Project AGILE was an ARPA project in the 1960s that investigated means for engaging in remote, limited warfare of an asymmetric type. The research was intended for use in providing US support to countries engaged in fighting Communist insurgents, particularly in Vietnam and Thailand.[1]


Project AGILE was directed by the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, or ARPA, and ran from mid 1961 through 1974, when it was canceled. The project was charged with developing methods to use in the looming Vietnam War, and also provided information for use by Thailand in counterinsurgency action against Communist rebels.[2][3]


Project AGILE covered a wide range of topics related to warfare under various conditions present in the Far East, from electronic surveillance, used to interdict Communist convoys in the Ho Chi Minh trail, to sociological research on troops likely to be subverted by Communist rebels. It was broken down into a number of subprojects.[3][4]

Subproject I, II, and VIIIEdit

Subprojects II and VIII were merged into Subproject I, and the resulting subproject covered weapons, individual equipment, and rations. Individual weapons included the M16 assault rifle, special purpose shotguns for use as insurgency weapons, flamethrowers, and rifle grenades. Crew served weapons included cupolas for armored personnel carriers, quad-mount machine guns, squeeze bore .50 to .30 caliber guns, multiple shot grenade launchers, lightweight mortars, and the Stoner 63 weapons system.[5]

Subproject IIIEdit

Subproject III covered remote area mobility and logistics. Included were studies of air and land transport, amphibious and water transport, STOL aircraft, and remote airstrips.[6]

Subproject IVEdit

Subproject IV covered communications systems. Both technical and procedural aspects of radio communications were studied, as well as power supplies and antennas.[7]

Subproject VEdit

Subproject V covered combat surveillance and target acquisition. Included were studies of airborne systems, such as infrared, radar, light amplification and spectral zone photography; surface use systems such as night vision, personal Doppler radar, target illumination, metal and cavity detectors; security and navigation systems.[8]

Subproject VIEdit

Subproject VI covered "individual and special projects", which included use of herbicides (such as Agent Orange), psychological warfare, and medical research and equipment.[9]

Subproject VIIEdit

Subproject VII covered technical planning and programming, including research into morbidity and casualties, environmental issues, and various tactical studies, both of Viet Cong operations, and other instances of asymmetric warfare, such as conflicts in Algeria and Latin America.[10]

OCONUS and CONUS Test ProgramsEdit

Part of Project AGILE was Subproject VI and the OCONUS (Outside the CONtinental US) DEFOLIATION TEST PROGRAM was sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency under Project Agile, ARPA Order 423.[11] Conducted by the United States Army Biological Center which was based at Fort Detrick, Maryland, one test program was conducted in Thailand in 1964 and 1965 to determine the effectiveness of aerial applications of Purple, Orange, and other candidate chemical agents in defoliation of upland jungle vegetation representative of Southeast Asia.[11] Data provided by these techniques were used in comparative evaluation of defoliant chemicals in relation to rate, volume, season of application, canopy penetration, and vegetation response.[11]

In 1962, the U.S. Army counterinsurgency school in Vietnam moved to Okinawa. USNS Schuyler Otis Bland (T-AK-277) was known to have brought highly classified "agriculture products" under armed guard to southeast Asia, Okinawa, and Panama.[12] The ship’s logbook was found by Michelle Gatz and shows the ship was carrying classified cargo that was offloaded under armed guard at White Beach a U.S. Navy port on Okinawa’s east coast on April 25, 1962.[12] After departing Okinawa in spring 1962, the Bland sailed to the Panama Canal Zone where, the Panamanian government asserts, the U.S. tested herbicides in the early 1960s.[12]

The late author Sheldon H. Harris in his book "Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American cover up" wrote that, The test program, [this may be part of Project AGILE, Project OCONUS or Project SHAD ] which began in fall 1962 and which was funded at least through fiscal year 1963, was considered by the Chemical Corps to be “an ambitious one.” The tests were designed to cover “not only trials at sea, but Arctic and tropical environmental tests as well.” The tests, presumably, were conducted at what research officers designated, but did not name, “satellite sites.” These sites were located both in the continental United States and in foreign countries. The tests conducted there were aimed at both human, animal, and plant reaction to BW. It is known that tests were undertaken in Cairo, Egypt, Liberia, in South Korea, and in Japan’s satellite province of Okinawa in 1961, or earlier.(Harris, 2002)[13]

Sheldon H. Harris continued that, The Okinawa anti-crop research project may lend some insight to the larger projects 112 sponsored. BW experts in Okinawa and “at several sites in the Midwest and south:”conducted in 1961 “field tests” for wheat rust and rice blast disease. These tests met with “partial success” in the gathering of data, and led, therefore, to a significant increase in research dollars in fiscal year 1962 to conduct additional research in these areas. The money was devoted largely to developing “technical advice on the conduct of defoliation and anti-crop activities in Southeast Asia.” By the end of fiscal year 1962, the Chemical Corps had let or were negotiating contracts for over one thousand chemical defoliants. The Okinawa tests evidently were fruitful.(Harris, 2002)[13]


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  1. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. 1
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  3. 3.0 3.1 Script error
  4. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. iii
  5. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. 5
  6. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. 51
  7. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. 105
  8. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. 123
  9. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. 149
  10. Project AGILE Semiannual Report, p. 169
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Script error
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Script error
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American cover up" by Sheldon Harris.

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