21st Century Tradecraft: American Special Operations Forces Are Developing Paper That Actually TALKS

Thursday, 28 June 2018 - 11:21AM
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Thursday, 28 June 2018 - 11:21AM
21st Century Tradecraft: American Special Operations Forces Are Developing Paper That Actually TALKS
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Image Credit: Composite created from images on Pixabay
From Tokyo Rose's radio broadcasts to American soldiers blasting Van Halen to force out Panamanian dictators, breaking the will of an enemy has always been one of the most important goals of warfare, primarily because it's much easier to win battles if the enemy gives themselves up without a fight. For years, many armies have relied on dropping leaflets on the enemy from the air, but a new prototype created by the U.S. Special Operations Forces Command (USSOCOM) takes the concept of propaganda leaflets to the next level by essentially being a piece of paper that can talk to enemy combatants who pick it up.

The USSOCOM prototype is incredibly thin—only the thickness of four sheets of paper—and has the ability to repeat a 30-second message. Now that they have a prototype to show people what they're looking for, they're asking private companies to propose improvements on it, including potential features like "printable electronics incorporating 'flexible micro-circuitry', [a] flexible speaker, and super thin photovoltaic batteries."

One of the advantages of these talking leaflets is that they'll be able to carry messages to enemy troops that are unable to read, as well as potentially collect information on the people who pick them up—one of the goals of the leaflet is to "provide feedback to assist in MISO planning and analysis." MISO stands for Military Information Support Operations, and is the new name for the US' PSYOPS division. With the success of targeted psychological operations against Michael Omono, the radio telephone operator for Joseph Kony (the Ugandan warlord of Kony 2012 fame), these leaflets might become useful for missions designed to pressure individual, high-priority targets to defect, and may even include a biometric identifier that only allows the target to access the message.

Another goal for this technology is not just to speak to the enemy, but allow them to talk back to the device and record what they're saying. Considering that these leaflets' messages are designed to break down soldiers and make them question whether they're willing to die for their cause, we can only imagine the hours MISO will spend sorting through angry (or distraught) audio logs from enemy combatants.
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