Could lasers solve the military's friendly-fire problem?
August 9th, 2012
04:03 PM ET

Could lasers solve the military's friendly-fire problem?

By Maria LaMagna, Special to CNN

(CNN) - A member of Tom Potendyk's unit in Desert Storm was killed by friendly fire. Keith Kellogg also experienced a blue-on-blue killing while he was serving in Panama during Operation Just Cause.

Now, the pair are executives at Cubic, a company that has developed a device that could significantly reduce military deaths caused by friendly fire. Called the DCID-TALON, or Dismounted Combat ID with Target Location & Navigation, the device incorporates laser technology to combat a lack of situational awareness, which is one of the most common causes of friendly fire deaths.

The DCID-TALON works when its user spots a target in his or her scope. The shooter aims the device, which sends an encoded message by laser beam. If the target is friendly, the message will reflect off of the target’s retroreflectors (they are the size of a postage stamp and can be embedded in the soldier’s helmet and uniform; each soldier would be outfitted with multiple retroreflectors), and the device will display the word “friend.”

The entire process takes one-tenth of a second.

Cubic has invested more than $25 million in developing the technology, and Kellogg and Potendyk say it works by cutting down on two of friendly fire's common causes: identification and location errors. Troops are often victims of friendly fire if they are misidentified, or are mistakenly in the wrong place, the execs say.

Friendly fire is an age-old problem. Blue-on-blue incidents have occurred from the Civil War mortal wounding of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to the publicized fratricide of Pat Tillman, who was killed in 2004 during active Army duty in Afghanistan.

When using the DCID-TALON, they will able to identify “friendlies” and locate them at distances of 800 meters (although, in testing, the technology has identified them from even farther away). The device has a built-in GPS and Bluetooth capabilities.

To prevent opposing forces from taking advantage of the technology and mislabel themselves as friendlies, the retroreflectors also can be reprogrammed as needed.

The military currently uses low-tech means of protecting against friendly fire, such as painting symbols on the sides of vehicles and employing “glint tape,” to identify troops, Kellogg says. Friendly fire-reducing technology is applied currently to vehicles, so soldiers on the ground lack protection.

“We believe very strongly you need to take this capability to the next technological level and put it in technology a soldier uses. It’s absolutely a game changer for whoever you give it to on the ground,” Kellogg says.

Beyond use in the military, Cubic sees potential for the DCID-TALON to be applied to other sectors, including law enforcement, Potendyk says.

The technology tested well under many different climate conditions at BoldQuest 2011, a capability assessment program held annually at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. Soldiers tried out the DCID-TALON in various scenarios while walking, riding in vehicles and in simulated combat. It performed well in these scenarios, as well as with added obstacles of trees, haze, smoke, rain, sun, through windows and at distances.

Still, Potendyk and Kellogg say additional testing and funding are necessary in coordination with the military before the technology potentially ends up in troops’ hands. The device must be “hardened,” or undergo additional environmental testing and be outfitted with a GPS chip only the military can provide. After this is completed, in theory it would take a short time to be utilized, the men say.

In the meantime, other allied troops, including those in Canada, have expressed interest in using the Cubic technology, the men say.

The U.S. Army could not be reached for comment about whether it is considering using the DCID-TALON. The Canadian armed forces declined to comment on possible plans to utilize the technology as well. Since there is no technology standard among its allies, the Canadians said, there is no equipment project underway to acquire identification technologies.

“The Canadian Army is investigating various advanced combat identification procedures and technologies with our allies,” Veronique Cantin, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Defence said in an e-mail.

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Filed under: Military • Science • Tech
soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. wohnmobil versichern

    Awesome things here. I am very happy to look your article. Thank you so much and I'm taking a look forward to touch you. Will you please drop me a e-mail?

    September 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  2. Brian ''THE LION'' Murza







    September 4, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
    • Brian ''THE LION'' Murza


      September 4, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
  3. Brian ''THE LION'' Murza

    Once this comment goes through, i will post another one. this may sound like a good technology, though i would "NOT" have the "CANADIAN FORCES" involved in any way!!!!!!

    September 4, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
  4. Jughead

    I love these comments. We're always overly optimistic about technology and overly pessimistic about technology. You can put any comment in there you want and apply it to any technology. It's been the same throughout history.
    “X rays are a hoax.” – Lord Kelvin, ca. 1880
    “Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” – Dionysius Lardner, 1793-1859
    “What, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such nonsense.” – Napoleon to Robert Fulton
    Who knows whether this ystem will work or not, but total reliance on technology without training and rules associated with it is ridiculous. This is a tool. Seems like it's worth trying as a part of a comprehensive solution. It's like seatbelts, combined with airbags, combined with better deigned cars, combined with responsible and defensive driving. Closing you eyes, pressing the accelrator and relying on just the airbag would be the same as some coments have suggested here. Very reactionary and disappointing. And some have served and should know better.

    August 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
    • anneominous4

      No, it is not worth trying. It is too easily defeatable with LOWER technology.

      As I mentioned elsewhere: all you really need to do is shoot at the reflectors. Who cares what the code is? Or shoot at the radio transmissions. Who cares whether they are encrypted? If the enemy has access to even 1970s technology it would be very easy to do.

      Too much reliance on encryption, when the mere presence of the gear is too easily detected, and the gear itself is too easily defeated. It might have seemed like a good idea to them at the time, but this idea should have been shot down long before it got this far. It's not just questionable, IT CAN'T WORK. Not for any length of time.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
      • Jughead

        You and Napoleon are BRILLIANT. DId you even read the quotes? Fire in a ship – preposterous! Xrays – ridiculous! I say again: every technology we have is defeatable. It's the combination of our advance in technology and our tactics technics and procedures, alongside our excellent training and unmatched marksmanship that wins the day. It's not throwing one thing out there as the savior technology. Heck – if it were up to you we'd arm our troops with rocks and sticks because everything else is "too easily defeatable." And though our present enemies have had glorious success with their lack of technology, it has been greatly exaggerated in comparison to our success with the use of superior technology and (wait for it) even technology that was not fully tested but had some promise. Some of those technologies were not good...more were. Again, it's worth a try in combination with all that I mentioned above.

        August 21, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  5. Coty

    The largest drawback I see to this is the fact that it opens the door to enemies being able to aquire not only their own chips for members of their military, but also obtaining chips from enemy military. This seems like a double-edged sword where the potential to have "friend" come up on the scope when in actuallity it is an enemy which would leave a soldier with his guard down and be more likely to come under attack at close range.

    August 15, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
  6. GoFaster58

    Taking it farther, instead of reading "friend", the weapon instead won't fire.

    August 14, 2012 at 9:24 am | Reply
  7. Mr. DonkeyBottoms

    We need more friendly fire in the military. It's kinda like hunting accidents... I love hunting accidents. These halfwits need to kill themselves off.

    August 13, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
    • Kitty Litter

      I hope you get to go hunting quite often. It would build the odds for one of your favorite hunting accidents. And a head shot wouldn't do any damage since you don't seem to have a brain.

