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During training and even operational missions, an unfortunately common occurrence among troops is death by friendly fire. The situation is even more difficult for technologically unsophisticated armies, lacking command and communications equipment, operating alongside U.S. troops. Therefore, it is essential to come up with a reliable means of preventing this phenomenon.
The idea is similar to Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders on aircraft that emit signals that enable radars to identify these planes as friendly: without them, it would be too easy to mistake a friendly plane as hostile.
“Currently there is difficulty identifying mounted and dismounted partner forces in the combined air and ground battlespace during both day and night operations, and in all weather conditions,” according to a SOCOM research solicitation.
SOCOM wants a cheap, expendable technology that can be given to allied forces so that U.S. troops can identify them.
“The solution must be detectable by existing Special Operations Forces, U.S. military and Coalition observation and targeting systems, both ground and aerial, out to a tactically relevant range, be compatible with a standard and non-standard military uniforms, soldier carried equipment and vehicles.”
Additionally, such a device will emit an infrared recognition signal. Developers should “address viable system concepts that provide an infrared signature in bands visible to existing U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aviation platform-mounted and ground based targeting sensors during all-weather, day, and night conditions.”
The equipment should be capable of operating for up to eight hours without needing a battery recharge. “Minimum weight, small form factor, simplicity, and durability are desirable characteristics.”
The emphasis of technological simplicity implies its intended use by armies such as the Afghans, Kurds, Syrian rebels and African troops, and even similar applications to law enforcement, border patrol and search and rescue teams, as reported in taskandpurpose.com.