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Defense Technology Monitor - No. 24

Edited by Richard M. Harrison and Andrew Greenman
December 18, 2017


HYPERSONIC WEAPONS ENABLE GLOBAL STRIKE CAPABILITY
After reaching full maturity, hypersonic missiles will be capable of delivering conventional warheads anywhere on the globe with a flight time measured in mere minutes. The U.S. Navy recently tested a version of a hypersonic weapon, referred to as Prompt Global Strike, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, but the results of the test have not been made public. Originally conceived under the George W. Bush administration, these long-range missiles traveling at Mach 5 could permit the U.S. military to carry out strikes based on time-sensitive information, such as the locations of terrorist meetings or the destruction of a missile on an adversary launch pad. The Navy envisions hypersonic missiles carrying conventional weapons launched from nuclear-powered submarines (SSGNs) as a core part of the Prompt Global Strike capability.

The characteristics of this capability are also becoming clearer. This summer, the RAND Corporation released a report recommending that the three countries currently in possession of the technology (the U.S., China, and Russia) come to an agreement to restrict its proliferation. The rationale given by the report was that, because hypersonic weapons can be launched and strike so quickly, the limited reaction time could cause global instability - and, in the most extreme case, even cause a nuclear retaliatory strike. However, mistaking a hypersonic weapon for a nuclear strike is now less likely, since the new boost glide hypersonic vehicles separate (detach from the ballistic missile) much earlier than a nuclear warhead would, thereby allowing adversaries to more easily discriminate between the two types of attack. (
Popular Mechanics, November 7, 2017)

DREAMING OF INVISIBILITY
Israeli scientists at Ben Gurion University of the Negev claim that they have developed an "invisibility cloak" which would bend light around an object instead of reflecting off it - at least in theory. Their conclusions are based on the simple idea that if our eyes don't receive light bounced off an object, they cannot see it. The underlying concept is similar to that of stealth technologies such as radar-absorbing paint for stealth aircraft, which prevent radio waves from bouncing back to the source and revealing the aircraft. While the high-tech Israeli idea - which involves the use of nano-sized particles - works as an abstract theory, making a practical invisibility cloak remains a long way off. The next major challenge in bringing this technology to fruition will be the creation a working prototype to serve as "proof of concept" for the idea. (
Times of Israel, November 14, 2017)

THE BREWING DEBATE OVER BCI
Brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies allow human brains to more directly communicate with computers and in the future could potentially have the power to interpret thoughts and convert them to action. Notable tech visionary and entrepreneur Elon Musk's Neuralink is one of several startups now working on the technology (
see Defense Technology Monitor #16). However, a group of ethicists, neuroscientists, machine intelligence experts, and others calling themselves the Morningside Group have released a statement warning of the potential hazards of such technology, which they say would "profoundly alter" human characteristics such as having a private mental life, being fully in one body, and responsibility for the outcome of one's decisions.

With artificial intelligence (AI) interpreting thoughts and turning them into actions, the group has argued, there is a risk that it may misunderstand a thought that was never meant to be acted upon to be a command. The machine-brain link also goes both ways - there's a risk that hackers could gain access directly to someone's brain and find new ways to manipulate them. While the technology is still decades away from maturity, the Morningside Group states that developers should be kept responsible for ethically developing the BCI technology in ways that are safe and beneficial for humanity. (
Futurism, November 20, 2017)

NAVAL IRON DOME REACHES IOC
Israel's most famous missile defense system is expanding to the ocean. This November, the first ship-based version of the Iron Dome system - which played a decisive role in protecting the country during the 2014 Gaza War with the Hamas terrorist group - was declared fully operational. The maritime Iron Dome is intended to protect gas fields and shipping lanes off Israel's coast from short-range missiles, and to work in tandem with other Israeli missile defense systems such as the Arrow 3 exoatmospheric interceptor and the fast, low-altitude interceptor utilized by David's Sling.

Rocket attacks aimed at Israeli gas platforms during the 2014 conflict highlighted a need for localized missile defense and helped spur the development of the maritime Iron Dome. While the new Iron Dome variant is currently only in place on one ship, existing Israeli corvettes are expected to be retrofitted with it, and new vessels will come with the system already installed - including four new warships currently being built in Germany, which will come online in 2019. (
Times of Israel, November 27, 2017)

RUSSIA'S PUSH FOR AN INDEPENDENT INTERNET DIRECTORY
When you type a website into the address bar on your browser, a complex directory called the "Domain Name System" (DNS) connects your computer with the server that you are trying to reach. The DNS is currently managed by a California-based non-profit, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers (ICANN), which is overseen by a governmental advisory committee with 170+ nation-state members. However, Russia and China have long called for alternatives to the DNS that are under state control, and Moscow is now using the excuse of U.S. information warfare capabilities to further that objective.

Russia's National Security Council has already declared that "the increased capabilities of western nations to conduct offensive operations in the informational space as well as the increased readiness to exercise these capabilities pose a serious threat to Russia's security," and the Kremlin is moving ahead with the creation of an alternative to DNS serving core Russian net needs. This independent Russian DNS has emerged as a priority of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with a target launch date of August 1st, 2018. (
Defense One
, November 28, 2017)