The US Army will by June deploy in Iraq its "Matrix" system of remotely-detonated landmines, despite widespread concerns about the technology. The Mosul-based Styker Brigade will, according to Yahoo! news, be able to control individual devices from a laptop via a WLAN set-up. The Army reckons Matrix will eliminate accidental deaths caused by dumb landmines. Critics say otherwise.
Following successful tests in September, the US will deploy 25 sets of mines in Iraq. These include both M18 Claymores, which deliver steel balls, and the "M5 Modular Crowd Control Munition" - a non-lethal rubber-ball-delivering alternative. The Army's Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey said in a January statement that Matrix was intended for "firebase security, landing zone security, remote offensive attack and both infrastructure and check point protection".
Matrix project leader, Major Joe Hitt, declared: "The system is user friendly and a soldier will require a minimal amount of training in order to safely employ and use the system."
However, Human Rights Watch researcher, Mark Hiznay, countered: "We're concerned the United States is going to field something that has the capability of taking the man out of the loop when engaging the target. Or that we're putting a 19-year-old soldier in the position of pushing a button when a blip shows up on a computer screen."
Globalsecurity.org military analyst, John Pike, weighed in: "If you've got 500 of these mines out there, trying to figure out which one you want to detonate, when the clock's ticking, well that could be a brain teaser."
Several organisations, including Landmine Survivors Network and the Presbytarian Peacemaking Program are urging opponents of Matrix to lobby Donald Rumsfeld for the deployment to be scrapped. A Landmine Survivors Network statement asserts: "It seems obvious that these remote-control anti-personnel mines, however carefully monitored, will present new dangers to innocent Iraqi civilians for years to come."
The US military has made available few technical details about Matrix, or how it works in practice. We at El Reg hope that enterprising Iraqi insurgents do not make merry with the Army's Claymore-controlling WLAN. It would certainly give a new edge to the phrase "wardriving". ®