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"Bomb them back to the Stone Age" might become a mild enjoinder if the US Air Force proceeds with a program call IPODS - Integrated Precision Ordnance Delivery System. It's aim is to develop a prototype air-launched, highly maneuverable weapon capable of "defeating internal tunnel defenses and targets deep within tunnels." And caves.Details are scant - the Air Force Research Laboratory has announced there will be a Phase 2 industry day at Elgin AFB on 24 June - but a solicitation for Phase 1 concept refinement released a year ago said IPODS was needed "to hold at risk critical mission areas far down a tunnel behind blast doors". Multiple weapons would be carried by the F-15E, B-52 and B-2 using existing carriage hardware.That suggests IPODS is intended to fly into cave and tunnel complexes and penetrate man-made barriers before exploding. The current method is to detonate a thermobaric weapon in the entrance to send a blast wave down the tunnel, with devastating effect. BLU-118/B penetrator bombs, AGM-114N Hellfire missiles and SMAW shoulder-fired rockets with thermobaric warheads have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thermobaric explosion (Credit: ISL)But such weapon can be defeated by blast doors and other barriers, and penetrating defended cave and tunnel complexes is clearly becoming an issue. In March, the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency issued a request for information on the Robotic Underground Munition (RUM), "a one-time use, air-delivered, highly mobile vehicle having certain characteristics similar to an unmanned ground vehicle." RUM would have the ability to "avoid, traverse, neutralize or defeat natural and man-made obstacles".Not sure what Apple will make of AFRL's choice of acronym, but I noticed the US Army has announced its intent to award Canada's Ultra Electronics Marine Systems a contract for "Rock Phones". These magneto-inductive communication systems can work through rock and earth that radio cannot penetrate. Clearly caves and tunnels will soon not be the refuge they once were.
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