      August 17, 2012 at 9:17 am | Reply
  8. SixDegrees

    Troops are already beginning to carry smartphones and similar devices into combat, as ruggedized and secure versions become available. Smarthphones are currently used by Goggle and other companies to turn those carrying them into a "swarm" that can give progressively better geolocation information on WiFi stations, and then use that information to give the user a very precise personal location. This works especially well in cities, where urban canyons often make use of GPS impractical. In other words, there's existing technology that can easily solve this problem; it only requires the establishment of a localized cell network and/or WiFi stations, which the military is already capable of deploying.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • Kazim

      ooo, I like this! Having gotten T1 s room make-over (her 11th bihrdtay present) finished yesterday, my goal for August is to get T2 s room back in order (she's gotten half a room make-over because we had to carpet her room and paint at the same time). Once I get her room put back together I can have my living room and dining room back which have had the contents of their rooms since June. I would actually like to have T2 s room together before school starts but maybe those first few days of school will be the perfect time to finish no distractions.

      October 24, 2012 at 4:32 am | Reply
  9. Ted Striker

    As others have said, great idea until it gets hacked. North Vietnamese were able to hack artillery calls and redirect them onto US targets. And recently, Iran hacked one of our drones and brought it down.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:55 am | Reply
    • Hacker

      How could you "hack" this? This isn't a network controlled thing based on the article. I imagine the soldiers will wear something that alerts the laser that they are friendly. This is all independent of network tampering which is what you need to hack. The only way they can screw around with this is if they start wearing whatever it is makes them friendly's and I don't imagine that being a big deal.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
      • cul8rv8

        "To prevent opposing forces from taking advantage of the technology and mislabel themselves as friendlies, the retroreflectors also can be reprogrammed as needed." If it can be reprogrammed, it can be hacked.

        In my mind, here's what I see. US Soldier X is KIA, and the enemy knows of this technology, so they take his equipment. How are we reprogramming these on the fly in this situation? After typing this out, my only answer would be the reader/scope is reprogrammed, not the sensor. But then, how do you reprogram a scope if that falls in enemy hands? For this to really work, you would have to be able to reprogram it without physical access to it. In which case, somewhere, somehow, it can be hacked. It's a great idea, that's for sure. But I'm not sure they can make it 100% secure.

        August 13, 2012 at 11:03 am |
      • Al

        This has been in testing mode for years. We tried it during Iraqi Freedom. Excessive dust on the uniforms and equipment kept the laser signal responses from working correctly and, the big problem was (and is) in a combat situation, all the "reprogramming" must be done in sync. If one unit is in contact with the enemy, they can not swap out their patches or equipment at the same time a support unit is setting their target lasers a few kilometers behind them and thus they become "unknown" targets. More complicated than it sounds.

        August 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • soulcatcher

        Smartgun Link II works better, until invisibility is practically invented.

        August 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
      • Chad D

        Two words: stolen uniforms. Perhaps they should talk to some of our troops returning from Afghanistan about how ANP/ANA recruits regularly sell equipment on the black market. Even our own troops have been found to do the same. Alternatively, what's to prevent a hired laundry service from swapping known good uniforms for close copies?

        August 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
      • Me

        All it takes is to figure out the code the patches are currently using be able to replicate them and walla.. you're now a US soldier as far as targetting computers are concerned.

        August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
      • Woodzilla007

        Easy, obtain uniforms – either from a distributor, a storage facility, or from enemy forces.

        August 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
      • snakepudding

        I worked on a competing system that was somewhat similar. From my usually objective overview of such programs (nothing to gain or prove except save an American life) I would say it will work and belive there are current methods that would prevent hacking. However, I do have a concern about a key Cubic employee going to work for DARPA before the decision was made to award the contract with Cubic... This does not mean the wrong approach was selected, just that I am concerned about the appearance of the contract award.

        August 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
      • anneominous4

        Al has it right. And as I have mentioned several times: if the reflectors ARE working, it would only be a matter of months or perhaps even days before the enemy has lasers that can pick out the reflectors. IT DOESN'T MATTER that it's encoded. You only need to shoot at the reflectors. The Friendlies would be forced to cover up their reflectors in self-defense.

        And the TALON system isn't an ad-hoc local network; it is designed to transmit code bursts TO SATELLITES.

        Again: it doesn't matter if it's encrypted. Signals that strong can easily be detected and targeted.

        It wouldn't take long for the enemy to start using it against us.

        August 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  10. Darth Vader

    My imperial stormtroopers use laser blasters exclusively and they never report any friendly fire incidents. Though, they wouldn't DARE report such an incident were it to actually happen.

    August 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
  11. lamar

    This is a spinoff of a program run by cubic in 2005 called "OCIDS" (Optical Combat ID System). The U.S.Government spent 8 million dollars on the prototypes and tested them in the UK during a 2005 NATO exercise called "Operation:Urgent Quest". OCIDS failed miserably (93% FAILURE to properly ID friendlies). I wrote the report and evaluated the metrics that was delivered to Congress in early 2006. CUBIC was asking for 30 million more for additional funding, I helped kill that since the system did not work. I also designed the field tests that OCIDS had to pass in order to determine if the system worked or not (12 yrs as a Marine Infantry Officer with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan). Here was the issue then, and here is the issue now... It uses a laser. Lasers work great with a clear line of sight (as seen in the article picture). But ask it to ID a friendly who is in the treeline or hiding behind brush (when you actually have trouble with ID), and the system is not able to reflect the coded laser back to the user. The article says that it does work with brush and treelines, but, they must have figured out how to break the laws of physics to do that. I'm skeptical at this article and the claims that it makes. The Germans use a workable system that shoots a laser, and returns a Radio confirmation, thus taking out the need to reflect a laser back. This seems the proper way to use an FF ID system for ground troops. Sounds like CUBIC took a system out of moth balls and is trying to generate some interest. Oh yea, forgot to metion that the Top Secret coded prisims that reflect the lasers back to ID friendly forces.... CUBIC had them made in China to save money. Gave our potential enemies the key piece of the system. That was one of the main reasons Congress killed OCIDs in the first place. Don't waste your money Congress.

    August 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • Cubic

      This is a new and entirely reengineered system from the earler one you refer to. For one thing, this entire system is built inside a standard rifle scope. (The early one was a builky add-on device.) The new system was tested at Camp Atterbury in the field in Indiana in August 2011, at Operation Bold Quest. It performed exceptionally well under a variety of conditions. And unlike the earlier system, DCID-TALON incorporate GPS location and the Military Grid Reference System readou to provide a precised location to target and distance to target within the scope. It has Bluetooth capability, reduces SWAP, and other improvements. There is no comparison to the earlier system.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Reply
      • lamar

        Cool. You fixed the bulk issues that it had. A step in the right direction. How did you fix the laser issue since lasers don't shoot through brush and trees?

        August 12, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
      • lamar

        And Fog. The old laser wouldn't shoot through fog. Something about how droplets of water tend to break up the laser over a distance.

