Intelligence Forecast
March 2019

1.The Terrorist Recruitment Capitol of the U.S., Minneapolis

In recent news, Minneapolis, Minnesota has been targeted for being what some call the “terrorist recruitment capital of the U.S.” An area of Minneapolis titled Little Mogadishu is home to the largest population of Somali immigrants in the United States. The hotbed of Somali Americans has been blamed for recruiting terrorists to al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group, and ISIS. [1]

           Statistics from the FBI show that forty-five Somali individuals from Minneapolis fled the United States to join either al-Shabaab or ISIS. [2] Both these groups are declared radical Islamic terrorist organizations across the world.

The FBI has concluded around twenty-three of the individuals left the United States to the horn of Africa to join al-Shabaab. The FBI believes that two of these Somali men became suicide bombers and seven others have already died on the battlefield as enemy combatants.

The director and counterterrorism program coordinator at Global Risk International, David Otto, said, “Recruitment takes place online as well as face-to-face radicalization, sometimes with promises of what appears to be legitimate opportunities. For al-Shabab, they focus mainly on the negative impact of US counterterrorism policies like targeted assassinations and drone strikes that sometimes kill innocent civilians in Somalia to attract recruits and sympathizers.” Many times, these individuals have also turned to 3rd party news sources that show violence committed against Muslim populations by American forces. These sources are, at other times, fabricated to play into the minds of susceptible individuals.

The rapid outbreak of radicalization in Little Mogadishu has been attributed to lack of discipline and punishment, with many conservatives putting blame on newly elected Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D), representative of Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional district. The Fifth includes Minneapolis, as well as the neighborhoods in question.

Omar has been criticized by many in her own district for being too easy on individuals accused of terrorist activity. When Omar was a state representative, she said that judges need to be more “compassionate” to individuals accused of terrorism.

The spread of Islamic extremism is dangerous to American liberty and national security. Meanwhile, it’s likely that more individuals from Minneapolis will become radicalized and attempt to travel to the Middle East. However, with travel restrictions for many Middle Eastern countries, this threat is decreased from previous years.

The Somali community in Minneapolis should take responsibility for its neighbors: call out those who are spreading radical ideologies. Allowing such activities only hurts the perception of Somali-Americans. A continuing rise in radicalization in the Midwest will lead to the breakdown of relations between various ethnic groups, as well as the overall national security of the United States. 

2. The Return of Rods From God: Project Thor

Since the early days of the Cold War, the technology of kinetic bombardment has been considered technology of the future. Kinetic bombardment refers to projectiles gaining immense velocity from the build-up of momentum as they travel through the atmosphere. War theorists and scientists have studied a variety of possibilities related to kinetic bombardment.

During the early days of the Cold War, a technology referred to as “lazy dog” bombs was used to evaluate the effectiveness of such weapons. The lazy dog bombs contained no explosives, but instead were solid steel with metal fins welded to the sides. The length of the projectile was approximately 1 inch tall and ⅜ of an inch wide, about the size of a 9mm bullet.

Lazy dog bombs were dropped from an aircraft above enemy troops with an estimated maximum speed of 200 mph. While their use proved successful, it was likely suspended due to high costs.

Over 30 years later, in the midst of the war on terror, the ideas of kinetic bombardment were brought back to life. Reinvisioned by the Air Force, many believe the George W. Bush administration could have used the technology to reign supreme. [3]

The technology could have even been used in the destruction of al-Qaeda tunnels within Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Due to the thick mountain rock and deep tunnels, conventional weapons wouldn’t have any impact on the tunnels. Project Thor could have ultimately destroyed the tunnels below the thick mountain crust.

In 2003, a U.S. Air Force report described the technology of Project Thor as a cargo satellite in space that would simultaneously launch and control 20’ x 1’ tungsten rods to impact targets on earth.[4] A computer attached to the rods would control the guidance, and speeds would be estimated to exceed 7,600 mph. This would essentially leave a nuclear weapon-like impact with no nuclear fallout.

Plans were discontinued when cost estimates were too high and unrealistic for the time. However, Project Thor’s revival is quite possible in the near future. Discussion about Project Thor has been brought up in the past year by various news outlets, including Business Insider and Space Daily.

Costs of launching objects into space are likely going to decrease in upcoming years, as NASA has a goal to decrease costs to around $100 per pound in the next 25 years. The current costs are around $10,000 per pound. The creation of the Space Force also grants a hopeful outlook on Project Thor’s future, as more effort will be put into the utilization of space. Meanwhile, some critics claim that expansion into space will eventually lead to space warfare.

In order for the United States to declare dominance of space, weapons like Project Thor need to be implemented to assure American unipolarity in the world and beyond. As China and Russia are developing similar technology in the future, it is necessary for America to control dominance over space before it is too late.

3. Battlefield Laser Defense Systems Increasing to a Necessity

In the last decade, ever-evolving technology has created an extremely popular tool familiar to most everyone: drones. The usage of drones on the battlefield plays an important role when it comes to intelligence gathering, cargo supply drops, and targeted unmanned airstrikes. Like anything in the defense industry, a strong offensive capability invites an equally strong defensive prevention. The evolution of drones is no different: companies including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have developed technology to stop drones.

In recent years, the United States has contracted various defense companies to develop technology that disrupts drones to the point at which they’re unusable. Raytheon has developed a laser weapon system that shoots a high energy beam at a drone, causing the drone to lose control and become unusable. Similar technology has been used in the U.S. Army’s Zeus system that disarms landmines with laser technology.

By sending a fiber-optic beam of electric laser at the drone, the Raytheon device effectively short circuits the electrical components of the drone. The technology has been fitted to a large ATV vehicle where a generator can run the electric beam allowing unlimited use. As this technology only works with smaller drones, high energy lasers will likely get deployed.

At the latest International Defense Exhibition and Conference, China unveiled its version of an anti-drone laser-based system. Developed by Poly Defense, a Chinese state-owned company, the defense system “Silent Hunter” is quite similar to Raytheon’s version of a laser-based anti-drone technology.

Laser-based technology is on the rise throughout the defense industry. These drone defense systems are likely to become as prominent as anti-tank systems, as drone warfare becomes a large part of air warfare.

As technology continues to advance, there will likely be more powerful laser weapons that could destroy all types of equipment reliant on electronic components. This would not only impact drone usage, but also other vehicle tactics on the battlefield. Wise countries will create technology to defend themselves from such attacks, as the development of EMP attacks and laser based anti-electrical weapons will destroy countries who are too reliant on battlefield technology. The future of technological weapons is more important than people think: the modern world revolves around technology. In order to protect American dominance in the technological world, the United States must improve its defenses at home and on the battlefield. If this isn’t pursued in upcoming administrations, the United States will continue to be exposed to EMP attacks leaving our military non-operational.






Additional Readings: