I'm intrigued by the news that the sport of paintball - or, at least, a somewhat developed version of its equipment - may help the US military overcome the threat of improvised explosive devices (IED's). Wired reports:
You’re a soldier on patrol in Afghanistan. Walking down the road, you spot a strange object far away, sticking out off to the side. Is it a bomb? How should you even check? If the Army’s latest research project pans out, you might just whip out your paintball gun.
On Wednesday, the Army announced that it’s in the market for a paintball system that can detect the presence and type of different explosives. The system would work by loading up projectiles with materials that advertise the presence of explosives — sort of like a litmus test for bombs — and firing them at the suspected bombs. Picture paintballing, but with a target that might really kill you.
. . .
The paintball idea is comparatively low-tech. The Army notes that the technology to detect explosives with paints and powders is already a commercial reality. They point to Raptor Detection Technology’s SAFE-T Spray, which turns orange on contact with certain explosives, as an example.
. . .
The Army’s looking for a system that works on targets up to 100 meters away. At that distance, it can be hard to see the tiny smear from a paintball, which usually holds about 2.5 milliliters worth of paint. Those pitching the Army need to make a system that fires a larger amount of detection material and one that spreads it out further on contact than the standard neon paintball blotch. Ultimately, it has to be visible from 100 meters without the help of binoculars.
There's more at the link.
I certainly wish the Army well in its efforts to encourage industry to develop such a tool. I have to ask, however, . . . have they thought this all the way through? Speaking as a combat veteran, I can assure you that the instant reaction of most troops in the field, when they see this gear, will be to arrange an impromptu paintball match against each other! I wouldn't count on too many of the 'paintballs' being available to search for IED's . . .