High-Time, High Tech

Fresh from overwhelming the enemy in Iraq with high-tech gadgetry, U.S. commandos got a glimpse last week of the next generation of gizmos. During Special Operations Forces Week, 400 vendors peddled their wares in Tampa, Fla. Their craftiest creations could be viewed only with security clearances, but plenty of products were displayed openly. Take the Galileo, a compact 335-pound tank-like robot that can creep into hostile settings equipped with arms and surveillance cameras. Or a six-pound remote-controlled airplane that sniffs for bio-weapons and snaps pictures from as high as 13,000 feet (eight were tested in Iraq). Some devices had less sex appeal but equally practical applications: mini motion-activated cameras that can be embedded in shirt buttons, underwater night-vision goggles and cameras and trunk-size command centers on wheels. With the Pentagon requesting a boost in the SOF procurement budget from $862 million currently to $1.9 billion in 2004, commandos may well get their hands on such gear in time for their next missions.