In the early years of the Iraq war, the U.S. military developed a technology so secret that soldiers would refuse to acknowledge its existence, and reporters mentioning the gear were promptly escorted out of the country. That equipment – a radio-frequency jammer – was upgraded several times, and eventually robbed the Iraq insurgency of its most potent weapon, the remote-controlled bomb. But the dark veil surrounding the jammers remained largely intact, even after the Pentagon bought more than 50,000 units at a cost of over $17 billion.
Recently, however, I received an unusual offer from ITT, the defense contractor which made the vast majority of those 50,000 jammers. Company executives were ready to discuss the jammer – its evolution, and its capabilities. They were finally able to retell the largely-hidden battles for the electromagnetic spectrum that raged, invisibly, as the insurgencies carried on. They were prepared to bring me into the R&D facility where company technicians were developing what could amount to the ultimate weapon of this electromagnetic war: a tool that offers the promise of not only jamming bombs, but finding them, interrupting GPS signals, eavesdropping on enemy communications, and disrupting drones, too. The first of the these machines begins field-testing next month.