Slide 0

“Improvised Everything”: The
changing Role of Advanced
Technology in Warfare
(or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying
and Love Commercially Available
Dr. Allan Steinhardt & Dr. David G. Smith
with Art Fritzson
The Improvised Explosive Device as Example (Improvised Ordnance)
 The IED attack has become a symbol of the Iraq
– The IED can be seen as precision ordnance
without expensive launchers or the risk of counter
 A strategically placed IED, often gives insurgents
tactical initiative and surprise
 The IED is often considered alone…
… but it actually represents a new approach in which our adversaries leverage
commercially available technologies to create a broad range of highly capable threats –
“Improvised Everything”
Improvised Everything
Improvised Ordnance –Historical and Current Examples
Middle Ages
Vietnamese Booby Traps, c. 1960-1975
“Toepopper” buried bullet
Spike Pit
with tripwire
Siege/Storm Defense
- Boiling oil (expensive)
- Dropped rubble from
previous attacks
- Heated sand
- Boiling Water
- Constructed from native materials and
available explosives
- At the height of fighting (1965-1970),
11% of US Army troop deaths and 17%
of wounds were caused by booby traps
USA, 1995
Tim McVeigh blows off
the front of the Murrah
federal building
in Oklahoma city using
racing fuel and
Improvised Everything
“Improvised Everything”:
The Emerging Threats of an Improvised Army,
Air Force, Navy and Intelligence
 Through leveraging commercially available technologies,
our adversaries are increasingly able to develop a range
of sophisticated, low cost, low barrier-to-entry military
– These capabilities can mimic functions traditionally
performed by Army, Navy, and Air Force, and
intelligence services
– This concept we call “improvised everything”
 Technology developments driving forward this trend
of “improvised” capability include:
– Telecommunications technologies that facilitate group
comms & C2 - Internet, cell phones, sat phones, etc.
– Proliferating GPS technologies
– Global transportation and shipping
– Expansion in knowledge through the Internet
Improvised Everything
Improvised Army/ Artillery: The Israeli-Hezbollah
Conflict in Lebanon, 2006
 During the recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in
Lebanon, Hezbollah rained down thousands
of missiles on northern Israel – missiles
Israel was largely powerless to stop.
 Some missiles were allegedly fashioned out
of lamppost sections, packed with
explosives and equipped with fins and fuel.
 Even for traditional military
rockets, Hezbollah used
readily available digital
technology as enablers – such
as using digital watches as
timers to allow remote firing.
 Where possible, transport was
also done “unmanned” through
trained donkeys.
Improvised Everything
Improvised Army/ Infantry
 An infantry capability uses tactical forces to
apply pressure to achieve objectives
 “Flash mobs” organizing by cell phone and the
– Like during the French Revolution, these
mobs can appear to come “out of nowhere”
– Recently these tactics have been used by
anti-globalization G-8 protesters and the
immigrant youth rioters in France
Improvised Everything
Improvised Infantry – Historical Examples
French Revolution Mobs - 1789
New England Minutemen - 1775
- Word
Storming of the Bastille
- Mobs seemed to appear “from nowhere”
- Word of mouth spread in wine shops, taverns,
crowds, coffee houses, and food markets
- Agitators capitalized on events, like rise in bread prices
- Oral communications meant French government had little intelligence
on when and where mobs would appear
spread through word of mouth/riders
- British turned away militia at Lexington Common and
at Concord.
- On British trip back to Boston, however, they were
set upon by militia and simply “farmers with guns” –
firing from ambush positions, and then redeploying
further down.
- Colonists inflicted 273 casualties on an
expeditionary force of 700
Improvised Everything
Improvised Air Force
 Air forces have many capabilities. Here we
examine the capability to penetrate air defenses
to carry out a mission.
 9/11 illustrated the threat from flying hijacked
airliners into buildings
 Small UAVs or radio controlled aircraft have
been reportedly used to gather intelligence or
deliver payloads; Hezbollah has allegedly
penetrated Israeli airspace twice with small
Improvised Everything
Improvised Air Force
Hezbollah UAVs similar to this one
have penetrated Israeli air defenses
Vehicle launch
Remote control
Source: Eugene Miasnikov,
“Media Reports of Terrorist Attempts to Employ UAVs”
Capability: RC Aircraft have flown across
the Atlantic in 1998 and 2002
Improvised Everything
Improvised Navy
 The capability here is using the seas to project power
and counter US power.
 Counter-Navy: Attacks on the USS Cole and
a number of other vessels (see facer).
