Now the enemy can rock out before he dies

Your Predator drone has all the latest gear, including communications, laser target designator, day and night cameras and, of course, Hellfire missiles. But, according to Special Operations Command, it still needs that essential finishing touch: the latest sound system. The command is setting out to correct this, providing speakers not just for drones but also for plenty of other applications, in a new high-tech loudspeaker program.

Loudspeakers are already used for psychological warfare operations (pysops) in Iraq and elsewhere, but the current Family of Loudspeakers is looking a bit old, having been designed in the ’90s. So SOCOM is looking for a Next Generation Loudspeaker System (NGLS) “which will consist of seven variants: manpack; ground vehicle/watercraft; unmanned air vehicle; unmanned ground vehicle; scatterable media long duration; scatterable media short duration; and sonic projection (focused sound).”

The manpack and vehicle speakers will be a direct replacement for existing systems, but the unmanned and scatterable versions will be a new capability, especially as they are intended to be “interconnected using secure wireless technology to form sets of loudspeakers that provide high-quality recorded audio, live dissemination, and acoustic-deception capability.”

A set of scattered, networked speakers could certainly create some confusing sound effects. It could create the impression of a patrol or a vehicle moving around, surrounding the enemy with phantoms while masking the presence of real forces.

Special Forces have already had good results using focused sound in the form of the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). The unofficial PsyWarrior site reports that LRAD could be clearly heard at 1,400 meters, and it proved a handy way of communicating with the locals. “Iraqis were seen writing down the counter-terrorism tip-line number at over 600 meters range.”

It also has its uses in operations, not only for clearing civilians from streets and rooftops during operations and issuing instructions, but also for “drawing out enemy snipers who are subsequently destroyed by our own snipers.”

This takes us back to putting speakers on aircraft, a tactic which was honed to perfection in Vietnam. Many different broadcasts were tried, including the celebrated “Wandering Soul,” also known as the “Howling Ghost” or “Ghost Tape Number 10″ (”Number 10″ or “So Moui” was Vietnam slang for “very bad”). This played on the Vietnamese belief that unless a person is buried properly, his or her suffering soul will wander the earth.

The Wandering Soul tape has an echoing voice, supposedly of a dead Viet Cong, warning his comrades that his soul is doomed to wander forever and telling them to go back to their homes. The Viet Cong soon realized that the voice was not really a ghost, but it certainly had a very disturbing effect on them, and in many cases provoked them to open fire on the helicopter carrying the speakers.

One Navy team got so fed up with taking fire every time they played the tape that they used it with a team of helicopters armed with rockets and 7.62mm miniguns capable of spraying 4,000 rounds per minute: “Killing was our business, and the PSYOP tapes helped make business damn good.”

Elsewhere when the Wandering Ghost was used, C-47 gunships flew alongside the PSYOP helicopters, ready to open fire on any ground positions that fired at it.

There4 was a similar effort called Project Quick Speak carried out by the 5th Air Commando Squadron in 1965. This used a transport aircraft fitted with speakers to provoke hidden Viet Cong by praising the Vietnamese government, and warning of severe consequences if they fired on the aircraft. If there was any ground fire, it was met by a barrage from a C-47 armed with three miniguns flying below and behind the speaker plane, which would then deliver the taunting message: ”See, I told you so!”

One could imagine a lot of uses for speakers or an LRAD-style hailer on a Predator or other drone. It could warn a vehicle to stop, or tell the occupants to leave a building or face the consequences. It could fly Howling Ghost or Quick Speak missions or use other sounds to provoke a reaction or spread alarm. Predators are already feared, and sound effects could add considerably.

Or you could just play “Ride of the Valkyries.”