        August 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
      • anneominous4

        But it still fails in that cheap, low-tech systems can be used to defeat it!

        I might as well borrow the phrase that someone else already said: this is a boondoggle. It cannot work for more than about a month before it is bypassed. And even during that time, it clearly marks U.S. soldiers as targets on the battlefield.

        Somebody is trying to get government funds for a project that not only cannot work, but will get U.S. soldiers killed. That makes them the lowest of the low, in my opinion.

        August 13, 2012 at 2:51 am |
  12. SC

    The idea sounded very good initially but the turnoff is "the process takes 1/10 of a second." That's too long if you are on the battlefield constantly shooting.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
    • killer

      maybe before you shoot ,ask them what place the Mets r in

      August 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  13. Bob

    "Blue-on-blue incidents have occurred from the Civil War mortal wounding of Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson to the publicized fratricide of Pat Tillman, who was killed in 2004 during active Army duty in Afghanistan."

    In Stonewall Jackson's case, it was probably not what you would call "blue on blue."

    August 12, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Reply
  14. NUMMY

    ANY technology that is developed by humans can be used both for and against them, by an enemy no matter what side the enemy is on or WHO is the enemy.

    Worst of in ANY human interaction...the original premise quickly deteriorates into a "war" of its own and NO ONE cares ANYTHING except "winning"...some online blurb, a gold medal or getting in front on the freeway.

    Mindless humans will continue to kill each other over nothing more or less than a "look" and continue to destroy anything deemed "wrong" by the leaders.

    Humans deserve what they are getting now and in the future.

    "KILL THEM ALL"...GOD KNOWS HIS OWN"...a famous phrase made by a Bishop of the early Catholic fits. So does "NUK'UM TILL THEY GLOW AND BACK TO THE STONE AGE"...who needs ID tags.

    There are NO innocents on the face of the earth today including just born infants who are ALL genetically predisposed to violence...which is why we are at this point today.

    Manhkind will wipe itself out before ever setting foot outside our Solar system.

    ...and the mindless morons will contiue to live inside a tube and vicariously get their jolly's from someone elses endeavors, and live off the death and destruction that someone else provides and whine while they squat, eyes glued to their GOD.

    Mankind does NOT deserve to live in ANY kind of paradise.

    August 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Reply
    • speedslug

      That was Very helpful information, NUMMY. Now crawl back in the cave and don't come out untill the priest says it ok.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:08 am | Reply
  15. Retired Soldier

    Another billion dollar boondoggle that won't help our soldiers - and may actually kill them - while enriching defense industry contractors.

    "Blue on blue" "friendly fire" incidents rarely involve rifles or machineguns in the first place. And the very nature of infantry combat makes any system like this unworkable. You see the enemy for just seconds at a time, and you need to line the sights up and fire as quickly as possible. There is no time to be switching your attention to a "friend or foe" indicator - that delay is likely to get you or your comrades killed.

    And let's not pretend that our enemies wouldn't start covering THEIR uniforms with "friendly" tags so that US troops would hold their fire.

    Nor would it be difficult to build a "US troop detector" that looked for the "friendly" tags on US troops and then sent a message to the enemy, or simply detonated an IED.

    August 12, 2012 at 2:28 am | Reply
    • Cubic

      It would not be possible for the enemy to wear "friendly" tags that mimic those used by this system. The tags are able to encode the reflected laser signal, and are almost impossible to spoof. The code they imploy could be changed daily, or more ofiten if needed.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:51 am | Reply
      • Retired Soldier

        You have a vivid imagination.

        August 12, 2012 at 3:23 am |
      • BS

        The tags are simple reflectors- they cannot be reprogrammed. They are just reflective tape- like the material that makes your shoes light up when you shine light on them. The only thing that can be changed is on the laser end. This is an immensely stupid idea- the reflector tags would make our soldiers much easier to see (as they reflect all light, not just laser beams) and all the enemy would have to do to spoof this system would buy reflective tape (only $4.69 on Amaxon- Idiotic.

        August 12, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • bluegillonthefly

      "Cubic" is right, it would be pretty easy to make these really hard to spoof. On the flip side, opponents don't even need a "friendly detector" as you state. All they need, if their own troops aren't using this technology, is to send the proper kind of laser downrange. If it gets a signal – any signal – they know the target is an American soldier and it's safe to fire. Also, laser can be seen, with the proper equipment, and it provides a path right back to the person using it. Wonderful for snipers. That's why laser targeting systems on pistols are much less popular than they used to be. That laser helps your opponent find you in the dark.

      WRT weapons involved in friendly fire, Pat Tillman was killed by small arms fire. Sure,some friendly fire deaths are also from heavy weapons,but this might help, if the bugs can be worked out.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:07 am | Reply
    • MOS 25B

      RS, you are right; most FF incidents are from recon vehicles, which these days includes drones. Howerver, the type of IFF system described could easily be integrated into systems from predators to AH64's, or even field specs. The hard part is making the system fool proof. IFF codes could be changed daily, or be mission specific, but the main issue at hand is securely transmitting and updating all detection devices in the field with the latest codes. Not a minor feat. Also the time window that a code is active, still allows for an enemy to appropriate the IFF tags of friendlies that have gone TU in battle. Still I think it would be useful in limited deployment for vehicles and perhaps unit leaders.

      August 12, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • amy

      read the whole article idiot

      August 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  16. a slozomby

    not enough batteries for existing gear.

    August 12, 2012 at 1:39 am | Reply
  17. Easy E

    Works great until the enemy learns how to spoof it, and trust me, the Russians and Chinese are already on the case. There is still no replacement for good old fashioned human judgement.

    August 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
    • Retired Soldier

      The Russians and Chinese would certainly be able to build gear to spoof this system, or to target weapons on anyone wearing the "friend" tags.

      And they will be more than willing to sell those systems to all of our enemies.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:30 am | Reply
    • Cubic

      The codes are in the retroreflectors, and could be changed daily or more often. "Learning the code" would be useless.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:54 am | Reply
      • Retired Soldier

        Keep drinking that Koolaid.

        August 12, 2012 at 3:14 am |
    • Andy

      a couple of mhtnos after everyone else i finally got around to reading Joe's poem,and had to be content with reading it,because i've got a very daft old computer!I'm wondering Joe,if you ever read Rilla Of Ingleside ?-and no I'm not stirring you up.Reading that as a girl made me feel the grief that the family left behind felt-even though it was just a made up story,one of the anne books-it just captured it so well.I thought if you had not done so already ,you might enjoy it.But i guess that would mean having to go back and read all the rest of the series first!Willing to get girly ,you can do it!

      August 22, 2012 at 12:49 am | Reply
  18. mowseygirl

    realistically this could be a decent idea, except I don't know of many snipers who miss their target for a battle buddy (in fact I'm gonna have to say I've never heard of it). As far as I know friendly fire often occurs in the heat of battle where few soldiers are looking through a scope, and if they do employ laser type technology then it is so they don't have to look, just point and shoot. Friendly fire more often occurs in a crammed smoke/dust filled area where there is shots ringing out from all directions. Good in theory, but I feel it lacks practicality.

