It’s bad enough when the enemy is attacking you. It’s even worse when you have to watch your back for friendly fire. In the convoluted war zones the United States often finds itself in, there are challenges distinguishing between friends and foes.
The Pentagon wants to fix this problem and they’re asking for solutions. They’ve commissioned a call for personal identification technology that will allow friendly soldiers and their vehicles to be easily identified from a distance while not making them easier targets for the enemy.
Phase I of the project will be a feasibility study to determine what current technology is capable of providing. Phase II will call for a prototype Partner Force Identification Friend or Foe device. SOCOM says there could be spin-off applications for U.S. law enforcement, border patrol and search and rescue teams.
Unfortunately, this project may only solve part of the problem, as shown by a recent incident in which a U.S. general was wounded by an Afghan government soldier who apparently was a Taliban sympathizer. This device may protect allied troops from American fire, but it won’t protect American soldiers from the fire of their “allies.”
It isn’t just about cost-savings. Arguably more important is the technology’s ability to be implemented quickly with a low level of technical understanding. Some of our allies are not accustomed to having identifying technology on them.
As noted in the story, we will have an easier time with technology that helps us identify friends than generating solutions to allow friends to identify us. One problem at a time, I suppose.