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The North Adams Transcript September 06, 2006

Mass. company making combative flying discs

By Evan Lehmann

WASHINGTON — Baghdad better have a leash law. Because Iraqi dog owners won't want their pooches fetching this: killer Frisbees.
A Chelmsford defense-contractor Triton Systems is developing the pilotless saucer to give American troops an edge in close-quarter, urban battles.

The unit can wend its way through Baghdad alleys before launching bunker-buster bombs to penetrate hardened hideouts or unleash fragment explosives on enemy militants.

"The beauty of the Frisbee is it can move up, down, left, right without having to bank and turn like a regular airplane," according to an aeronautical engineer familiar with the program. "It can hover, too."

The "Lethal Frisbee" can provide "revolutionary tactical access and lethality against hostiles hiding in upper story locations" or behind shelter, according to an unclassified description Triton submitted to the Air Force.

The design comes as the Pentagon is seeking "micro-munitions" to limit civilian casualties, while protecting American troops with weapons that are subtler than devastating air strikes.

"You wouldn't have to worry about getting the Air Force into the picture," John Pike, a weapons expert and director of GlobalSecurity.org, said of the disc. "Most (Air Force) bombs were designed in era where to destroy a building you had to blow up a whole neighborhood."

Triton was awarded a $100,000 contract for early development of the deadly disc, which will be controlled by a joystick and a computer screen, similar to U.S. Predator drones used in Iraq.

Prototype tests are expected to begin this year, and the discs could be deployed within several years.

Demolitions expert

The disc will be about the same size of the Frisbee invented in 1964 for Wham-O by "Steady" Ed Headrick. Headrick died in 2002 but his son said his father would be proud that the Pentagon is planning to use the spinning sensation — often associated with hippies and sandal-wearing recreationalists.

Headrick served two years in World War II as a demolitions expert, and later as a civilian would design homemade fireworks on Independence Day for his children's entertainment.

The Pentagon's plan for a bomb-blasting Frisbee seems appropriately similar, said Gary Headrick.

"There were always things exploding around our house," he said.


Copyright 2006, North Adams Transcript