WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is developing a six- to nine-inch, remote-controlled aircraft with video cameras or other sensors to give combat soldiers a look at what the enemy is doing.
The tiny surveillance plane is among a dozen new technologies the Pentagon is working on this year. Plans call for spending $1 million on the tiny plane this year.
Other projects include a system to "see" targets concealed by undergrowth and a bomb that can obliterate tunnel complexes, already in use in Afghanistan.
U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have already used the new anti-tunnel weapon in the current fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts in eastern Afghanistan. The "thermobaric" bomb ignites an explosive mist which sends a powerful shock wave through a cave or tunnel, annihilating everything and everyone inside. The Defense Department plans to further refine the technology.
Defense Department officials announced the technology development projects Tuesday and said the dozen projects will share about $30 million in funding this year. They're part of a Pentagon program to quickly bring high-tech weapons or gadgets into the military's inventory.
Three classified projects also will get funding this year, and officials are trying to get enough money to pursue three other projects.
The new technologies being developed include:
— The "Hyperspectral Collection and Analysis System," to analyze data from video, radar and other sensors allowing officials to pinpoint targets, such as tanks, despite the enemy's efforts to conceal them. The Pentagon plans to spend $3 million on it this year.
— A system to connect handheld computers used by soldiers clearing land mines and other unexploded bombs to experts and a database to help them safely finish their jobs. Plans call for spending $1.8 million on the program this year.
— A system to allow the military, police, fire and other emergency agencies to communicate with each other during catastrophes such as terrorist attacks. The Pentagon plans to demonstrate a prototype in New Orleans next month, Sue Payton, the Pentagon official in charge of the technology program, told reporters Tuesday. Plans call for spending $3.8 million on the system this year.
The United States also is working with other allied countries on the projects, Payton said. Pentagon officials hope to get enough funding from other countries to develop the Spartan, a remote-controlled watercraft to be used for surveillance and to fire weapons.