The US military plans to deploy a hi-tech laser device in Iraq which is capable of pinpointing sniper fire, a top Pentagon scientist has said.

Other anti-guerrilla technologies in the pipeline would help detect roadside bombs and booby-traps, which have been inflicting daily casualties on US forces.

"One of the problems we're having is that people in Iraq can almost do anything they want, and get away with it. We don't have a good way to respond," said Anthony Tether, head of the Pentagon's research agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The development and testing of the hi-tech systems is being accelerated in response to the problems US forces have been experiencing in Iraq.

"What we're trying to do is come up with technology that will at least make people hesitate," Mr Tether said.

You can determine by time differences where the sound came from and work backwards to where it had to be on the ground
Anthony Tether, DARPA

"They're not going to be 100% solutions, but when you're in a situation where you have no solutions, even a 25% solution is going to be great," he explained.

DARPA plans to send the laser to Iraq in the next three or four months.

The device is designed to pick-up and pinpoint the sound of sniper gunshots in much the same way as radar detects moving objects.

Particle movement sensors

The ground-based carbon dioxide laser, which is said to have a range of "tens of kilometres", measures particle movement to figure out where a shot originated from.

"It has various detection elements. You can determine by time differences where the sound came from and work backwards to where it had to be on the ground," Mr Tether explained.

The device was originally developed, at a cost of $7m, as a means of detecting vehicles concealed behind land objects, such as hills, but now it will be pressed into action against lone gunmen.

Other experimental devices also to be deployed will try to home in on signals from mobile phones or pagers which are used to trigger remote roadside bombs.

"It's not very good in the middle of the city, because everybody has a cell phone," Mr Tether said. "But if you get in a convoy going across the desert or something like that and you started sensing electronics over to the right on the road a hundred yards ahead of you, that would be a great tip off."

DARPA technology has already been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where robots have been used to explore caves hiding enemy forces.

And US troops are using hand-held translation devices developed by the agency, which are able to translate simple English phrases such as "put your hands up" into 16 languages, including Arabic.

source: bbc

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