Facial recognition optics are among the new gadgets special operations forces may soon have in their kits during missions.
U.S. Special Operations Command is inviting members of industry, academia and government research labs to submit ideas for innovative technologies surrounding intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that could be of use to SOF units.
If selected, participants will be invited to the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, during the week of Mar. 26. There, they will interact with members of the SOF community in order to determine how their ideas could enhance the operators’ needs.
Portable facial recognition
One such emerging technology is facial recognition systems that match individuals against a preset target list. SOCOM is interested in bottling that tech into both handheld and man-portable optics, according to the posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.
Special operators “require compact, high accuracy, long range facial identification capabilities to provide improved surveillance and intelligence on persons of interest,” the solicitation reads.
The handheld piece would need to have a 350-meter range, while the man-portable option should be able to scope individuals out between 650 meters to 1 kilometer.
Ideally, the device would be able to match targets against a stored watch list of individuals, allow for mobile editing of the list, and, of course, be “ruggedized” for field usage.
Although the optic should be operable offline, it needs to be able to update when communications are available.
The request for information also cites software applications that can perform facial recognition as an interest to SOCOM.
Other emerging technologies that pique SOCOM’s interest involve “chemical attribution.”
With recent high-profile uses of chemical weapons in Syria, and the controversy surrounding their origin, it’s no surprise SOCOM has a vested interest in linking those attacks to their correct source.
The posting asks for equipment that “can be used for forensic purposes such as associating samples collected from chemical events.”
This would include examining “explosive, chemical, biological and radiological hazards by measuring signatures of impurities, un-reacted precursors, additives, by-products, physical and chemical characteristics, and other anomalies.”
Finally, the posting also lists an interest in non-GPS based position, navigation and timing technologies.
Because GPS signals can’t be received underground and underwater, and can be subject to signal jamming by a modern military force, overuse could cripple a force in conventional conflicts.
The soliciation doesn’t go into much detail about how these devices would source a user’s location, only noting that it would do so “while mounted on ground vehicles without the presence of a GPS signal.”
However, a previous idea that was discussed was the Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout, or QuASAR, which aimed to take the world’s most accurate atomic clocks — currently confined to laboratories — and make them portable.
“QuASAR researchers have developed optical atomic clocks in laboratories with a timing error of less than 1 second in 5 billion years,” according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “Making clocks this precise portable could improve upon existing military systems such as GPS.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.