Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

DARPA to develop disposable military electronic equipment

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of technologies for the armed forces is looking for developers of a new project. Precisely, it is looking for ways to make defense electronics used at the battlefield "fragile," that is, functioning for a well-defined period of time, and self-destructing.

Back in 1966, the situation with fragile objects was humorously described by Soviet science fiction writers Boris Zubkov and Evgeny Muslin in their story "Frail, Frail, Frail World ..." Then their story, including one-stop shopping concept: "Frail things are purchased more often!" was perceived as just another parody of the West. Today, however, we are all witnessing the triumph of this principle in reality. Household appliances that work for decades no longer exist, and everyone understands that, strictly speaking, it is no longer needed as the equipment becomes obsolete.

The situation is similar with complex electronics used by the military in the modern army, ranging from portable radios such as "walkie-talkie", all kinds of remote sensors and phones. Now, these, once very expensive, tools are assembled at such a low cost that it made it possible to use them all over the place. Incidentally, this already happened in the Second World War. British sub-machine guns "Stan-gun" were so cheap and produced in such high quantities that no one would fix the broken ones. These sub-machine guns were put under tanks just to break them completely and then finally write them off.

Today, military electronics is in a similar situation. It is clear that it is required for combat operations, however, it is nearly impossible to track down and recover each worn out or broken device. In all these cases, it is easier to throw the device away than repair it. This is precisely what should not be done, as it may fall into the enemy's hands and used to their advantage.

The consequences may be unpredictable, which is why today DARPA is seeking professionals who would figure out how to make all the electronics disappear when it is no longer needed. The goal of the special VAPR program is to cause another revolution in electronics, namely, to ensure that electronics could dissolve in the environment.

The devices developed under VAPR must maintain a high level of functionality and have characteristics of the most common electronic devices, but if necessary, must be able to partly or completely self-destroy. Such electronics would be useless for the enemy, but this development could also be used in commercial terms. Alicia Jackson, program manager of DARPA's program, said that DARPA saught to create such electronics that could be destroyed when it is no longer needed, through a remotely sent command signal.

The prospects of such devices are indeed impressive. For example, the attacks of the Basmachi in Central Asia in the 1930s were largely repealed when the NKVD started supplying their gangs with dynamite cartridges instead of gunpowder inside. In the worst possible time of a fight these cartridges exploded, injuring and killing people and causing lack of confidence in their own weapons and ammunition.  

These miniature remote-controlled charges can be placed in any modern weapons, equipment and devices. It would be sufficient to send a prearranged signal that would bring down not only the device itself, but also quite possibly would inflict damage on the enemy.  

As for the development of DARPA, the new program is aimed at the creation of sensors that would be able to interact with remote users and turn electronics into scrap. This is a difficult task, and there is room for innovation, therefore, DARPA needs smart people with different experiences.

Vyacheslav Shpakovsky


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