Technology Developments Predict And Conquer Threats

Jan. 23, 2008
Although interoperable communications remains a top priority, innovations are constantly being designed to help the US recognize, combat, and recover from a terrorist attack.

Although interoperable communications remains a top priority, innovations are constantly being designed to help the US recognize, combat, and recover from a terrorist attack.

Homeland security continues to be a hub of research and investment activity. Going back six years ago, most development efforts seemed focused on airline safety, passenger screening, and communications interoperability. The object was to prevent a repeat of September 11, 2001. At some point, however, good intelligence coupled with an awareness of the creative resourcefulness and determination of any attackerled to the realization that engineers needed to think beyond airplanes. Today's homeland-security products provide emergency communications, surveillance, screening, missile defense, and more. In doing so, they hope to protect or at the very least prepare the nation for a myriad of attacks from land, air, or sea.

Of course, not all of these products are rooted in microwave or RF technologies. To communicate their findings, however, most of them rely on a wireless network of some kind. Despite the progress that has been made over the last few years, better communications infrastructure and equipment are still needed so that civilians and public-safety workers do not become senseless victims of failed interoperability, capacity, and other problems. To address this problem, many companies have honed their ability to provide critical radio communications systems. An example is M/A-COM (, which was recently awarded an $11.2-million contract by the Peoria County, IL, Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB). The contract is for the implementation of the Internet Protocol (IP) -based OpenSky digital private radio system, which will serve as the interoperability backbone for all of Peoria County's public-safety communications.

In selecting OpenSky, the Peoria County ETSB cited the system's end-toend IP-based connectivity as one of the deciding factors. In addition, its utilization of time division multiple access (TDMA) to segment bandwidth into 25-kHz RF channels enables four independent users to send any simultaneous combination of data and digitized voice per RF channel. OpenSky also promises to enable users to save costs by utilizing commercial-off-theshelf (COTS) equipment while giving the Peoria County ETSB the ability to choose its own dispatch consoles. The system will provide interoperability with neighboring radio systems. As part of this project, the Peoria County ETSB will implement the M/A-COM NetworkFirst solution to provide advanced interoperability to numerous very-high-frequency (VHF), ultra-high-frequency (UHF), 700-, and 800-MHz systems throughout the area. Finally, Peoria County will be supplied with M/A-COM P7200IP multi-mode radios, which are capable of operating on the Illinois P25 statewide public-safety network (STARCOM 21), neighboring Tazewell County's EDACS system, nationwide mutual-aid systems, and its new OpenSky system.

Products from M/A-COM also are at the heart of research at South Carolina's Clemson University, which is focused on WiMAX's potential in public-safety applications (see sidebar, "Public-Safety Research Evaluates WiMAX"). In fact, broadband technologies are starting to appear in an increasing number of public-safety communications systems. The Louisiana Army National Guard (LAARNG), for example, recently adopted a communications system designed by Rivada Networks ( This broadband, fully interoperable system delivers high-speed voice and data for both day-to-day and emergency uses over a network that claims to survive natural or manmade disasters. Among its strengths are that it does not require new spectrum allocation or depend on federal spectrum auctions or mandates. It also vows to provide greater range and capability at a fraction of the cost of other existing or planned technologies.

The secret to the Rivada solution is that it leverages and supplements the wireless industry's existing infrastructure and off-the-shelf technology. In areas without sufficient commercial infrastructure, however, the company will supplement existing technology and infrastructure by building towers. It also employs the Rivada Interoperable Communications Extension Systems (ICESs). These "fly-in" units can be deployed within hours where existing infrastructure has been degraded or destroyed. Using proprietary backward-compatible technology, the company promises to provide full interoperability between cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), laptops, landlines, and traditional walkie-talkie-type Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems.

Communications for public-safety personnel also can be buoyed by inbuilding communications. For the new World Trade Center project in New York City, for example, the Heinz Corp. subsidiary of WPCS International, Inc. ( has been chosen as a wireless consultant. It will aid in the design of an advanced wireless-communications system for World Trade Center buildings 2, 3, and 4. The project will include a needs analysis with technical performance specifications for a wireless in-building radio system. That system vows to ensure reliable communication for all emergency agencies including the Port Authority, Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and New York Police Department (NYPD).

Despite the fact that such innovative communications systems exist, publicsafety agencies can only fully leverage those systems if they have the proper procedures and knowledge in place. At the end of this past November, Raytheon Co. ( hosted a mission-readiness experiment involving federal, state, and local agencies. The agencies were seeking ways to improve the procedures, protocols, interfaces, and systems employed for responding to very serious incidents.

Specifically, first-responder agencies participated in a 4-hr. Advanced Incident Command Experiment reacting to a notional tanker-truck spill on Interstate 95 within the city limits of Providence, RI. The spill had serious safety, medical, health, traffic, and environmental consequences. The experiment took place in high-technology modeling and simulation facilities at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems' (IDS') Headquarters Mission Center, Tewksbury, MA (Fig. 1).