    August 11, 2012 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • jesuguru

      Fair point, but remember this tech works in .1 seconds. I could imagine it wouldn't even need a scope – it could be developed to make the gun vibrate a certain way if it's pointed at a friend vs. foe.

      August 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
    • advocatusdiaboli

      Most Blue-on-Blue deaths are via large caliber weapons like mounted machine guns with no electronic sighting (Pat Tillman for instance) or aircraft. The proposed solution wouldn't address the most common sources of the mistakes and so needs work. Further, Aircraft and heavy weapons sighting systems are much smaller in number than individual armaments meaning they can be economically upgraded and maintained. I shudder to think of the cost of modifying light weapons and the problems of keeping them operational in the field.

      August 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Reply
      • Retired Soldier

        Nor the ease of spoofing this system.

        Expect to see "friend" ID tags being produced for pennies in China within mere weeks of this system being deployed, and these counterfeit "friend" tags showing up on enemy combatants days later.

        August 12, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  19. clare

    George orwell,s comment is just what i'm talking about.this is america and your talking about deactivating people who have not passed their citizenship,loyalty, or are determined to be insane or antisocial will be shut down. people like you scare me. are you insane? maybe you should be shut down. who gives you the right? we are americans not your robots. the sick thoughts that come out is scary.

    August 11, 2012 at 8:05 am | Reply
  20. clare

    hey! you did not post my comment about bulk water exports from canada to the us. many americans know about this and the future demise of our freedoms. wwe know who owns all the networks. so, do you intend to post my info or not?

    August 11, 2012 at 7:50 am | Reply
  21. clare

    These chips are already in our new passports. they were advertised on d.sawyers show, (it was put in a baby so as to identify your child if kidnapped). i wonder how many babies. are chiped already?

    August 11, 2012 at 7:40 am | Reply
    • Whizerd67

      Those are RFID chips, although I'm sure there is similar technology perhaps, they aren't the same thing as in passports and alot of U.S. drivers' licenses are implementing them now....along with under the skin...etc....
      Of course..THAT could be used instead of something the enemy could just take off a soldier and wear.
      But IMO...the RFID (chip/capsule) are just for CONTROLLING the population and everything they do with money and such..
      Just my opinion*shrug*

      ~Blessed Be to all~

      August 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  22. clare

    Also, bulk water exports was on the agenda at the council of canadians in april 13th 2007. this is the north american's future 2025 project. what next? we are being disarmed anyway, so that the united forces can take over world wide. wake up and smell the roses. force will be used via the un. all states will have to relinquish all arms, except the united nations. blue hats.

    August 11, 2012 at 7:33 am | Reply
  23. clare

    The bilderberg group,the cfr,the tc,has been using terrorist scare tactics to be able to program americans and use the RFID chips. with these chips, (biometric identifiers), implanted in us can control our thinking or shut us down. the us, canada, and mexican borders are gone, and we did not vote for it. this north american union is behind these chips. we have unelected bureaucrats running our country since the 1900's. now we are to sit back and agree to tour lazer idea.the voters loss control yrs ago.

    August 11, 2012 at 7:22 am | Reply
  24. George Orwell

    An easy solution is to implant a microchip into everyone's arm at birth. People in unfriendly countries wouldn't have microchips because they're not as advanced as us, so it would be easy for our military forces to identify the enemy. It would also be useful at home to identify people who haven't passed their citizenship or loyalty qualifications, and they could be deactivated remotely if they are later found to be insane or anti-social.

    August 11, 2012 at 3:33 am | Reply
    • Hadenuffyet

      Some have already voluntarily done this. Bill Gates , I believe , has one. RFID.

      August 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Reply
    • Whizerd67

      You want absolutely NO control over your life?

      ~Blessed Be to all~

      August 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  25. anneominous4

    To clarify my first reply, let me spell out a VERY realistic scenario:

    Assume that this is a roughly "symmetric" war, and both sides have at least adequate access to modern technology. And all friendly troops are equipped with these devices.

    It only takes ONE enemy, wearing cheap passive detection equipment, to detect ONE attempt at targeting him with this system, and then the friendly laser code is KNOWN by the enemy, and can be copied before the friendlies realize it and reprogram everything (which would probably require retreat and regrouping, anyway).

    Then they take a laser system (it would have to be custom-built, but probably not difficult) to target a couple of friendlies, and detect the returned signal. No code breaking is required... it's a straight-up copy of the original coded laser pulse, and now they have the data to program their reflectors too.

    This could all be done in a few minutes, if they were organized.

    And if they wanted to go lower-tech? All they'd have to do is build CHEAP, non-encoded lasers to scan the field and detect the Friendlies' reflections from their uniforms, and just not wear reflectors themselves. Yes, the system might help friendlies identify each other, but very likely it would help the enemy even more.

    This is a USELESS system, chock full of logical holes. It might be useful for a couple of months, until someone comes up with an effective countermeasure. But such countermeasures, as I have described, would not be very hard to make. No super-duper code-breaking skills required.

    But wait, there's more!

    Even if Bluetooth could not be detected at a good distance, with the proper directional antenna, the TALON system proposed to equip each soldier with a more powerful radio beacon, so he can constantly transmit his location to the "network".

    People: IT DOESN'T MATTER if that radio signal is encoded. It's enough that there is a radio signal. All the enemy need do is detect the frequency or range of frequencies being used, and set up an automatic gun to target those transmissions.

    All this accomplishes is to put great big "HERE I AM" beacons, both visible and radio, on every soldier.

    It's a BAD IDEA.

    August 10, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
    • jdoe

      Wrong. The direction of the radio signal cannot be detected, unless there is triangulation. You need to study harder.

      August 10, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Reply
      • aimhere

        But what if there IS triangulation? It's not impossible to do.

        I kind of have to agree with anneominous4. If a system can be made by Man, it can be hacked, countered, and even subverted by the enemy. It may take weeks, month, or years of trial-and-error, or it may happen overnight via a bit of brilliant insight. Which is why a system like this cannot and should not ever be relied upon by its users.

        The arms race never ends, either for weapons or the technology that supports their use. Such is the nature of war.

        August 11, 2012 at 7:31 am |
      • anneominous4

        Absolute nonsense. The DISTANCE cannot be directly detected without triangulation. The DIRECTION can be very easily detected with a directional antenna.

        YOU need to study harder.

        August 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
      • Retired Soldier

        jdoe must be too young to remember the days of roof-mounted TV antennas and people fiddling with them to align them to a distant TV station's antenna. No need for triangulation.

        Determining the direction to a radio emitter is trivially simple. Determining the exact point on a map where a radio emitter is located is only slightly more complicated: you need all of two (2) people aligning antennas with the emitter and then sharing the information: where their azimuths cross is where the emitter is located.

