Thursday, December 23, 2010

Technology and MISO – Leverage or Wasted Funding?

This week’s post was inspired by two issues of the highly informative PSYOP Association electronic publication, Frontpost. In FPI # 1515 Wired magazine’s article on Battlefield Holograms is referenced (see and in FPI # 1518 an article from the BBC News about the Colombian government giving the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) a special present (see

Photo Source: Reuters via BBC website

Having been in high tech since the days of the punched card, and having seen technologies come and go, it would be fair to say that I am more than a little skeptical of technology in general, much less as an information weapons system. Holograms, 3 dimensional representations of objects or people can be projected to give the illusion that the object is real, while the technology is ‘cool’, I think the MISO application is limited as I will explain below.

It seems to me that this technology is as applicable to military deception as it might be to MISO under the proper circumstances and in fact, may be more useful in that area perhaps to deceive IMINT collectors, if the technology is that robust. Overall my instincts tell me that holograms would be most effective in a MISO application against technologically inexperienced targets such as those that might be found in rural Afghanistan. One of my sources who was stationed in Afghanistan for a year described several instances from his personal experience that lead me to believe this type of technology might work there. However, I believe its useful life would be quite short, and that the word would spread to the point that the technique’s effectiveness would diminish over time.

A far better application is found in the BBC article on the Farc. According to the article the Colombian Special Forces infiltrated the Farc’s area of operations (AO) and set up “a 25m (82ft) high tree with 2,000 lights”. The tree was surrounded by sensors, when movement triggered the sensors the tree lit up. I loved this one!
First of all it showed that the Colombian SF could infiltrate what might have been considered a very well defended position, secondly there is the emotional reaction to the sudden burst of light throughout the dark jungle and lastly, perhaps most significantly the symbolism of the tree generally makes people think of their homes, friends and families. The simple and powerful message: now is a good time to go home.

Kudos to the Colombians!

As 2010 draws to a close, I wish my brothers and sisters in the MISO community Happy Holidays and may 2011 be your most peaceful and satisfying year ever. Next entry will be in January unless something really cool comes up.

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