven and Global Hawk have kept countless soldiers from flying sorties. Moreover, the military now routinely uses more than 6,000 tele-operated robots to search vehicles at checkpoints as well as to disarm one of the enemies’ most effective weapons: the I.E.D., or improvised explosive device.

Yet the shift to automated warfare may offer only a fleeting strategic advantage to the United States. Fifty-six nations are now developing robotic weapons, said Ron Arkin, a Georgia Institute of Technology roboticist and a government-financed researcher who has argued that it is possible to design “ethical” robots that conform to the laws of war and the military rules of escalation. But the ethical issues are far from simple. Last month in Germany, an international group including artificial intelligence researchers, arms control specialists, human rights advocates and government officials called for agreements to limit the development and use of tele-operated and autonomous weapons.

The group, known as the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, said warfare was accelerated by automated systems, undermining the capacity of human beings to make responsible decisions. For example, a gun that was designed to function without humans could shoot an attacker more quickly and without a soldier’s consideration of subtle factors on the battlefield. “The short-term benefits being derived from roboticizing aspects of warfare are likely to be far outweighed by the long-term consequences,” said Mr. Wallach, the Yale scholar, suggesting that wars would occur more readily and that a technological arms race would develop.

As the debate continues, so do the Army’s automation efforts. In 2001 Congress gave the Pentagon the goal of making one-third of the ground combat vehicles remotely operated by 2015. That seems unlikely, but there have been significant steps in that direction. For example, a wagonlike Lockheed Martin device that can carry more than 1,000 pounds of gear and automatically follow a platoon at up to 17 miles per hour is scheduled to be tested in Afghanistan early next year. For rougher terrain away from roads, engineers at Boston Dynamics are designing a walking robot to carry gear. Scheduled to be completed in 2012, it will carry 400 pounds as far as 20 miles, automatically following a soldier.

The four-legged modules have an extraordinary sense of balance, can climb steep grades and even move on icy surfaces. The robot’s “head” has an array of sensors that give it the odd appearance of a cross between a bug and a dog. Indeed, an earlier experimental version of the robot was known as Big Dog. This month the Army and the Australian military held a contest for teams designing mobile micro-robots — some no larger than model cars — that, operating in swarms, can map a potentially hostile area, accurately detecting a variety of threats. Separately, a computer scientist at the Naval Postgraduate School has proposed that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency finance a robotic submarine system that would intelligently control teams of dolphins to detect underwater mines and protect ships in harbors.

“If we run into a conflict with Iran, the likelihood of them trying to do something in the Strait of Hormuz is quite high,” said Raymond Buettner, deputy director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “One land mine blowing up one ship and choking the world’s oil supply pays for the entire Navy marine mammal program and its robotics program for a long time.” Such programs represent a resurgence in the development of autonomous systems in the wake of costly failures and the cancellation of the Army’s most ambitious such program in 2009. That program was once estimated to cost more than $300 billion and expected to provide the Army with an array of manned and unmanned vehicles linked by a futuristic information network. Now, the shift toward developing smaller, lighter and less expensive systems is unmistakable. Supporters say it is a consequence of the effort to cause fewer civilian casualties. The Predator aircraft, for example, is being equipped with smaller, lighter weapons than the traditional 100-pound Hellfire missile, with a smaller killing radius.

Remotely controlled systems like the Predator aircraft and Maars move a step closer to concerns about the automation of warfare. What happens, ask skeptics, when humans are taken out of decision making on firing weapons? Despite the insistence of military officers that a human’s finger will always remain on the trigger, the speed of combat is quickly becoming too fast for human decision makers. “If the decisions are being made by a human being who has eyes on the target, whether he is sitting in a tank or miles away, the main safeguard is still there,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, which tracks war crimes. “What happens when you automate the decision? Proponents are saying that their systems are win-win, but that doesn’t reassure me.”

Humanity at High-Tech

Robotics going at war doesn’t make sense to me, the whole idea of robots playing a meaningful role in a contemporary conflict is just sounds ridiculous – but apparently its not. A video based journey Humanity at High-Tech was compiled by Red Cross, who tend to believe that robots are playing an increasingly prominent role in modern conflict and throwing up all kinds of tricky ethical questions and dilemmas. The modern battlefield is changing beyond measure, from the Green Berets to Starship Troopers in the space of just 50 years. Who knows where we’re heading next? The whole idea of implementation and integration of Artificial Intelligence within battlefield will be in my next post.

Author: John Markoff

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