        Simple enough with 1940s technology, let alone the technology countries like Russia and China can field today and will gladly sell to our enemies tomorrow.

        August 12, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • Cubic

      You don't understand how this device works. The laser signal to a modulated retroreflector is coded. The retroreflectlor reflects\ the beam back to the scope only after encolding it WITH A NEW CODE that the scope must verify. These secondary codes can be changed dailly or however often is need. These are "modulated" retroreflectors, which means that they have an electronic shutter that can encode the laser signal while reflecting back to the source.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:28 am | Reply
      • Retired Soldier

        And the first time the soldier washes his uniform, half these super-duper high-tech reflectors stop working.


        But they'll still work just fine to reflect incoming laser light - from enemies - nothing like going into combat covered with little disco ball mirrors.

        August 12, 2012 at 2:38 am |
      • anneominous4

        I *DO* understand how it works. But you are too blinded by your reliance on encryption to realize that there are lower-tech ways around your scheme. This is actually a rather typical situation when it comes to encryption "security", and I have run into it many times.

        A passive receiver can be used to record and mimic your original laser signal. Then a laser, using the copied signal, can be used to target the reflection from a Friendly, and the encoded reflection in turn recorded. This only need be done once for that particular encoding. Sure... so you change it the next day. Again, it only takes ONE valid reception to copy it all over again.

        Since the equipment used can be much lower-tech, it would cost less than ONE single DCID unit, and yet it completely defeats your purpose.

        This is a DUMB idea.

        August 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
      • anneominous4

        To clarify my statement: what I meant was, since those passive receivers (together with a copied version of your original laser transmission) can copy the RETURNED, encoded signal, all your fancy encryption is defeated, and the enemy now has all the information needed to program their own reflectors.

        Or - as I stated elsewhere, and Retired Soldier also mentioned - the enemy can simply not wear reflectors, and actively target anyone who does. It could even be done automatically... no fancy encryption or decryption necessary.

        August 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Retired Soldier

      Anneominous4 gets it. Spot on.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:34 am | Reply
      • anneominous4

        Yes, you and I get it. Although I work in a high-tech field, I have practical experience. This one is like so many others: somebody comes up with a high-tech "solution" to a problem, without fully seeing that it's creating problems of its own, or that it can be bypassed without even using all that fancy tech.

        Once upon a time I worked as a locksmith. You'd be amazed at how many people call to get you to let them in their homes because they locked the keys inside, only to find that the back door and several windows were wide open.

        These people want to securely encrypt the lock on the front door, but the windows are open and their pants are down.

        August 14, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • Cubic

      No, important code is added by the retroreflectors as they reflect the beam back to the scope. These are powered, not passiive, modulate retro-reflectors.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:47 am | Reply
      • Retired Soldier

        So every soldier will be expected to either tote spare batteries for a dozen or more active reflectors, or will they be powered by a central battery and connected by a web of cables? We've tried that with the MILES system and it's barely tolerable in a training device.

        How will a soldier know when the batteries run out? Will he start beeping like a smoke detector? Or maybe you could rig a flashing light to get his attention?

        "Cubic" is clearly a shill for Cubic Corporation, the defense industry company that is hoping to line its pockets with this bondoggle.

        August 12, 2012 at 3:28 am |
      • Ray

        You don't fix human error by implementing systems. Increased communication supported by intelliegence is still the proper route to abate FF incidents. Good for Cubic for trying, since the need for something still exists. But is it true you contracted manufacturing work on this product to China? If you did, your interest was in making money. Building Ipods and shoes in China keeps costs down, so most don't balk. Building technology in China intended to secretly indentify our friendly forces.....well, y'all fill in the blank....

        August 13, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • T. E. Lawrence O. A.


      SO – in the course of reading a Single Article you have Defeated, Worked Around, Figured Out and Rendered Useless the technology / product developed over the course of months and years by teams of experienced professionals who probably have thought of 1,000 problems, solutions, scenarios and work-arounds FAR, FAR BEYOND YOUR CAPABILITY.


      August 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Reply
  26. bs1

    They invested $25M in developing such obviously flawed technology???

    August 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Reply
    • Auth

      But he IS sooooooo cute! And now I have poiaogrtphhc evidence to show all the world! Mwhaha!Thank you for making this so special for my family. I will be forever grateful for these moments captured on film of our young children, our love, and our Army life.Lora

      October 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  27. anneominous4

    This is a joke, right?

    You can't ID someone with a passive reflector! Reflectors are cheap. The "ID" is coming from the SHOOTER, not the target.

    There are so many GLARINGLY OBVIOUS holes in this scheme, both physical and logical, I'm amazed that this made it as far as an article on CNN.


    August 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Reply
    • Cubic

      No, you are not correct. The laser signal to the modulated retroreflector is encoded by the scope. Before the retroreflector returns the beam, IT ADDS A NEW CODE that the scope must verify when it reads the reflected beam. The reason these are called "modulated" retro-reflectors is because they feature an electronic "shutter" that can encode a signal on the reflected laser beam. (Think of an old Navy signal lamp, used to transmit Morse code, except with a shutter that operates at light speed.) It is the code used by the retroreflectors that would be changed as "the code of the day," or more often if needed, NOT the code used by the scopes. It would be virtually impossible for anyone to catch this encoded return beam. It would be visibie for only a fraction of a second and only when ra friendly decided to interogate a target.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:40 am | Reply
      • Retired Soldier

        The "electronic shutter" you are describing does not exist and can not exist. The "shutter" would literally have to act faster than the speed of light for it to receive the incoming beam, recognize it as a friendly signal and then change it into an "I'm a friend" reflection of that signal.

        You are - poorly - attempting to describe an ACTIVE friend-or-foe system that requires a sensor, a processor and AN ACTIVE TRANSMITTER.

        August 12, 2012 at 2:50 am |
      • Ray

        It's just a big pipe dream. Better training, increased comm and intel is still the proper route to abate FF incidents. You can't fix human behavour with non-human implementations. Sure, tools can help, but it's the individual who in the end, despite whatever technology and the systems are indicating, chooses to engage or not. Our fingers squeeze the triggers and push the buttons.

        August 13, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  28. Hasai

    ".... The shooter aims the device, which sends an encoded message by laser beam....."

    ....And if it's the opposition, they immediately detect the incoming laser radiation painting them, and send a lovely little surprise screaming right back up that beam. Brilliant.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Reply
    • Cubic

      Do a Wikipedia search for "modulated retro-reflector" and you will learn that they do, indeed exist.

      August 12, 2012 at 3:00 am | Reply
      • Cubic

        Retired soldier: Here is a definition of what you say doesn't exist. It does exist, and you can look it up. " An MRR couples or combines an optical retroreflector with a modulator to reflect modulated optical signals directly back to an optical receiver or transceiver, allowing the MRR to function as an optical communications device without emitting its own optical power.

