Landmines are widely condemned, so it is somewhat of a surprise to see DARPA announce plans to award Textron Defense Systems a sole-source contract to demonstrate a smart minefield.
It may be a result of pressure on the Obama Administration to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel mines, as most of the USA's allies already have. And, in fact, the DARPA announcement, says "the objective of this effort is to develop and demonstrate an Ottawa treaty complaint smart munitions system in twelve months."
Photo: Matthias Kabel, via Wikipedia
The US refused to ratify the Ottawa Treaty, to protect the
minefield between North and South Korea, but it did undertake to remove all persistent mines -- anti-personnel and anti-vehicle -- from its inventory by 2010 while continuing to develop non-persistent mines "that will not pose a humanitarian threat after use in battle."
DARPA plans to award Textron a contract to develop a new mine under the Smart Munitions program that "will leverage existing work being performed on the ADAPT program as well as include additional work to customize the hardware and software for a ground ISR platform. The smart munition system will be designed to detect, track, characterize and engage military targets."
ADAPT -- the Adaptable Sensor System program -- uses commercial-electronics manufacturing approaches to deliver common hardware and software that can be quickly configured for a variety of ISR applications. Reusable hardware uses low-cost commercial components available at the time of manufacture, enabling it to be refreshed at the rate of commercial technologies. Reusable software uses commercial open-source tools similar to the development environments for smartphone applications.
"Sensors created in the ADAPT program will benefit from not having to develop and produce common hardware and software," says DARPA. "Military missions will define specific sensors, packaging and power systems to be used depending upon the mission performance requirements" - such as demonstrating a treaty-compliant smart minefield within 12 months.