FORT BLISS, Texas — The Army is trying out a strange-looking contraption called the Spider munition system at its Network Integration Evaluation.
The munition system is "not victim-activated," 1st Lt. Jose Rivas, an engineer platoon leader, said, standing over a display featuring Spider in the NIE's tactical operations center in the desert. The Army no longer uses victim-activated systems that would detonate immediately if someone or something triggers the system.
"We have a man-in-the-loop" setup at a remote control station that monitors the system and is also tied to every munition system in the field," Rivas said.
"We've primarily been using it for our perimeter defense and offensive capabilities during ambushes," Capt. Theodore Hausauer, C Company commander of 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, said.
For perimeter defense, the Spider units are set up 20 meters apart in rows spaced 25 meters apart. The systems are battery powered and can last up to 30 days in the field.
The trip sensors on the system provide an alert to the operator in the remote control station. It doesn't have the capability of providing positive identifications but simply indicates there is something in the field, Rivas said.
The Army is testing the Spider configured in what soldiers call an "escalation of force" setup, which means if something crossed over the first row of sensor units then the operator would trigger nonlethal rubber sting balls at the target. If the second row is tripped, then the operator, once obtaining a visual, would trigger miniature grenade launchers.
For the final protective line, an operator would detonate an electric current to an M4 firing wire attached to a claymore anti-personnel mine.
Setting up a Spider protective barrier takes about 10 minutes, according to Sgt. Christian Hidalgo, who leads the installation team. He noted the units are spaced a specific distance apart so that if maintenance on any one unit is needed, the rest of the units can remain operational.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.