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Remember the olden days when you made a phone call on what is called a landline?  Or posted a letter and actually received one?  You took a photograph using a camera? 

Or had a conversation with a neighbour without someone taking a selfie?  Remember when a hug was saved in that hard drive called your memory ... not something that was uploaded to a cloud in cyberspace? 

Remember when you went shopping and interacted with someone who smiled as they took your cash and gave you change?  Remember that?  And when you actually trusted your government and you thought that your vote counted?  Remember that?  

Ahh, the foolish days of days of wine and roses. Or the Salad Days.  My, how times have changed. Now, we live in an era where a robot tells us to prove we are not a robot and satellites rule our lives. Our lives are controlled by robots.  Which brings me to DARPA..... and my. what a tangled web it weaves. 

“DARPA develops the weapons of the future. It funds everything from basic science to advanced technology, though the ultimate goal is always to develop something that can be used by the military.”

Sharon Weinberger — “The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World.”

So what is DARPA? DARPA stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for military use. DARPA was established in 1958 in response to the Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik satellite, which highlighted the need for the United States to invest in advanced technology research and development to maintain its military superiority. 

DARPA's mission is to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. It focuses on high-risk, high-reward research projects that have the potential to revolutionise military capabilities. DARPA aims to stay ahead of adversaries by anticipating future threats and developing innovative solutions to address them. Is it a group of people or a group of people training AI? 

And what does " it " have to do with us in Australia and New Zealand? 

What, indeed.

In many ways, pretty much everything in our daily lives. 

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DARPA's research portfolio covers a wide range of technology domains, including artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity, space, biotechnology, communications, and advanced weapons systems. It funds both fundamental research in academic institutions and applied research in collaboration with industry partners. It is known for its ambitious and sometimes unconventional projects. Some famous examples include the development of the ARPANET, which laid the groundwork for the modern internet, the creation of stealth aircraft technology, and the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

DARPA collaborates with various stakeholders, including other government agencies, academic institutions, private companies, and international partners. It often leverages public-private partnerships to accelerate technology development and transition promising research into operational capabilities. It operates under the guidance of the Department of Defense and aligns its research priorities with national defense strategies. It plays a critical role in shaping the future of warfare by investing in cutting-edge technologies that enhance military effectiveness, resilience, and strategic advantage.

As one book reviewer for Weinberger's book commented: 

Many of the products of the Pentagon's in-house research facility, DARPA, are widely known. The Internet. GPS. The M16 rifle. Agent Orange. Stealth aircraft. What is less widely known and understood is the story of the scores of scientists, engineers, and bureaucrats who sired these and many other innovations over the nearly 60-year history of the agency. Now, journalist Sharon Weinberger has brought that history to light in a captivating account, The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World, her third book about America's defense establishment.  


DARPA's mission has shifted sharply over the years. At its inception in 1958 and for a short while afterward, DARPA was the nation's first space agency. DARPA's focus quickly shifted to missile defense. "By 1961," Weinberger writes, "ARPA was spending about $100 million per year, or half of its entire budget, on missile defense." 

The Cuban Missile Crisis and President Kennedy's subsequent emphasis on achieving a nuclear test ban accelerated the process. Along the way, this research "modernized the field of seismology" in the agency's effort to detect underground nuclear tests. Around the same time, the agency became involved in counterinsurgency in Vietnam (and later in many other countries). The counterinsurgency work involved social science research as well as the development of new weapons such as the M16. DARPA's most famous product, the Internet (originally ARPANET), was an easily ignored, low-priority project in the face of the billions spent on the war. 

During the 1970s, the agency turned its attention to what the Pentagon and the White House deemed the country's gravest threat: the potential of a Soviet invasion of West Germany with a massive tank attack that could not be stopped with nuclear weapons alone. Within less than two decades, that threat evaporated. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union shocked DARPA's leadership, as it did everyone else in the US government. The agency only gradually found its way forward with a primary focus on precision weaponry and the electronic battlefield. In Weinberger's opinion, DARPA's work today is aimed at much lesser problems than it has tackled in the past. It's much more focused on solving specific problems posed by Pentagon brass rather than delving into genuine scientific research, which had been the case in earlier decades.

"Today," Weinberger writes in her conclusion, "the agency's past investments populate the battlefield: The Predator . . . Stealth aircraft . . . Networked computers . . . precision weapons . . ." But it's unlikely anything as disruptive as the Internet is ever likely to come again from DARPA.

