News | Nov 28, 2018

Navy SEAL deaths in Afghanistan inspire digital breadcrumbs invention

News Article Image of Navy SEAL deaths in Afghanistan inspire digital breadcrumbs invention

Illustration of the U.S. Navy's patented BREDCRUM network. The invention was inspired by factors that led to U.S. casualties in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings in 2005.

Troy Carter/TechLink

CRANE, Ind. ­– Engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) have invented a covert communications router that can keep troops on the battlefield connected.

The device is known as the BREDCRUM, an acronym for Battlefield Ready Covert Routers United States Military, said Lisa Oswald, corporate communications lead at NSWC Crane.

The BREDCRUMs can be disguised as a rock, or a tree branch, and act as a multi-node relay system that keeps troop’s radios and unmanned aerial vehicles operating in remote locations in constant connection to military communication networks.

On October 2, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded the Navy a patent for BREDCRUM, listing inventors Garry Wieneke, Gerry Miller, and Ameer Beitvashahi.

“The BREDCRUM system is dedicated to the true heroes that gave all in Operation Red Wings,” Oswald told TechLink in an email. “Problems with radio communications during the battle and the subsequent rescue attempt led to BREDCRUM’s inception and development.”

During a 2005 reconnaissance mission in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, a team of Navy SEALs was ambushed by an anti-coalition militia; three of the four were killed.

News Article Image of Navy SEAL deaths in Afghanistan inspire digital breadcrumbs invention

Navy SEALs, from left to right, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif; Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, N.H.; Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nev.; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings.

U.S. Navy photo

During the firefight, radio contact could not be established with their base, according to Marcus Luttrell, the one SEAL who survived. The SEAL team’s leader, Lt. Mike Murphy, moved to an exposed position to call for backup on a satellite phone; it’s there that he was shot and killed.

“Mike, he had pushed up on this boulder out in the middle of this draw, wide open, no cover, no nothing,” Luttrell told CBS’ 60 Minutes. “He took two rounds to the chest.”

The rescue mission was also ambushed. A rocket-propelled grenade struck their helicopter, which crashed. In total, 19 servicemembers were killed during Operation Red Wings.

According to the patent, the devices are powered by an integrated solar panel and can be air dropped. As a potential feature, the router could automatically self-destruct on command, or if it’s about to run out of power.

The Navy said that the BREDCRUM system also supports and overlaps coverage for a recently patented medical kit.

The self-aid kit, which includes a one-handed tourniquet, was invented by the same three engineers. It activates when the tourniquet is tightened, connecting to the network and relaying patient information such as heart rate and location to medics or the quick reaction force coming to the aid of the wounded.

The BREDCRUM system has not been developed into a finished product, and patent licenses are available to businesses, meaning the technology can be repurposed for other uses or transitioned into a product for military use.

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, helps businesses acquire technology from DoD laboratories through patent license agreements, including the development of a commercialization plan.

Businesses and entrepreneurs who want to learn more about licensing these technologies should contact TechLink’s Sean Patten at or 406-994-7721.