        August 12, 2012 at 3:03 am |
  29. jdoe

    As a complement to this, I don't see why every soldier can't be equipped with a GPS transmitter that can broadcast their location to command via satellite. The data is encrypted, of course. This way troop movement can be tracked in real time and everybody can be accounted for. It won't be cheap, but it's not outrageously expensive either. The technology has been around for some time.

    August 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Reply
    • anneominous4

      Sure. And I set up a bunker on a nearby hilltop, with a machine gun that automatically tracks and fires at encrypted GPS radio signals.


      August 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Reply
      • jdoe

        Wrong. Only the receiver can tell the location. Encryption has been used by the military for decades.

        August 10, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
      • Keith

        Clearly you don't know much about radio waves. In order to find the location of a broadcasted signal you would need 3 receivers to triangulate the position.

        August 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
      • a slozomby

        keith, 1 receiver gives direction, the second gives the distance,

        gps receivers work in reverse 1 receiver and multiple transmitters, they use more signals because they are dealing with huge distances and the delta of timestamps from multiple sources.

        August 12, 2012 at 1:44 am |
      • anneominous4

        As the other commenter said: the encryption DOES NOT MATTER. You can get the direction of the signal - no matter what it contains - with a single antenna. You don't need 2 unless you want the distance too, and you don't need 3 at all.

        But you really wouldn't need that, either. Just add a laser rangefinder. Once you have the general direction, scan that small area with a laser and look for reflectors. And when you find one, the reflected signal can tell you not only the exact position, but the distance too, down to an inch or so.

        So: ONE installation is all it takes to find all your soldiers. No triangulation is necessary. No code breaking is necessary. Nothing fancy. Just good old, cheap, proven technology.

        So yes, Virginia, I *COULD* build an automatic system to chop up all your soldiers wearing this gear. And it would be relatively simple and cheap.

        August 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Retired Soldier

      And it would never occur to the other side to develop a system to spot those outgoing signals and direct a cheap mortar bomb onto their location?

      This is what happens when 12 year olds are allowed on the internet...

      August 12, 2012 at 2:52 am | Reply
      • Cubic

        So you are saying they do exist, right, and you had no idea what you were talking about?

        August 12, 2012 at 3:06 am |
      • Retired Soldier

        "Cubic" shills for his corporate masters better than he reads plain English.

        jdoe was talking about putting active transmitters on every soldier.

        A very bad idea.

        Turns out you are also talking about putting active transmitters on soldiers.

        Still a very bad idea.

        Putting American soldiers at risk in order to put money in Cubic Corp's pockets? Cutting awfully close to outright treason.

        August 12, 2012 at 3:35 am |
      • Muney

        AnonymousMay 20, 2005I am the generation of that fine gnetleman in your very moving video. Our government took these young men and threw them into a war that was none of our business. I believed in that government at first and then began to realize the protesters were right. So many thousands of lives were lost and changed for what?? And when these poor guys came home, they were spat upon, they were insulted, they were disrespected in every way. This was our shame and it was a terrible shame.

        August 19, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  30. Friday

    Canada has armed forces?

    August 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  31. svann

    If my enemy deployed this what I would do is engineer a wide beam laser (something like a supermarket scanner) that could scan the entire field and locate every single enemy soldier, download the locations to a targetting computer, and take out every single one of them. Sorry, labeling your soldiers for auto-identify seems like a very bad idea.

    August 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Reply
    • anneominous4

      I don't think it just "seems" like a very bad idea. I think it's one of the most boneheaded ideas I have heard in a very long time.

      August 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  32. us_1776

    Are these guys kidding?

    The first thing you do is pickup enemy "goodies" and these reflectors would be one of them.

    Enemy recon patrols would be fully equipped with our own reflectors.



    August 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Reply
    • svann

      Dont even need to capture the soldier. The device is built to show code at a distance.

      August 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Reply
  33. Sumo

    Sounds like a clumsy, expensive system that would be ineffective in practice. As mentioned above, what if the reflectors are obscured, or even worse, captured by the enemy? Also, the range seems to be limited to a measly 800m, or as it's known in the military world, "not very far at all".

    And of course, were it actually implemented, it would have to be deployed to EVERY SINGLE WARFIGHTER IN THE ENTIRE OPERATING THEATRE, which would just so happen to make the developers multi-billionaires... How convenient...

    Sounds like this whole emotion-centric pitch is less about saving lives, and more about making the developers uber-wealthy.

    August 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Reply
    • Herby Sagues

      I have an even bigger concern: won't this act as an alert sign to the enemy you are trying to shoot? How expensive can be do deploy a laser detectors? Yes, it will cost a few dollars, but if I could fit myself with a device that's going to alarm me every time someone is about to shoot me, I would definitely skip a few meals to get it.
      These will be sold on the black market for $5 as soon as these things get deployed, guaranteed.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  34. DJ vet

    no one mentioned a couple real points, technological failures and the ability to intercept the location of troops on the field by the enemy by hacking into our systems, we can do it so can they. never assume you are smarter or better equipped than the enemy. that's how you loose

    August 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  35. cpc65

    If we're talking about Stormtroopers then no need to worry as they can't hit a bantha at point blank range.

    August 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply

    Sharks with laser beams ! ! !

    August 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  37. Sierra Foxtrot

    This technology has the potential to suffer the spell-check syndrome...people rely so much on spell check that grammatical errors and word usage errors are commonplace. Military personnel relying on the "friend" tag too much will result in freindly fire to some extent, more or less than now and in the past?, unsure and there is no way to determine that at this point. Obviously there is also the issue of the enemy using the friendly gear with the retroflectors which will result in more unfriendly unfriendly gets a hold of some friendly gear and suddenly is not at risk of being fired upon long enough to kill and get more gear to equip more unfriendlies and propogate the process. Reporting retroflectors stolen will not work until it has been confirmed and that is far too long.

    August 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
    • anneominous4

      I was about to point that out myself, because it is yet another very valid objection, but not one that first occurred to me.

      August 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  38. compassmd

    Solution to stealing retro-reflectors. Why not encode each retro-reflector to also return soldier information, similar to dog-tags?

    Name/Rank/Unit/Base of Deployment/Blood Type/FRIENDLY.

    All the info can be used for verification if needed.

    Cross-reference with a military database that stores soldier status such as "ACTIVE/MIA/KIA" and display that information as well.

    Stolen/missing reflectors would be marked as such and return a NON-FRIENDLY tag.

    Add more tech, and we can navigate around the false flag issue, making the weakest point of entry the actual database, and not the device itself.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • Retired Soldier

      Spoken like someone who has never spent a single minute in the military.

      Or ever had a glitch on their PC or cellphone.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:56 am | Reply
      • Cubic

        You should probably spend more time learning about things you don't understand before comment about them as if you do.

        August 12, 2012 at 3:28 am |
      • Jackson

        Manny August 10, 2009 For those who don't know yet about this,this is what i meant in my previous cmenmot.but more people,anywhere in the world had read this article.To the one who made a bad cmenmot about the filipinos,you must read that article a million times good luck!

