Pentagon Awards IBM Contract For Mission Impossible Self-Destruct

Depending on your age, when you hear Lalo Schifrin’s iconic theme from “Mission Impossible” you are either transported back to Martin Landau playing Rollin Hand in the original series, or to thoughts of Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt in the film franchise. Either way, that 5/4 time signature transports you back. Schifrin joked that he composed the piece “for people who have five legs”. I doubt I’m alone when I simply remember the beginning of both the TV series and the films with the classic lines, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it..,” and “This message will self-destruct in ten seconds.”

Vanishing tech

Turns out that the U.S. military remembers this as well and is looking to develop self-destructing instructions of its own for service members.

DARPA, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, recently contracted International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) to the tune of $3.5 million to look into the feasibility of its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) project.

IBM was awarded the contract after it proposed that it could develop technology that would allow a radio frequency to trigger the shattering of a glass coating on a silicon chip effectively turning into no more than a fine powder.

“A trigger, such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will be used to initiate shattering, in at least one location, on the glass substrate,” the US government disclosed when announcing the grant’s award.

DARPA believes that it may also profit from this tech as it sees additional uses including applications in medical treatment and diagnosis. The thinking being that sensors, once completing a scan of the body they could be “exploded” and reabsorbed into the body.

VAPR tech could also have applications in medical diagnosis and treatment, DARPA believes, if sensors can be developed that the body can reabsorb.

Additional grants awarded by the Pentagon

The Pentagon also awarded Xerox Corporation (NYSE:XRX)’s Palo Alto Research Center $2.1 million for similar research and testing. The specialist in large-area electronics and bioinformatics proposed engineering materials under stress so that an electrical signal could be used to turn a circuit to dust when the stress is released.

The grants continue in a vein that the Pentagon introduced last year when it awarded Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE:HON) $2.5 million and SRI International $4.7 million to look into VAPR.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at

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