At 8:45 a.m. on September 11, 2001, terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. While Americans scrambled to make sense of what had happened in downtown Manhattan, a second plane, Flight 175 of United Airlines, crashed into the South Tower only 18 minutes later. The horror in New York was compounded at 9:43 a.m. when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. In 58 short minutes, the United States had been significantly attacked on its own soil for the first time since Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Americans knew the country was at war.
ARL’s response to these events was twofold. First, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was up and running at 10:30 a.m. that day, less than an hour after the attack on the Pentagon. The EOC has several roles: maintaining secure communications, coordinating all Enduring Freedom/Noble Eagle support, and maintaining records and documentation of all its efforts. In addition, the EOC has worked on a number of major projects since its inception. One was the development of emergency procedures to cover a spectrum of possible threat contingencies. Personnel assigned to the EOC have been working closely with representatives from every staff element to develop these procedures. Almost all either have been tested through various real-world events or war-gamed for validation. The EOC is refining all of its procedures. Another project involved the successful development of reliable communications architecture for both unclassified and classified e-mail. Consequently, ARL now has virtually instantaneous access to the various DoD resources. A third major project was the identification and justification of force protection augmentation. The project resulted in the approval of thirty activated National Guard Soldiers and four Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMAs) to support ARL at Adelphi.
While ARL’s immediate contributions were important in facilitating coordination among DoD agencies and securing the research being done at ARL facilities, its most important mission in the coming years will be to continue to provide the tools our Soldiers need on the battlefield. As the past 10 years have shown, this technology is essential, both in the war on terror and the defense of American interests at home and throughout the world.
Since the terrorist attacks, U.S. armed forces have engaged in two major operations – Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ARL participated in the development of several technologies that were fielded in these operations to assist Soldiers in carrying out mission objectives. In Afghanistan, the acoustic battlefield aid, which uses acoustic sound to identify areas where U.S. military assets can and cannot be detected, was deployed to the 25th Marine Expeditionary Force. The search for top Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders was further assisted by the use of PacBots, which were developed in coordination with DARPA and manufactured by iRobot. These small robots were deployed to Afghanistan to clear caves and buildings, marking the first time that the U.S. military used robots as a combat tool. The robots were integrated with ARL-developed sensors prior to deployment. Finally, the deployment of the already heralded Forward Area Language Converters (FALCons) to Soldiers enabled them to translate scores of documents left behind by the Taliban regime.
Operation Iraqi Freedom would see a more extensive use of ARL-developed technology in combat operations. While an exhaustive list of these technologies is unavailable due to the ongoing conflict, among technologies fielded were the Integrated Meteorological System (IMETS), which provided operational weather forecasts and predicted weather patterns in the battlefield. ARL has worked on technology enhancements to address specific areas identified by Soldiers such as forecasting high wind events and dust dispersion – critical weather factors in the Iraqi desert. The system was deployed to the 3rd Infantry Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 101st Airborne Division, and Coalition Land Forces Component Command. Further, the PILAR/Acoustic Gunfire Sniper Detection System was fielded to the U.S Special Operations Command. Developed in conjunction with Program Manager, Close Combat Systems, ARDEC, the system, which includes both ground-based and vehicle mounted variants, uses the sound of a small arms weapon or bullet in flight to provide the relative azimuth, elevation and range of the origin of the shot a technology which will prove increasingly important in the U.S. Army’s stabilization and peacekeeping missions in Baghdad and other Iraqi urban areas. Finally, ARL helped develop the M152 Remote Activation Munition System (RAMS), which functions as a remote detonator for explosives and the operation of electronic items. It has also been fielded to the U.S. Special Operations Command, which praised the system as a “vital advance in technology for the Special Operations Forces in their missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to counter-insurgency to low intensity conflict to full scale war.”