In this article, the New Scientist says that the US military is looking at new ways to find weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
Forget Hans Blix, the UN and inspectors schooled in the art of uncovering biological, chemical and nuclear agents. There is a quicker way to prove the existence of WMDs.
Gather the latest intelligence, decide where the weapons are stashed, and fire a high-velocity projectile at the target. High-tech sensors packed into the projectile will then instantly beam back confirmation that the weapons are there.
It is a high-risk concept that raises many questions, not least its technological feasibility and the political ructions that would follow if such a device were ever built or used. But the US military is taking the idea seriously, New Scientist has learned.
How does this work?
To inspect reinforced concrete bunkers or factory buildings suspected of housing WMDs, the researchers designed a projectile that can penetrate several metres of hardened concrete without damaging its load of sensors.
Five test firings have shown that when the projectile is fired at a velocity of 1200 to 1400 metres per second, it can penetrate more than 1 metre of concrete and emerge relatively intact at around 1000 metres per second.
Even if the sensors are not destroyed by the impact forces -- which would reach 100,000g -- is this the absolute panacea? Not so fast.
Michael Levi of the Brookings Institution in Washington DC points out that such "non-permissive" testing may not have any advantages over existing inspection methods. Anyone hiding weapons could simply dig deeper bunkers to defeat any possible penetrating shell, he says.
John Pike, director of Washington DC think tank GlobalSecurity.org, disagrees.
"It's enormously elegant," he says. "I would almost say it's surprising no one ever thought of it before. I don't know in the real world whether they'll do that. But it would not be the most wasteful expenditure ever."
The United States announced less than a week ago that they were planning hypersonic bombers able to strike everywhere in the world in less than two hours and launched from the US. With this new story, it becomes even more obvious than the US do not want to rely on other countries or the UN.
Source: David Hambling, New Scientist, July 5, 2003
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