Device Hunts Down Snipers

With the aid of a small, iPod-sized device, U.S. troops will be able to quickly detect enemy snipers and hopefully reduce one source of casualties.

Last year, more than 4,500 U.S. soldiers were injured or killed by enemy shooters in Afghanistan alone. Rocky and rough landscape made it nearly impossible for the enemy snipers to be located. However, with this 6.4-ounce device, or Soldier Worn Acoustic Targeting Systems (SWATS), could save the lives of many men and women of the U.S. Military.

Based on the shock waves of the gun blast, SWATS is able to determine the distance and direction of the of the shooter. In the matter of one second, it gives a visual display of the shooter’s location from as far away as 400 yards. SWATS provides the soldier with an audio warning and a read-out with range and compass bearing. The device has two separate pieces; a sensor that is attached to the shoulder and a controller, which is worn in the front. The controller has a small LCD display where the soldier can view the readout.

Pictured is the sensor device that is worn on the shoulder.

With a price tag of $2,000, the shoulder-mounted version is based on the same technology of the vehicle-mounted detectors that the military has been using for years in war zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Januray, SWATS producer QinetiQ North America announced that the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps had placed an initial order of 13,500 units, with an IDIQ (indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity) contract for up to 30,000 units and training support.

According to a recent article published in USA Today, former Major Gen. David Petraeus initially requested the technology eight years ago. The escalating rate of American soldier casualties spurred Gen. Petraeus to such action. Unfortunately, only recently were they approved for military use. While the Army received $50 million from Congress to purchase these devices in 2008, it wasn’t until this year that the order was placed and soldiers were able to use them.

“The ability to locate the source of incoming fire is essential for any combat mission,” said Technology Solutions Group President JD Crouch. “SWATS is the latest technology available in the QinetiQ suite of proven survivability products and solutions designed to protect military forces.”

Marine Corps Times reported that the first shipment of SWATS arrived in Afghanistan in the late spring and early summer of last year. More than 150 of the devices were sent out and were successful in combat according to the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va. USA Today reported that the Army was scheduled to receive 1,500 detectors a month, starting with this month until every combat unit has been equipped with one.

Do you think the SWATS device will improve the survival rate of soldiers in war zones?

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