Queer Coffee; Low Signature

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Jan 11 12:08:32 UTC 2002

In a message dated 01/11/2002 1:30:49 AM Eastern Standard Time,
Bapopik at AOL.COM writes:

>    Used on tonight's NIGHTLINE.  Our presence in Afghanistan was intended
> be "low signature."  A Google check shows a lot of military hits, such as
> LSV--Low Signature Vehicle.
>     Is there an opposite for "low signature," perhaps something other than "
> high signature"?

Nightline probably intended to say "low profile" and got their jargon mixed

"Low signature" is a technical military term, dating back at least to the
late 1970's (when I encountered it) and quite possibly World War II.  A major
headquarters has to send out a lot of radio messages, and to the enemy these
radio transmissions are the headquarters' "signature".  Similarly for other
imortant military targets.

Hence in battle you want to disguise your signature, perhaps by locating all
the transmitting antenna somewhere away from your command post.  That is to
say, on a modern battlefield you want to be "low signature".  Similarly
tanks, due to their engines and to the fact that they absorb heat during the
day and radiate it at night at different rates than sand dunes, have an
infra-red signature problem, and if you're a tanker and the enemy has an air
force, you definitely want to have a low-signature tank.

Hence Nightline used entirely the wrong term.  If our presence in Afghanistan
were to be "low signature" then it would be hard to detect by electromagnetic
means, presumably including watching Nighline on TV.  Definitely Nightline
should have said "low profile".

           - Jim Landau

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