Feeds

Reaper aerial killbots enlist mobile phones against owners

'Hello... 20 seconds to comply? Who is this?'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

American Predator and Reaper unmanned flying hunter-killer robots will soon be equipped to track and listen in on mobile phones. The move is sure to be greeted with fear among tinfoil-clad bunker residents, but could also lead to calls for a no-nonsense enforcement campaign against noisy cellphone users in public places.

Northrop Grumman was pleased to announce last week that it had won a $54.9m contract from the US Air Force to fit the so-called Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) aboard the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aerial wardroids. A version of ASIP already flies aboard the U-2 long range high-altitude spy plane, and aboard the similarly large high-flying Global Hawk surveillance drone.

A Predator deals with Senior Airman Robert Mascorro in Iraq

Having cornered its rebellious fleshy slave, the Predator showed no mercy.

"With this award, we will deliver a new capability," said Imad Bitar, Northrop electro-spying chief. "We see significant savings and risk reduction when common sensor capabilities are fielded on different operational platforms."

"ASIP will deliver enhanced intelligence collection and exploitation capabilities in support of Predator's tactical warfighting role, sometimes described as a hunter/killer/scout mission," adds the company statement. "The system will allow Predator to rapidly employ this critical information in support of the Global War on Terrorism."

ASIP can listen in on various types of signal, but in modern warfare the most commonly used capability is that of picking up cell and satellite phone calls made by enemies of America in the Wars on Stuff. The smaller Predator version will test fly next year and reach field service in 2010; there was no timetable for the larger and presumably more capable Reaper variant.

Armed Predators have previously made use of cellphone intel to deliver lethal strikes, most famously above Yemen in 2002 under CIA control. On that occasion, a Predator killed al-Qaeda bigwig Qa'ed Sunyan al-Harethi by blowing up his car with a Hellfire laser-guided missile after US special-ops "knob-turners" - according to this account - remotely programmed al-Harethi's phone to switch itself on and so reveal his location. However, in that case the Predator probably acted merely as weapons carrier, rather than carrying out the signals-intelligence itself.

Predators and Reapers already mount a fearsome set of sensors and weaponry, and are able to pick out individual people at night and through cloud before strafing them with Hellfires or smartbombs.

The Northrop release can be read here and a report from Flight International here. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
BIG FAT Lies: Porky Pies about obesity
What really shortens lives? Reading this sort of crap in the papers
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
You think the CLOUD's insecure? It's BETTER than UK.GOV's DATA CENTRES
We don't even know where some of them ARE – Maude
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.