THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 26 Feb. 2013. I read with amusement recent stories about how al-Qaida and its terrorist allies throughout the world are finding ways to defeat U.S. and allied intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sensors.
It seems that al-Qaida is using mud, grass mats, trees, and other low-tech approaches to defeat high-tech UAV sensor payloads. My favorite: mounting grass mats on poles to hide cars from the prying eyes of overhead drones.
Low-tech vs. high-tech. This is an old story in warfare, and one that all too often favors the side with few resources in its battles against a technologically superior foe.
It's also a good way to bleed-off the resources of the supposedly superior combatant. Grass mats cost pocket changes, versus thousands or millions of dollars for unmanned drones and UAV sensor payloads.
Here's a guess: al-Qaida and its friends can afford to supply their forces with grass mats and poles long after the U.S. runs out of money for UAVs and ISR sensors.
The implications of that are ominous, but we've seen this before.
One of the most strategically important U.S. military goals of the Vietnam War half a century ago was to prevent the North Vietnamese army from supplying Viet Cong guerrillas in the south via the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Millions of dollars were spent on sophisticated sensors, defoliants, and infiltration techniques to deny that vital supply route to Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in the south.
U.S. forces tried ammonia sensors to detect concentrations of enemy fighters by their perspiration. In response, the Viet Cong hung buckets of urine in the trees. The Americans tried sound and seismic sensors, for which the played tape recordings of truck traffic. Special mud-making chemicals were tried, and in response the Viet Cong corduroyed the roads with logs and bamboo.
The Viet Cong also employed a primitive-yet-effective alarm system to warn them of U.S. military landings nearby. Native tribesmen were hired to bang pots and ring gongs when Americans were seen.
The war in Vietnam ... I'm trying to remember who won that one.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned. Unfortunately many of the lessons aren't pleasant ones.