Nixed News, Hidden Headlines, Suppressed Stories

"History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure."
— Justice Thurgood Marshall (1989)

Vote Fraud: Internal Documents from Diebold Election Systems
De-BS: A Guide to 'Senior Administration Officials'
Space: NASA Mars Exploration Project
The Junta: Bush Admin

Movable Type
Powered by
Movable Type 2.63

(not paid advertising)

Click for NameBase

The National Security Archive at George Washington University

CONSORTIUM NEWS - Edited by Robert Parry


January 05, 2004

The Brave New World of Computers on the Battlefield

US troops plot the enemy as Iraq war goes cyber (1/6/03 - Reuters via Sydney Morning Herald [Australia])

From Reuters: The blue dots moving on the computer screen are US tanks and Humvees, the red ones are the enemy that American soldiers must kill or capture.

This is not a video game but how the most high-tech division of the US Army conducts operations in Iraq.

The 4th Infantry Division, which patrols a large chunk of northern Iraq, caught the world's attention when it captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But in the US military it is known for the space-age gear fitted in its vehicles.

"The 4th ID is the only division to have it," said Sergeant Jeff Mann, an infantryman from Farmsville, Ohio. "That's why they call us the 'digital division'."

For soldiers like Mann, the navigation console on their Humvee has replaced the map and compass as the tool to find their way across a desert or through the streets - in his case in Tikrit, Saddam's home town.

The computer uses satellite positioning technology to tell the operator where he or she is and where their comrades are.

Back at base, computer operators plot the red icons showing where they believe the enemy to be.

"It is a huge advance," said Major Lou Morales, a training officer who was a company commander during the US-led invasion of Iraq last March.

"It freed me up to see who was around me. I knew where my helicopters were, my trucks, my tanks ... It frees you up from staring at a map."

With its touch screen and keyboard, the console can send instant messages to headquarters or other units and has a "line of sight" device that tells the user what he or she would be able to see - and shoot at - if they moved to a different position.

The console, which in the US Army tradition of acronyms is referred to as FBCB2 or Force XXI Battle Command, Battalion, Brigade and Below, is only part of the 4th Infantry Division's digital armoury.

In a mobile office next to one of Saddam's palaces that US forces have made into their home in Tikrit stand three large video screens that replicate the information from the various consoles and give more data besides.

This is the Command Information Centre, the heart of the operation, where the troops' commander, Major General Ray Odierno, moves his forces around a computer screen in the way generals of old pushed model tanks across a table-top map.

On the centre screen, a map can show the whole of Iraq or zoom in on a single house, using recent satellite photographs.

The left-hand screen is used to bring up lists of data. On the right, the screen can show live aerial video filmed by remote-controlled planes.

The division operates eight UAVs - unmanned aerial vehicles - the only ones in Iraq. The winged craft can circle, quietly and usually undetected, above friendly or enemy forces, sending pictures and map coordinates back to the command centre.

The Iraqi army put up little defence against the US-led invasion so the technology has mostly been used for fighting insurgents who, according to the US military, are mainly Saddam loyalists or foreign militants rather than conventional forces.

"It was never envisaged to be used in the kind of environment we are in right now," said Lieutenant Colonel Ted Martin, the division's chief of operations.

Instead of the tank battles the troops trained for, they face the daily risk of snipers and low-tech but deadly roadside bombs, not easily spotted by expensive gadgets like unmanned aircraft.

But commanders say the technology is proving its worth in the anti-insurgency effort, for example by moving troops more quickly to precise locations when the enemy is spotted.

"Digital systems have improved our ability to action on intelligence, for example to cordon off a building at night," Martin said.

When the division's troops closed in on Saddam's hiding place last month, they relied more on intelligence gathered by humans than technology, but the gadgets played their part.

"The rapid movement of about 600 soldiers into the area to cordon it off and tighten the noose was all done in a digital environment," Martin said.

Soldiers like the gear, but say it is costly and often unreliable. "It's like any other computer: anything can go wrong," said Mann, the sergeant, as his comrades tried to fix the hard drive on his Humvee. "It's great, when it works."

[Read the source...]


All original content copyright © 2003 by subliminal media inc. unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.
Subliminal News compiles news and information from a variety of Internet-based sources. This web site is provided as a public educational and research resource on a wholly non-commercial basis, without payment or profit. No claim of copyright is made, intended or implied by Subliminal News for any materials that we link to or quote from. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 USC section 107 of the US Copyright Law.