Although it is essential for publicsafety personnel to be able to communicate in the event of an attack, it would of course be better if the US could prevent another terrorist attack. One way that it could do this is with better surveillanceespecially at its borders. From Harris Corp.'s ( Border Security Shelter locations, individuals can monitor border areas using ground radar, unattended sensors, or video cameras. They also can communicate to the field and commanders using tactical, microwave, and satcom radio and send and receive email, images, or other forms of media. Harris demonstrated a version of the shelter that combined various tactical radio technologies like high-frequency (HF), VHF, multiband, and microwave radios as well as unattended ground sensors. The systems are tied together with either the Harris Falcon II tactical radio network or existing networking infrastructure. The Border Security Shelter provides an IP-data backbone for receiving, synthesizing, and re-distributing various forms of secure transmissions. Border Security Shelters can be permanently installed at fixed locations or rapidly deployed to special areas of operation. In addition, multiple shelters can be deployed and linked to form protective networks.

In conjunction with these surveillance developments, many companies are working on solutions that promise to detect explosives, radiation, and harmful chemicals. The ACRO-Nitro Explosive Tester (N.E.T) from Acro, Inc. ( is capable of identifying the majority of explosives currently in use as well as homemade explosives based on nitrate. ACRO-P.E.T even detects peroxide-based explosives like Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP), which do not contain nitro groups or colors and may appear in a variety of shapes and forms including liquid. Conveniently, the company has incorporated ACRO-N.E.T into a pen-like device. The US Army recently acquired several hundred of these devices.

Using compound-semiconductor technology, a recent innovation from Durham Scientific Crystals Ltd. or DSC ( also vows to automatically detect explosives. Early last month, DSC signed a contract with the UK Home Office to develop automatic explosives detectors for UK airports. Its prototype baggage scanner will allow multi-view imaging for the identification and discrimination of explosives and flammable liquids. From vapor, DSC's technology produces single crystals of cadmium telluride that can be used as detectors of both x-rays and gamma rays. The first prototypea small baggage scanner that is suitable for testing in a UK airportwill be built within the next year.

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Gamma-ray technology alone is at the heart of THOR LVX from Valley Forge Detection Systems, a subsidiary of Valley Forge Composite Technologies, Inc. ( Rather than just creating an image of what is inside, THOR LVX??s gamma rays initiate a small-scale photonuclear reaction. This reaction promises to identify the chemical composition of any explosive or narcotic. The resulting fingerprint can be used to determine quantity and location. The company claims that this product can detect and identify explosives, nuclear material, narcotics, and chemical and biological agents.

An increasing amount of development is focusing strictly on nuclear materials. Raytheon, for instance, was just awarded $2.9 million to develop a Stand-Off Radiation Detection System (SORDS) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). SORDS represents the first of a four-phase program to develop advanced nuclear detectors that can determine the type and location of radiation sources at much greater distances than current technologies. In developing this solution, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) is working with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bubble Technology Industries, Radiation Monitoring Devices, Draper Laboratory, and experts from MIT and the University of Michigan.

Meanwhile, Sandia National Laboratories has chosen Ball Aerospace & Technologies ( as the prime contractor to develop and build the phased-array antenna system for the Ground Nuclear Detection Terminal (GNT) Integrated Correlation and Display System (ICADS). This antenna system is part of the nation??s early-warning system to detect, locate, and characterize groundbased nuclear detonations worldwide (Fig. 2). The ICADS will relay multiple satellite signals to ground-based command and control sites. The Ball Aerospace antenna system also will be used on the GNT, a transportable version of the system.

The nation must prepare for a nuclear- missile attack??a task that has led many companies to develop and test missile-defense systems. In last month??s test of Lockheed Martin??s ( Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, a Japan Aegisguided missile destroyer intercepted and destroyed a missile target in space. The Japanese ship Kongo, which is equipped with an adapted version of the latest US-Navy-certified Aegis BMD Weapon System, guided a Standard Missile (SM) -3 Block IA missile to intercept the medium-range, separating warhead, ballistic-missile target outside the Earth??s atmosphere. In addition to Kongo, the Aegis BMD-equipped cruiser USS Lake Erie and the ground-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) test unit participated in this test. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the US Navy are jointly developing Aegis BMD as part of the United States?? Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS).

According to a survey by the Saga Foundation (, 74 percent of Americans believe that another ??successful? terrorist attack on US soil is likely to happen. About half of those surveyed (49 percent) believe that such an attack will include some sort of a nuclear device. Unfortunately, the risk of an attack remains ever present. Thanks to ongoing work in this area, however, the US is constantly improving its ability to detect, combat, and recover from a terrorist incident.

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