Takeaways: AP’s investigation of military gun tracking tech

Takeaways: AP’s investigation of military gun tracking tech

A tracking tag that some systems in the U.S. armed force are utilizing to keep control of weapons might let even low-tech opponents identify soldiers on the battleground, a continuous Associated Press examination has actually discovered.

Radio frequency recognition innovation– RFID, as it is understood– is all over in everyday civilian life.

When embedded in military weapons, thin RFID tags can cut hours off time-intensive jobs such as weapon counts and circulation. Outdoors armories, nevertheless, the very same quiet, undetectable signals that assist automate stock checks might end up being an undesirable tracking beacon.

A couple of essential takeaways from the current in AP’s AWOL Weapons examination:



Convenience is a huge selling point for retrofitting an armory with an RFID system.

Instead of hand-recording guns on paper or scanning barcodes one-by-one, soldiers in an armory or arms space can check out tags in a rack of guns with the wave of a portable reader– and without needing to see each weapon. The tags tucked within do not even require batteries.

The advantages are genuine.

At Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, authorities state the brand-new RFID system in one armory cuts stock time in half. That restricts the requirement for 2 armorers, producing more schedule versatility. Other military authorities explained how RFID improves the procedure of examining weapons in and out.



New field tests revealed that an opponent would not need to be cutting edge to determine U.S. soldiers at ranges far higher than professionals who set up RFID systems state the tags can be identified.

Contractors state tags can’t read more than a couple of lots feet away. In experiments arranged by AP, popular cybersecurity professionals Kristin Paget and Marc Rogers had the ability to check out a tag in a rifle 210 feet (64 meters) away utilizing a $500 setup.

The hackers observed U.S. guidelines on radio signal strength. Paget has actually concluded that anybody who overlooks those policies might discover a tag from miles away.

A Department of Defense representative mentioned that type of issue in stating Pentagon policymakers oppose embedding tags in guns other than in restricted, really particular cases such as weapons that are utilized just at a shooting variety– not in fight or to protect bases. “A substantial operations security threat in the field,” is how Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Uriah Orland explained RFID tags in weapons.



In the Air Force and Army, system leaders are enabled to include RFID systems to armories as an additional layer of responsibility. Spokespeople for the head office of each service stated they did not understand the number of systems have actually RFID armories. No service-wide requirement is prepared.

AP discovered 5 Air Force bases that have actually run a minimum of one RFID armory, and another that prepares a retrofit. A Florida-based Army Green Berets system validated it utilizes the innovation in “a couple of” arms spaces where unique forces soldiers can take tagged weapons into the field.

The Navy informed AP it was utilizing RFID in one armory. This week, after extended questioning, representative Lt. Lewis Aldridge quickly stated that the innovation “didn’t satisfy functional requirements” and would no longer be utilized.

The Marine Corps stated it has actually chosen, throughout the service, not to tag weapons. Amongst the issues: digital signal on the battleground.

A leading weapons professional from the Corps informed AP he saw how tags can be checked out from afar throughout training workouts in the Southern California desert in December 2018.

” RFID tags on tanks, weapons, publications, you can ping them and discover the personality of where systems are,” stated Wesley Turner, who was a Marine chief warrant officer 5 when he spoke in a spring interview. “If I can ping it, I can discover it and I can shoot you.”


Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. Contact him at https://twitter.com/JPritchardAP Hall reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Contact her at https://twitter.com/kmhall


Email AP’s Global Investigations Team at investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/tips/ See other work at https://www.apnews.com/hub/ap-investigations

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