SPIDER MUNITION FULL-RATE PRODUCTION DECISION EXPECTED NEXT MONTH (U.S.A.)
A new Army force-protection munition will conform to the national landmine policy approved in 2004, according to the Army officer in charge of the service's development and acquisition of ammunition.
U.S.A., 28 January 2008 (Inside the Army)--
"The Spider program will follow the new national land mine standards coming into force in 2010," Brig. Gen. William Phillips, commander of the Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, told an industry conference in Washington Jan. 15. The Bush administration approved a national landmine policy" in 2004 that says "U.S. forces will not use any persistent land mines . . . after 2010" (Inside the Army, Dec. 10, 2007, p11). Congress provided $19.7 million for the purchase of 125 units of the Spider XM7 Networked Munitions System for fiscal year 2008. Textron began low-rate initial production of Spider units earlier this month, according to Phillips. "The Army plans to activate the first training units in June," he added. Phillips added that a full-rate production decision remains on schedule for next month. The Defense Department director of operational test and evaluation's latest annual report, released earlier this month, notes the need for follow-on testing to "validate Spider interoperability with friendly counter-IED [improvised explosive device] jammers" before FRP is approved. Phillips said those tests will be completed in the coming months. Critics have expressed concern that an automatic "battle mode" converts the munition from a soldier-controlled to a victim-activated system. Spider is controlled remotely by a human operator. When its sensors are activated, a signal is sent to a soldier who monitors it via a wireless computer. The operator checks a video feed and decides whether to detonate the device. However, the Pentagon decided last year to equip the system with a switch that would allow for automatic detonation without the operator making a final determination. Critics say this transforms the weapon into an indiscriminate land mine.
Phillips said that the munition's "automatic" mode can be used for no more than 48 hours, and can be terminated remotely at any point during that time frame. "This is consistent with the [national landmine] policy," he said. Last year, Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) targeted the Spider in legislation they pushed that would ban Pentagon procurement of "victim-activated land mines or any other weapon designed to be victim-activated in any circumstance." That legislation went before the Senate Armed Services Committee but has since stalled.
The Ottawa Convention on land mines defines an antipersonnel land mine as a device designed to detonate by the "presence, proximity or contact of a person, vehicle or animal." The pact prohibits the use, transfer, production and stockpiling of such systems. While the United States is not a party to the treaty, which is observed by 151 countries, it has not produced land mines since 1997.
Von: Inside Washington Publishers, 28.01.2008