Pentagon Department of James Bond Gizmos Has a New Secret Defense

A bad guy's worst nightmare: What if all of America's best hi-tech weaponry came equipped with LoJack?

Jan 11, 2014 at 11:59AM

On Dec. 5, 2011, disaster struck the U.S. military. Iranian state media reported that a top secret U.S. Air Force stealth drone -- an RQ-170 Sentinel -- had been brought down and captured intact. One of America's most advanced pieces of unmanned, stealth airplane technology... was in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

An artist's rendering of America's top-secret Sentinel drone. Source: Wikimedia Commons

How could this happen? Engineers at the time speculated that Iran had tricked the Sentinel into switching into autopilot mode, jamming its communications to blind the drone, then feeding it false GPS data to convince it to land at an Iranian airbase. But today, the Pentagon is more interested in how to make sure that such a fiasco does not happen again.

Enter DARPA's mad scientists
According to the scientists at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, hi-tech weapons have become so pervasive on the modern battlefield that it's all but impossible to keep track of the stuff. It's not just drones they're worried about. Whether you're talking robots, rocket launchers, or radios -- if it's got electronics in it, eventually something hi-tech that we don't want to lose track of, will fall into the possession of someone... whom we'd rather never got hold of it.

The solution? Blow the stuff up. Or even better, make it melt away into nothingness all on its own -- leaving enemies, who thought they'd captured hi-tech American equipment, holding a hunk of useless, melted-down metal and carbon composite instead. This is the goal of DARPA's new VAnishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, which aims to develop a new form of "sophisticated electronics" that, "when triggered ... degrade partially or completely into their surroundings."


A battery, VAPR-ized! Source: DARPA

Abracadabra -- Poof! It's gone!
Last month, DARPA took a step toward making this magic trick happen when it announced the award of a $4.7 million contract to defense contractor SRI International. Under this contract, SRI will attempt to design and build "transient electronics." Specifically, a silicon-air battery capable of powering electronics just like commercial off-the-shelf products, but also capable of self-destructing in response to an electronic signal or other predetermined "trigger." SRI joins Honeywell (NYSE:HON), which is already working on a similar project under a $2.5 million contract, in trying to take the concept to reality.

As the small size of these contracts suggests, we're only in the very earliest phases of R&D on "transient electronics" today. But if these companies are successful, their product could make the world a much safer place to live in.

Remember the 15,699 anti-tank missiles that America is getting ready to ship to Saudi Arabia? With a working "transient electronics" program, each and every one of them might be programmed to lock itself up if pointed at an Israeli tank. Or imagine if Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) sold F-35 fighter jets to a foreign power that turned unfriendly. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to "turn off" those airplanes with the touch of a button?

Surface-to-air missiles programmed to melt themselves into junk if terrorists point them at a commercial airliner? Encrypted communications gear that could be disabled if captured? There are any number of uses for this technology, if it can be perfected -- potentially saving lives, and probably safeguarding billions of dollars worth of research and development work by the defense contractors that produce the weapons in the first place.

As good uses for an initial investment of $7.2 million go (the total value of the SRI and Honeywell contracts), I can think of few better.

Great ideas make for great investments -- and can make you rich
You've heard about DARPA's latest project. You know which companies are helping DARPA to make it a reality. But what next? How do you take this information, and use it to make you some money? In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why you need to invest to grow your wealth, and how to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Lockheed Martin. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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