USS Cole
Improvised Everything
Improvised Navy
 Strike from the Sea: Container threat –
using shipping containers to transport
individuals or WMD
– 16,000 containers arrive daily
– In 2001, a terrorist was captured in Italy
inside a shipping container. A trained
airplane mechanic, he was traveling
from Egypt to Canada with a laptop,
a sat phone, and fake airport ID.*
– US authorities believe Kenya and
Tanzania embassy bombing
explosives came by container.*
*Source: “On the Waterfront,” 60 Minutes, August 3, 2003
Improvised Everything
Improvised Navy
 Strike from the Sea: Ship-borne missile threat –
potential for launch of short and intermediate
range missiles from freighters
 Strike from the Sea: Use of scuba divers to
infiltrate US, attack vessels, etc. In WWII,
Japanese used suicide divers and human
torpedoes in asymmetric naval warfare.
 Improvised Submarines: Carribean drug smugglers
have attempted to use semi-submersibles to elude US
Improvised Everything
Improvised Navy
20’ Shipping Container
Spanish SOF Intercepting North Korean
Freighter with 15 SCUDs
Japanese Kamikaze
Speedboat, 1945
Japanese human
torpedoes, 1945
Source: Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies
Improvised Everything
Improvised Intelligence/
 The Internet permits easy access to types of
information usually manifested in nation states
– Google Earth – access to satellite imagery
collected in the last few years.
– Google Alerts – ability to collect specialized,
topical information in real time around the globe
 The Internet also allows gathering and sharing of
information by dispersed groups
– Through the Internet, numerous small scale
information gathering efforts can be linked
into usable intelligence/counterintelligence.
Alleged CIA Plane “outed”
by plane spotters
Source: Washington Post
Improvised Everything
Improvised Space Assets
 Counter-Satellites
– Chinese broadcasts of political speeches and
sports events have been jammed and replaced
with information about the Falun Gong.
 Space vehicles
– In the long term, access to space is
increasing with trends like space tourism
and the X Prize.
– In 2004, SpaceShipOne won the X Prize.
It reached an altitude of 377,491 feet
(71 ½ miles)
Improvised Everything
Improvised Space Assets
X Prize winner
71 ½ miles
Falun Gong have jammed Chinese
satellite signals
200-250 miles
International Space Station
115-400 miles
Space Shuttles
100-300 miles
Navigation satellites, hamsats
62 miles
Space starts here at 100 kilometers
50 miles
NASA awards astronaut status for flights above
50 miles
Improvised Everything
The Spirit of Improvisation
 The United States military has a long history of
flexible thinking in response to new situations.
 In some cases, the responses is truly “improvised,”
as in the case of field expedient armor, field
expedient camouflage, or the packaging of
explosives a la “Saving Private Ryan”
with sandbags
 During WWII, because of the small size of the prewar
military, many technical solutions were inspired or
borrowed from commercial technology
 Ex.: A key component of the proximity fuse – vital to
defeating the kamikazes and, when given to Britain,
the defense against V-1 attacks – was a miniature
vacuum tube developed for prewar hearing aids.
WWII Infantry
prepare for an
improvised attack
on enemy armor
Improvised Everything
The Spirit of Improvisation
The spirit of improvisation delivered war
winning capabilities to the US military – for
instance, the landing craft that were able
to cross coral reefs – such a necessary
capability for the Pacific War.
The Amtrac,
based on
was a key
enabler of the
United States’
US Ranger with field expedient breaching charge made
from C-4, flex cuffs, electrical tape, and steel fence posts
Supermarine found
a way around
a ponderous
acquisition system
Field Expedient
Camouflage of
Military Vehicles in
snow & orchard
The corvette’s specs
were set by Lloyd’s
of London
Improvised Everything
 Advanced commercially available technologies mean
that our adversaries can create credible threats in a
number of capability areas.
– Army, Air Force, Navy, Intel/Counterintel, WMD,
and Training capabilities can all be created using
this approach.
 Because many COTS technologies in electronics,
software and other fields leverage commercial R&D,
these threats will become greater in the future.
 Of course, we can and should leverage this
advanced technology as well….
Improvised Everything
In the new world of “Improvised Everything”:
 Leverage COTS technology where feasible
 Focus on developing assets that are highly flexible
– In the future, threats may not always be clearly identifiable
– In many cases, we need to focus on developing
capabilities to counter a broad range of threats, rather
than specific point solutions
– This is a shift in mindset more than a technological
 Repurposing: Reuse existing systems
 Improvisation-friendly design: Focus on developing
assets that are highly flexible
– In the future, threats will not always be clearly identifiable
– In many cases, we need to focus on developing
capabilities to counter a broad range of threats, rather
than specific point solutions.
 Incentivize improvisation and invention
Improvised Everything

similar documents