WolfPack Proves Strength in Numbers
By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2003 Doing more with less (power) may seem unusual, but that's exactly what the WolfPack program strives to accomplish.
WolfPack, a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has an objective to create a system that will deny an adversary use of its communications while not interfering with friendly military and commercial radio communications.
Most electronic systems are located onboard large, expensive aircraft that have to be hundreds of miles from the areas they survey, according to Preston Marshall, WolfPack program manager.
However, in looking at commercial technology such as cell phones, Marshall said they realized there was a need to create a small, low-cost device that could be placed in the enemies' backyard to both monitor and knock out their communications.
With six-inch tall cylinder devices, the WolfPack program may be the answer.
"Each device is very small - about 4 inches wide. Each weighs about 6 pounds," he added.
While proximity to the target is a plus, so is the fact that the system can be placed without ground troops being in the area.
The cylinders may be launched or even air-dropped with small parachutes into an area. To ensure adequate coverage, a cylinder would be placed each square kilometer.
"The idea is to litter the battlefield with these small objects," said Marshall.
"Once a cylinder hits the ground, it checks itself out," the program manager explained. "If everything is working properly, the fins will erect and make the device stand up. An inflatable antenna goes up and it generates a radio signal. They form a network. Wolf networks find other wolf networks and eventually find a path back to the command center."
The devices' strength is in their collective use, noted Marshall.
"Each WolfPack is very small, but collectively they gang up on the signal."
Troops may also carry the devices with them. Referred to as "six-pack in a backpack," Marshall said this will assist troops in setting up defensive perimeters and monitoring areas.
Those who use WolfPack should need no added training.
"We're trying to leverage training people already have and make our system look like (just) another sensor on the battlefield," Marshall said.
He noted that he and his staff are working with each service and its unique needs. "They'll take what we've done and tailor it," he added.
Each device, which runs on battery, should last approximately two months. When possible, devices can be recovered and reused. The cost of each is estimated at $10,000.
"It's a robust system and much less expensive than operating an aircraft several hundred miles away," said Marshall.
Officials hope to test a prototype in 18 months.