        October 22, 2012 at 5:47 am |
  39. BG

    So...the under informed being led around by the over ignorant, that is what I see in this story.

    Fratricide is a major issue, this DCID-TALON won't help it, it will cause more

    Situation GI JOE sees a troop in the open, hits him with the FoF laser, get a bad guy response, lights up a joe from the next fighting position because teh moisture or fog or dust or grass in the way kept him from getting that's a friend response.

    Whereas without this device, he would have taken more time to try to id the troop, and maybe saw that he was carrying a US weapon or wearing US equipment.

    Do not fall for this technology, it won't work on the battlefield, it works fine in Cubic labs under controlled conditions.

    Cubic has been trying to perfect this for a while, and the DOD won't fund it BECAUSE IT DOES NOT WORK\

    Who knows, maybe the candians will like it

    August 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  40. Tred

    Can these lazers be seen in the infrared spectrum? Could make for a nice sniper location system the enemy could use.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:54 am | Reply
    • Retired Soldier

      In the real world - with its dust, fog, vegetation, spiderwebs, etc - rather than a nice clean lab - there will be some side and back-scatter from any laser signal, which will be detectable.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:58 am | Reply
    • Giovanna

      My son likes the way this costume looks but don't expcet too much for your money. The helmet is made of material and doesn't look too realistic. The material used for the costume is cheap and the edges are not finished like a piece of clothing should be. It is what it is.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:55 am | Reply
  41. Jim Okerblom

    What the story doesn't mention is the TALON part of DCID-TALON. In addition to identifying friendly forces uing the scope's laser system and modulated retro-reflectlors, the scope also displays the distance to the target (lower right number in the photo), azimuth information (lower left number) and with a built in GPS system, the precise location of the target using the Military Grid Reference System (letters and numbers at the top). This grid system locates the target within about 10 meters anywhere on earth. Thus the scope would allow a foot soldier to call for artillery or mortar fire or an air strike with precise accuracy, or even his own exact location by poiniting the scope on the ground. All of those systems incoporated in a scope would actually reduce SWAP (the size, weight, and power use) of items carried by soldiers because it would replace separate systems they already carry. All the information in the scope could be shared - with higher command or an AWACS plane - using the Bluetooth capability and a combat radio.
    And if some of the modulated retrorreflectors were captured by the enemy, their coding can be easily changed, making them useless.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Reply
    • CNN Reader

      Easily changing codes does not solve the flaw.

      August 9, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
    • anneominous4

      Those "features" do not solve the problem; they just add additional problems of their own.

      First, even "modulated" retro-reflectors can be copied. In fact, it would probably be dead simple to build your own laser device to detect the modulation, then use your own programmable reflectors to mimic them. It would be a MASSIVE waste of time, money, and last but hardly least: personnel. All on a hare-brained scheme that should not have even gotten this far.

      As for TALON: any time you put automatic transmitters on all your troops, you risk detection (and thus elimination) on a massive scale.

      So not only you are proposing to light up the field with "Hey! Look at me!" reflectors that can be seen and detected at great distances, and mimicked, you ALSO want to actively TRANSMIT from each soldier! Encrypted or not, it might as well be a homing signal!

      Sheesh. This is the worst idea since "digital" camo (which has been shown to be an utter failure, by the way, and is going to be replaced with something resembling the old styles which are proven effective).

      August 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  42. Mike

    hey cnn let me do your job for you: painted sides of vehicles... right.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Reply
    • Charlie Whitehurst

      This is a fantastic tool on the battlefield. During our demo we all agreed the Army should provide this to all soldiers. The loss of a fellow soldier can be all but eliminated. The cost of a soldier's life is in the hundreds of thousands not to mention what they mean to their families. We need this technology now!

      August 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Reply
      • CNN Reader

        The system as described has a fatal flaw... what if it contributes to the loss of many lives (see my previous post).

        August 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
      • Retired Soldier

        Charlie is the sort of ignorant sheep that this advertisement-masquerading-as-news was written to snare.

        August 12, 2012 at 3:01 am |
  43. Cem Onur

    RFID chips planted in under muscle tissue. That is the only way to prevent true friendly fire by utilizing technology as far as targeting reticule indicators go. Anything else in the form of "detachable" instrument will NOT be trusted by the GI; and neighter it should be. It's better to be safe than sorry. And "laser painting" is a big problem, as stated correctly by a previous poster, and it's detachable – any R&D spent on developing an "encoded IFF code inside the beam so that the painted target does not target you back" – imagine your enemy grabbing a rifle from a dead allied soldier; not gonna work. Implants for each soldier, and then you'd have a revolt in your hands (I wouldn't want to be implanted either) but we are going in this very direction my friends. Future is fun and bleak at the same time. RFID goes both ways; the enemy will pinpoint your location faster than you can say "damn". So, encryption, electronic umbrellas, personal electronic shields – yeap, more Halo than it should be I guess.

    Robo – soldiers. The best.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • CNN Reader

      Dude, what's the range of an RFI chip (inches?)... just ask anyone in the CIA who's had experience in implanting the Pringle chip.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  44. JeffinIL

    Lasers can't fix stupid. There have been many friendly fire incidents involving vehicles that are unique to the US inventory. If you're too stupid to be able to identify an M1 tank or a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the laser won't stop you from firing.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  45. WD

    That guy driving the bucket loader was thinking "Oh S–t!"

    August 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  46. mmmkay

    Good idea, but they aren't taking into account that many military vehicles, friend and foe, are set up to detect lasers because they are using to mark targets. Point this at a modern main battle tank, and it might not say "FRIEND", but in your scope you are immediately going to see the turret point right at you and start shooting. That's what they do.. when they detect a laser hitting them they immediately and automatically target the source of the laser.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  47. DG

    Ok this is all great... if it's not embedded IN the soldier... what's stopping the enemy from taking the helmet / uniform off a dead solder? This is a non starter

    August 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • Jeff

      I was thinking the same thing. This seems good but at the soldier level it could get confusing. If units are in a close quarter fight, where danger close fire requests are necessary, this would make the firing unit reluctant to fire or pause their actions. The more automated the military gets the less soldiers learn and practice basic skills. They lean greater on the technology and this could be problematic.

      August 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
    • banannaman

      they said in the article that they can be reprogrammed for that reason.i was thinking like you were until i read that.8

      August 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Reply
      • DG

        reprogram is only good if you know when the tech has been lifted and known to be used against you... how are they going to do that in the field unless you have live life sensors telling of soldiers bios? Too much tech – might as well just have robo soldiers.

        August 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Kevin Starr

      In a so-called 'symmetric war' where we're fighting people with the same technology as us, most of our opponents will be following international laws; 'false flag' operations are illegal.

      Granted, this is war we're talking about, and I'm not an idiot; I know laws get broken or completely disregarded in combat, and some people don't care. However, keep in mind that grabbing an enemy uniform and donning it is a really, really great way to get killed by friendly fire yourself.

      Most importantly, in todays conflicts, if you can actually get to an enemy combatant and strip them of their uniform without opposition from their friends, then the battle is already a pitched free-for-all and bad things are going to happen anyway.

