‘Angry Kitten’ Is the Cutest Name Ever for a Weapons System

In the Magazine
Issei Kato/Reuters/Corbis

Your typical big-ticket weapons system usually has a ferocious-sounding name. (Think of those Predator and Reaper drones that fire Hellfire missiles.) But a team of engineers developing a revolutionary approach to electronic warfare have dubbed it “Angry Kitten.” And there’s a reason. For years, airplanes flying into hostile territory used flares and chaff to try to deceive ground-to-air missiles, and electromagnetic “noise” to jam radar. But that only attracted attention. More sophisticated aircraft use stealth technologies that fool an enemy by recording received radar signals, manipulating them and then sending them back to create a false impression of where the plane is—or isn’t. It’s this approach that makes American warplanes so hard to target, and thus so fearsome. But those measures can be discovered and thwarted, too. The system being designed at Georgia Tech Research Institute uses algorithms to read the electronic threats continuously, learn their characteristics, and then choose, instantly, the best means to thwart them. And the name? The contrast with macho monikers is “kind of an inside joke in the radar world,” says institute spokesman Lance Wallace. That the system reacts with “the mind of a cat,” he says, “just makes it all that much more fitting.”

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