Imagine your unit is working through a valley in Eastern Afghanistan trying to root out an insurgent group that's been operating from the mountains above. It would be strategically advantageous to know exactly who and what awaits you on the other side of each ridge, but the nearest Predator drone is busy monitoring a key mountain pass miles away. What would really be nice is a satellite – your own little eye in the sky – to beam down some real time images of the surrounding landscape. Kestrel Eye, a system of multiple lightweight, low-cost imaging satellites that can be repositioned from the field, aims to do just that.
Three times a year, the Department of Defense (DoD) solicits help from the small business community to transform their high-tech research projects into actual, usable products. While the businesses use this opportunity to fight for some of that sweet, sweet government pork, for us, it's a chance to get a look at the next generation of advanced military gear. With the new solicitations out today, we're counting down the most intriguing projects that the DoD wants to get out of the lab and onto the battlefield.
This is my boom stick. Well, not mine, but General Atomics'. Known primarily for manufacturing the Predator drone, General Atomics has also moved into the weapons business, as demonstrated by this first ever successful test of their "Blitzer" rail gun. This involved the cannon firing a number of rounds down the range at the US Army's Dugway Proving Grounds.
Despite the vehicles' armor, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) can still take out Humvees and MRAP vehicles with ease. But a company wants to change that equation with airbags that neutralize incoming RPGs and prevent them from exploding.
It's often said that a soldier's greatest weapon is his head; now, the U.S. Army plans to sharpen that weapon, installing radar in troops' combat helmets, upgrading one of the oldest pieces of infantry armor into an effective tactical device.
The Helmet Mounted Radar Program aims to provide a near-360-degree field for Moving Target Indicator (MTI) radar sensors that is low-power and can detect a moving threat as far out as 25 meters. The sensor should be integrated into the combat helmet and weigh less than two-and-a-half pounds, with less than a pound mounted on the helmet itself.
Emergency medical care for soldiers wounded on the battlefield has come a long way since Hawkeye and Hot Lips. But for Special Forces troopers operating deep behind enemy lines, that care often remains out of reach. Blood loss in particular makes seconds count, and imperils commandos operating far away from friendly bases.
To help with the problem of blood loss from traumatic wounds, the military has started field-testing a device more Mandalorian than M.A.S.H.: a plasma knife.
Like most Army commanders, Lt. General Rick Lynch says that he needed more troops in Iraq, and that they would have saved the lives of men lost under his command. Unlike most commanders though, Lynch isn't demanding flesh and blood soldiers, but steel and rubber robotic infantrymen.
Speaking at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference, Lynch said that robot systems already in place could have saved 122 of the 155 men who died during his time in Iraq.
At the first Robotics Rodeo, hosted this week by the U.S. Army and the Fort Hood III Corps in Texas, war machines replaced bulls and horses. Soldiers and civilian contractors used the opportunity, starting on Wednesday, to inspect a lineup of robots that could potentially find a place on the battlefield.
Blimps first soared above battlefields in 1794 to spy on Austrian and Dutch troops. Now the U.S. Army wants them as radar platforms for defense against cruise missiles. A Raytheon-designed blimp made its first flight yesterday at Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Going green makes military sense to the U.S. Army. Self-sufficient vehicles and base camps require fewer supply convoy runs that stretch logistics lines thin across hostile territory. The Army's new "zero-footprint" concept for a camp includes a package of very cool technologies.
Soldiers could eventually obtain their drinking water from vehicle exhaust, based on water-purification technologies being developed by the U.S. Army's TARDEC and DARPA labs. Garbage and waste produced by camps could also become new sources of energy.