      August 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
      • rp1588

        USA does not follow the Geneva Conventions and other international laws. It is difficult to believe any enemy feels bound to do so.

        August 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
      • anneominous4

        "False Flag" has no meaning if the identification of individual soldiers is being done at a distance by electronic means. Then all it means is that your electronics are inadequate to the job.

        If one side really wants to put highly visible, reflective identification on each of their troops, along with individual radio beacons, encrypted or not... they will find that they won't last very long on the battlefield after the first couple of skirmishes.

        You CAN'T disguise this stuff. This is a giant "Here I am! Shoot me!" on every individual soldier.


        August 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
      • anneominous4

        By the way: I was not calling you stupid... I just think you hadn't thought of that. I mean this whole idea is stupid. Somebody (a number of somebodies) didn't think it through.

        August 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Vet

      How many U.S. Service Members have been captured in AFG/IRQ? I'm thinking less than 5, so that's not really an "issue" what with the reprogramming factor in the reflectors. I know for a fact if they're Marines, no way in hell you're taking one of our KIA...but that doesn't really solve the problem though does it...

      August 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
      • anneominous4

        But that is completely beside the point, because you don't have to "capture" them at all in order for them to be useful to you.

        Just set up a scanning laser on a nearby hilltop, with an automatic gun that shoots at reflectors. It doesn't need to worry about any fancy "encryption". If it sees a reflector, it just shoots.

        Done. The battle is over.

        Let me tell you why this is a bad idea, by analogy: One army decides that too many of its soldiers are getting killed by friendly fire, so they decide identify their own troops by painting "I'M AN AMERICAN" in big reflective letters on every helmet. They reason that it won't help the enemy, because they can't read English...

        (This is a valid comparison; Cubic's reasoning is that it can't be copied because the message is encrypted.)

        And of course the whole idea is ridiculous: the message doesn't have to be copied. All you have to do is shoot at the reflectors.

        And to top it off, they want each soldier to be constantly TRANSMITTING their position. Again, it doesn't matter whether what they transmit is encrypted; it is enough that there is a transmission.

        So you're putting TWO great big "Here I am! Shoot me!" signs on every one of your soldiers. One of them easily visible and pinpointable at great distances by laser, and the other can be found with a directional antenna. Put them together, and I could design you an AUTOMATIC system that would find a radio transmission, then locate its EXACT position with a laser, and... kill it.

        Does that sound like a good plan to you?

        August 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Wiz

      Err... You talk about taking the uniform with these embedded and using it. What is the difference between an enemy doing that now?

      August 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Reply
    • CNN Reader

      Sounds like the company has not resolved a fatal flaw in the system... an enemy could use the device/helmet to safely approach closer (and do greater damage)... even if the codes were changed daily... they would still leave the good guys vulnerable to enemy short-term use of appropriated devices (time disabling of device would not help the good guys who were unable to reprogram).

      August 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  48. Person

    When we can get the Halo "green for friendly" and "red for enemy" reticles, ill be impressed

    August 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Reply

    This is awesome and shows great ingenuity, however......say I was an enemy and I just took over a vehicle or killed a would they recognize this fast enough to have the stamp reprogrammed? I think it's a great start, but needs some work.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  50. PEACE


    August 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  51. Vikas

    Its true. The best way to stop friendly fire is to not have wars.

    We really got those Iraqis for what those Saudis did.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • latuya83

      the only problem with that assestment is that since the human race came into being we have been killing each other. We became "civilized" what 6 to 7 thousand years ago, and we have been going to war with each other ever since. Good luck with your love and peace, it doesn't seem to be in our DNA.

      August 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
      • zrxgrim

        Peace and Love are in my DNA. Right next to the Fight, Flight, and other things neccesary to keep me human. All things in moderation and at the proper time.

        August 10, 2012 at 9:13 am |
      • rp1588

        There will likely be wars for a long time, unless the big one happens and we are all dead. That does not negate the fact that Vikas' comment is 100% correct.

        August 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
      • Kubil

        It's a good song no doubt. But when is Sade ever wack really? I hope ppoele don't over-anticipate her album and make us hate it before it drops. If they do, I'll just wait until the hype's over and then go cop it for myself and love it.

        August 19, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Doug

      So true. Bush and Cheney should be hung on the Whitehouse lawn.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
      • Doug

        Meant that as a reply to Peace that said we showed those Iraqis for the actions of the Saudis. Smart phone dumb operater.

        August 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  52. Adam

    Yea, but what if the enemy is using Assassin Pro, name won't show up #_#

    August 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • banannaman

      or worse...last stand

      August 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Reply
    • Joseph


      August 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  53. Hossky

    So this thing will bascially "interrogate" who ever you point it at, and if the wrong IFF signal comes back. shoot? Sorry good idea but lets be honest, how are they going to keep the "retroreflectors" out of enemy hands? Alot of people will get killed because of it. Though their on the right path.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  54. Frank Jimmies

    Old news. We have systems like this, but the battery power needed is what kills it. Lasers = power, and the more batteries needed the less likely the system will be adopted.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  55. Mike

    This is excellent, and it's about time. Bravo to these guys. Hopefully after more testing it will be implemented. My concern would be a fallen soldier in enemy lines, and the enemy easily gaining this technology to manipulate it or recreate it for use on their side. But regardless of that, this is much needed and I welcome it. The sooner the better....

    August 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  56. CNNuthin

    I know I am going to get a lot of complaints on here for mentioning, but if you want to reduce the number of US/Ally soldier Casualties, get them off the field and get more missile, drones and robotic weapons. We are supposed to be the greatest nation in the world, but we are worrying too much about cost of weapons, armor, vehicles, technology to realize we are preventing a soldier from getting shot.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
    • Lina

      I'm sick of this quick release scehudle. I've been with Firefox from 0.80 but it's gone crazy now, a new version every few weeks, mad! We won't get past an *.0.1 version before another major jump. I bet the extension authors are well pleased as well, not.Let's get back to normal ffs.Rant over.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  57. shredder01

    The best way to stop friendly fire is to not pull the trigger. End the wars, bring the troops home and dismantle the military machine.

    There is no need for what is going on in the world today, and the US is part of the problem and not the solution. We invade foreign countries under false pretenses to achieve political or economic advantage and we ignore the most disgusting abuses of human rights when there is nothing to be gained by getting involved.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      Way to focus on the article's topic. Keep the politics out of this.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
      • Jack Kieser

        Technically, he IS on topic; the broad topic is about Friendly Fire (although the article is specifically on one kind of FF elimination technology), and he is accurate in saying that the best kind of FF prevention is simply to not have to shoot in the first place. In this case, the boarder political implications are relevant to the article when all context is taken into account.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • You are boring me


      August 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • BD

      Naivety must be a nice feeling.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • S0MA

      the Joseph Kony-s of the world are in total support of your opinion.

      August 10, 2012 at 10:44 am | Reply

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