"One of the biggest threats in Iraq is [a commercial walkie-talkie] radio," a defense contractor tells Aviation Week. "It's a tiny thing that costs about $100. They've got a 10-mi. range and operate between 40-50 MHz. That's what the terrorists are using. It's hard to monitor. They give a guy a radio, put him on top of a hill, and [he and a string of others] will relay communications for hundreds of miles."So how does the Pentagon plan on fighting this $100 threat? With a set of cheap, coffee-can-sized transmitters of its own. Except, in this case, cheap means $10,000 a pop. And the little buggers "can listen to enemy radars and communications, analyze an opponent's network and movement of systems and jam emitters or infiltrate enemy computers with packages of algorithms," according to the magazine. An early-phase test of the system, known as "Wolfpack," is scheduled for next week.No one "Wolf" is particularly powerful. But, collectively, they can be used to triangulate enemy signals -- like those walkie-talkie conversations -- and monitor hostile networks. The idea is to "litter the battlefield with these small objects," Preston Marshall, WolfPack's program manager at Darpa, explained last year.He'd like to see the Wolves tough enough to be chucked out of helicopters, dropped by drones, or places on rooftops by soldiers. "Once a cylinder hits the ground, it checks itself out. If everything is working properly, the fins will erect and make the device stand up, Marshall said. "An inflatable antenna goes up and it generates a radio signal. They form a network. Wolf networks find other wolf networks and eventually find a path back to the command center.""A WolfPack typically would have at least five wolves," Aviation Week adds. "They are designed to be identical, so each of them can take another's role, including subpack leader, to gather information, and pack leader to send it into the larger battlefield network."
The system would come with its own mission planning tool to optimize where wolves are placed. And, as long as a wolf can communicate with any other wolf, it has access to the whole network.The WolfPack network is set up to be dynamic and autonomous. The pack will reassign responsibilities as needed, and the network may by itself establish sub-nets if those would be useful in attacking a target. Moreover, WolfPack is designed to be smart enough to detect patterns in how an adversary employs his electronic systems so the key nodes can be jammed, listened to or invaded. The system is designed to locate emitters with enough accuracy that they can be attacked with a mortar or bomb.THERE'S MORE: "To put it bluntly, the 'defense contractor' [quoted at the beginning of the post] is full of crap," says Defense Tech reader WT.
Every SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) radio carried in the field is capable of intercepting those transmissions, and there are intelligence assets that are specifically designed to intercept and jam those transmissions. In fact, due to the low power of those radios (typically 2.5 to 7 watts output), they are very susceptible to jamming. The positioning of these radios (on top of hills or tall buildings) makes them more susceptible to direction finding and interception. They are most definitely *NOT* hard to monitor. They are in fact little different from the Soviet era VHF radios. The only difference is in size and weight, the difference between a backpack radio and a handheld. The output wattage and frequencies are the same, as is the modulation.I suspect that this is a case of justifying something that might be needed in the future (note the reference to infiltrat(ing) enemy computers) by tying it to the current conflict. A neat toy that could be very useful, but not something that is needed in Iraq now, or in the near future. Im not saying that this isnt something that should be pursued, just that the guy doesnt know what he is talking about.