Revealing DARPA's many huge failures

The history of DARPA in its early years in The Imagineers of War is especially strong. By burrowing into obscure declassified documents and interviewing many of those who were active in the agency's first years, Weinberger uncovered the seminal role of William Godel. It was Godel who "managed to use the power vacuum at ARPA [following the loss of space programs to NASA] to carve out a new role for the agency in Vietnam." Following the lead of the British in Malaya, where many of the tools of counterinsurgency were first developed, Godel built what ultimately became a multi-billion-dollar program in Vietnam. His aim was to make it unnecessary for the US to commit troops to the war, and in that he obviously failed miserably. It was Godel who promoted the notorious strategic hamlets and introduced Agent Orange and other defoliants as well as the combat rifle that came to be known as the M16. Because much of his work was clandestine and involved cash payments to undercover agents, Godel became enmeshed in an investigation into his program's financial reporting and later spent several years in prison as a result of a colleague's misappropriation of funds. Probably because of this intensely embarrassing chapter in DARPA's history, and his later turn to gunrunning in Southeast Asia, Godel's role has been deeply buried. There is not even a Wikipedia page for him.



Well, after that massive data dump, I finally come to a little spot on the east coast of New Zealand. Thousands of miles from America. So what, I hear you ask, has DARPA to do with a little known spot in what most in the Northern Hemisphere consider the arsehole end of the earth?  And well you may ask. 

On face value, it is an innocent enough arrangement. A clever little American Company founded by New Zealander Peter Beck was created to launch rockets into space.  Of course, it would not have been possible without the support of NASA, secured in 2010, when they won a contract to study low cost satellite launches.  By 2017, Rocketlab had secured backing from some major players, to the tune of in excess of US$140 million.

It was a remarkable feat and one that is now paying dividends for all concerned, launching satellites into space from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

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In March 2019, the company launched a satellite, developed by DARPA and called Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2). Its job? To demonstrate the ability of small satellites to carry large deployable antennas needed to support high-bandwidth communications.

R3D2 is, to a layman like me, a bit like an umbrella. Unlike previous satellites that are launched with the “umbrella “ already open, this clever satellite stays closed and only opens once in orbit. In short, it is cheaper to deploy because it takes up less space.

 

Well, R3D2 is now deployed and happily circling 430 km overhead and orbiting the earth roughly 15 times a day.

These low cost high-bandwidth communication satellites open up many possibilities….   rapid deployment of space technologies that would have previously been impossible.

Fast forward to today, and the launching platform, Electron,  has flown 46 times, lofting more than 180 satellites for private and public sector organisations, including U.S. national security payloads.

Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab has a trio of launch pads, two sited in New Zealand and a third in Virginia, on Wallops Island. In addition, the company's Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA missions to the moon.  

So what is DARPA up to elsewhere?

In February 2017 DARPA announced that it was looking into whether cells could somehow communicate with electro magnetic signals and thereby exchange information.

Flashback to the 1960’s when the American Government discovered that the Soviets were beaming microwaves at their Embassy in Moscow. They created a project known as Pandora which sought to investigate the effects of low levels of microwave radiation.

Sounds rather similar to the DARPA announcement in 2017 perhaps?

There have been many rumours circulating about Embassy officials becoming ill – in March 2018 Canadian and American staff at their Cuban Embassies fell ill. They had a range of symptoms and diagnoses including dizziness, ringing in the ears, headaches, memory loss, difficulty concentrating and mild traumatic brain injury. The symptoms were similar to those experienced by staff at the Embassy in China in 2016 and again shortly after the Havana outbreak.

All the symptoms bear a striking similarity to those experienced by people exposed to low level Electro Magnetic Pulse attacks.

On March 26, 2019  President Trump issued an  “Executive Order on " Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses” in an effort to assess the risks of such an attack to critical U.S. infrastructure. Preliminary studies indicate that a catastrophic EMP event could cripple the U.S. economy and its military.

Back in 2012, Putin said:

“The military capability of a country in space or information countermeasures, especially in cyberspace, will play a great, if not decisive, role in determining the nature of an armed conflict.

In the more distant future, weapons systems based on new principles (beam, geophysical, wave, genetic, psychophysical and other technology) will be developed.

All this will, in addition to nuclear weapons, provide entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals. Such high-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons but will be more ‘acceptable’ in terms of political and military ideology.

In this sense, the strategic balance of nuclear forces will play a gradually diminishing role in deterring aggression and chaos.”

So that brings us back to the Mahia Peninsula, R3D2 and what the hell is going on beneath behind the scenes.

Remember the name of the R3D2 satellite?

Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration

I think I need to have a Bex and a little lie down. My legs are a bit wobbly and I feel a bit dizzy and my ears are ringing.............................. and I have been logged out of my blog by a robot and he is asking me to prove I am human. The irony.

I think they demonstrated to us that they are in control, don't you?  

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