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The U.S. Military May Blanket Afghanistan in Tiny Spy Sensors That Last for Two Decades

• Clay Dillow via

During the Cold War, both sides liberally used the “bug”--the remote listening device--to surreptitiously get wind of what the other side was up to by listening in on a room, a building, or, in the case of East Berlin, an entire city. But in America’s cooling war in Afghanistan, U.S. forces may undertake what could be the biggest bugging operation of all time, planting sensors all over the entire country that could feed the U.S. military intelligence from inside that country for the next two decades. It’s the rough equivalent of bugging an entire country.

The palm-sized devices at the U.S. military’s disposal aren’t listening devices per se, but they would detect anyone moving nearby and report the movement back to an intelligence outpost, letting special operators know when a remote mountain pass or a known smuggling trail is being utilized. Some of the sensors could be buried, others disguised as rocks or other geological artifacts. The point is, they would be littered all across Afghanistan’s landscape, a lingering legacy of a decade-long conflict that would last 20 years more.

These kinds of unattended ground sensors (UGSs) have been used before, notably in Vietnam. But these new sensors--some of which are being developed and tested by a Lockheed Martin--consume a fraction of the power and their batteries are solar-rechargeable, allowing them to operate for up to two decades if Lockheed’s estimates are correct. Other companies are in on UGS game as well, and interest has been spiking in both military circles and elsewhere.

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