Worried About China’s Ray Guns, Pentagon Places Ad for Tech Spies
Defense Intelligence Agency wants analysts specializing in foreign laser weapons, railguns and…
Want to work as a Pentagon spy? Then you better brush up on your directed energy weapons.
The military plans to grow its corps of spies focused on foreign laser weapons. It’s no surprise to see why. Not only could rival countries like China fire laser weapons to shoot down American aircraft, they could also blast beams into space to target U.S. satellites.
That’s the thrust of a request for proposal sent out on April 21 by the Virginia Contracting Activity, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s obliquely-named contracting arm.
In addition to studying laser weapons, the agency wants its expanded spy team to analyze foreign “air defense, surface-to-air missile systems, anti-tactical ballistic missile defense, ballistic missile defense, anti-satellite defense [and] anti-tank guided missile systems,” the DIA stated.
But the DIA puts a lot of emphasis on the threat from laser weapons. The request mentions both low-energy and high-energy laser weapons, which can scramble electronics on the low end and, at the higher end of the power scale, could conceivably shoot down missiles and aircraft.
The Pentagon is also interested in collecting information on “particle beam weapons, both narrow-band and wide-band radio-frequency weapons and electro-dynamic kinetic energy weapons,” the agency notes.
Electro-dynamic kinetic energy refers to railguns, which use electrically-powered rails to launch projectiles at incredibly fast speeds of up to Mach 7. These could arm future warships and make naval warfare much deadlier. An American railgun prototype is pictured below.
Interested in applying? There are high qualifications for the job—at least 10 years’ experience analyzing weapon systems. It’s also recommended you have a master’s degree or Ph.D. in math or computer science.
The analysts won’t be tasked with stealing foreign intelligence, James Bond-style. The DIA wants to provide the analysts with weapons data collected using every espionage technique under the sun—from satellite imagery to “foreign material exploitation.”
The DIA wants 14 contractors to do everything from disassembling captured material, translating foreign documents to developing “digital models/simulations of defensive systems and computer-based analytical tools needed to assess foreign defensive system capabilities and vulnerabilities.”
The request naturally doesn’t single out any specific weapons possessed by any specific country. And it calls on the contractors to take into account weapons possessed by multiple countries, which may be modified to have different capabilities.
All that being said, with the DIA putting so much focus on lasers and anti-satellite weapons, it wouldn’t be a stretch to single out China.
Beijing has invested millions in a series of laser research laboratories known as Shenguang, or “Divine Light.” One thrust of Divine Light is to use lasers to heat nuclear cores, producing a reaction. But the project could also be directed toward “improving China’s next-generation thermonuclear weapons and advancing its directed-energy laser weapon programs,” Defense News reported last year.
China is also working hard to develop kinetic weapons—such as missiles—that can kill satellites. Beijing successfully destroyed an orbiting satellite in 2007 with a kinetic kill vehicle, which sparked international outrage after the impact polluted Earth’s orbit with more than 3,000 spacecraft-damaging pieces of debris.
Beijing hasn’t blown up any more satellites, but it hasn’t given up on its weapons programs, either.
In May 2013, China tested a ballistic missile designed to carry an anti-satellite weapon into orbit, according to an investigation by Brian Weeden, a former Air Force officer who now studies space issues for the Secure World Foundation in Colorado. “If true, this would represent a significant development in China’s ASAT capabilities,” Weeden wrote.
It’s impossible to know if any particular test prompted the DIA to grow its spy force. It’s worth noting that just because the Pentagon is looking for a thing, doesn’t mean it exists. The request states that the work is also for “long-range forecasts of developments in areas of interest.”
China isn’t close to fielding laser cannons aboard its ships, but it’s highly unlikely its military isn’t at least looking into the idea.