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SGI Technology Helps US Military ‘See’ Underground


A massive manhunt is under way in Egypt for suspected militants who killed two Egyptian police officers, Thursday. The militants are also linked to the recent Sinai Peninsula terrorist bombings, and Egyptian police are scouring nearby mountains to find them. VOA's Paige Kollock reports on some new technology that could be useful to them, and NATO troops looking for al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan.

The same technology used to find oil reserves deep underground is of great interest to the United States military, which wants it to help hunt down terrorists.

The military has joined up with a company called Silicon Graphics Incorporated, located in Mountain View, California. SGI's technology is called 'subterranean target identification.' It is primarily used to spot oil reserves miles under the earth's surface, explains Greg Estes. "The technology works by using sound waves to create a profile of what's under the ground. And that's used today to find where oil is."

Mr. Estes is the vice president of marketing for Silicon Graphics. He says the same technology that has been used for oil and gas exploration since the 1930s could also be used to find underground places where terrorists hide. "The way it works is they will create sounds waves through an explosion or other means, and then they'll look at the profile of what is underneath the ground based on how those sound waves come back," he explains. "Once you understand what's underneath the ground, it could actually be a bunker, rather than oil."

Military scientists are working with SGI to develop the technology as fast as possible. The goal is to come up with devices soldiers can use in the field to pinpoint enemy positions under the ground, rather than relying on the aerial images they now use.

Once it is developed, the 'Subterranean Target Identification System' could identify tunnels, arsenals, and caves. In doing so, it could provide clues to the whereabouts of terrorists such as the Egyptian bombers and al-Qaida operatives.

The technology could also have the capability to identify land mines like the ones that killed the Egyptian officers. On the domestic front, the system could be used to uncover tunnels used for smuggling undocumented immigrants or drugs into the United States.

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