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Israelis strap on militant-busting wristwatches

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Israel last week revealed that ground troops now sport wrist-borne LCD screens which enable real-time identification and elimination of targets. The Tadiran system - code-named "V-Rambo" - beams images of the enemy from unmanned drone aircraft direct to the men in the field, shortening the time it takes to identify and strike a target from around 10-12 minutes to a matter of seconds, AP reports.

Previous systems involved transmitting pictures to a central command point which then disseminated the information to the appropriate forces. The new Tadiran set-up is similar to that used for about a year in Israeli attack helicopters to kill Palestinian militants. Such "targetted killings" were stoped as part of the cease-fire declared last month by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but following another Palestinian suicide bombing attack last week - which killed five - Israel may once again resume the practice.

Itzhak Beni, chief executive of the Elisra Group's Tadiran Electronic Systems and Tadiran Spectralink companies, said: "We are fulfilling the science fiction movies that we see," adding that the system allows troops "to see everything that is behind the hill and around the corner." Beni also noted that the "improved information can help troops minimize civilian casualties in the crowded refugee camps and city streets where Israeli troops and Palestinian militants often clash".

Palestinian human rights advocate Hanan Ashrawi countered: "Nobody doubts Israelis can develop these weapons. But is this the kind of sophistication they need against defenseless people? It seems like a case of overkill."

The Elisra Group is currently developing other remote-controlled technologies for use in unmanned ground vehicles, which may be adopted by the US as part of its "Gladiator" programme for the US Marines. Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Consortium recently won a $2.3m contract to develop a 7-foot "Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle", intended to act as a targeting vehicle.

The US already has a similar vehicle - Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, aka Swords or TALON - deployed in Iraq. Swords, however, is designed to seek, locate and destroy the enemy and is armed with cameras and either an M249 or M240, thereby removing altogether the need for people to get involved at the dirty end of counter-insurgency. ®

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