The majority of engineers are men. The majority of U.S. Army soldiers are also men. So when a new piece of equipment is being designed--equipment that could change the outcome of a life or death situation--it's made with men in mind. Then, if women need it, they might just have to shoehorn themselves into the male variety, as is currently the case with body armor. But the Army recently announced it'll try to change that by testing new body armor built for women.
Nearly half the soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with some kind of psychological condition, like post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by specific battlefield experiences or traumatic brain injuries sustained during combat. To treat these mental battle scars, the new National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) will introduce state-of-the-art virtual reality technology that will help gently reintroduce soldiers to their experiences.
It turns out the Air Force's next-gen bomber really isn't much of a bomber at all. While the next iteration of stealth bombers is still but a sketch on the drawing board, the DoD and top Air Force command know what the wars of the next century will call for: intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as the ability to deploy non-kinetic weapons to disrupt enemy operations, all while reserving the ability to drop the occasional ordinance -- and do it all at the same time with a single, stealthy super-weapon.
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.
First-person-shooter video games have nothing on a new combat simulator by defense giant Raytheon. Fully rigged warfighters can roam freely in the real world and engage unseen virtual enemies through their VR goggles, tossing real flash-bang grenades and even shaking off the muscle-numbing effects of getting shot.
On the battlefield, communication is key. So while improving comms between our troops is a vital part of the military's technological mission, the mad scientists over at DARPA are scheming up a new way to deny communication to the enemy in a very precise way. DARPA is seeking proposals for a way to use an array of low-power transmitter nodes in the sky and on the ground to perform "surgical jamming" that will knock out communications signals "on the order of a city block corner" while leaving surrounding areas unaffected.
The most ambitious weapons program in Army history calls for a whole new arsenal of connected gear, from helicopter drones to GPS-guided missiles. But what happens if the network that links it all isn’t ready?
By James VlahosPosted 04.07.2009 at 6:06 pm 10 Comments
The Army wants to modernize -- and Defense Secretary Robert Gates isn't sure he wants to pay. Among the budget cuts he announced yesterday was a major hit to the Army's most ambitious new weapons program, Future Combat Systems (FCS). Under Gates's proposed budget, a set of FCS fighting vehicles that was supposed to provided light-brigade speed with heavy-brigade punch will be axed entirely. And you know what? Maybe that's okay. The core of what makes FCS futuristic is its ambitious wireless network, which will connect soldiers, surveillance drones and sensors, giving everyone more and better information than ever before. Author James Vlahos explains how it's all supposed to work in this article, from our May issue.
Wall-E went to Iraq.
The small robot rolled out of the desert scrub into a village, paused between two houses, and then approached the closer one. His square head swiveled around, unblinking camera eyes surveying the structure. The sound of shuffling boots filled the air as six U.S. Army soldiers rushed in behind him, assault rifles drawn. Reaching the building he'd scoped, they took cover inside. The robot, meanwhile, whirred on tank treads to investigate the second house. The building had no door, and he rolled inside easily. The soldiers followed. Bang, bang! Gunfire erupted, and moments later the Americans emerged unscathed. The two insurgents inside the house weren't as lucky.
Popular Science talks to the author of Wired for War: the Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
By Val WangPosted 04.07.2009 at 10:14 am 8 Comments
PackBots roam the streets of Iraq defusing bombs. Remote-controlled SWORDS robots shoot rifles and rocket launchers with deadly accuracy. Predator drones piloted by soldiers in Nevada drop missiles on Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wasp robot flies over neighborhoods full of insurgents, recording what's below with a camera as small as a peanut.
If this sounds like a futuristic science fiction story, it's not. As of today, over 12,000 robots are working in Iraq, up from zero five years ago.