Tested In Battle

PopSci's Iraq tech report card. Click to launch the slideshow.

War spurs innovation, and U.S. soldiers are seeing a lot of it. How well is the new equipment performing in Iraq? Launch the Slideshow to find out.

M-14 Sniper Rifle

Old is new again with this reliable 1950s-era rifle, refurbished from existing inventories due to a pressing need for a midrange sniper rifle in desert conditions. Pros: Better range and stopping power than the M-16 and M-4 rifles that replaced the â€50s â€relic.†Cons: Fires more slowly than the M-16 and M-4, and requires different ammunition. Grade: A

Meerkat Mine Detector

Spindly mine-detection vehicles have been adapted for use against roadside bombs. They can be equipped with radar scanners and metal-detection gear. Pros: Blast resistant, but also designed to break apart in places when hit by an explosion, to protect the operator. Cons: They´re available only in small numbers and require armed escorts. Grade: B

AH-64D Apache Longbow

An upgraded version of Boeing´s original Apache chopper, featuring top-mounted radar, data links and better night sensors. Pros: Fast, lethal support for ground troops. Radar above rotors allows it to scan over hills without detection. Cons: Cost and complexity make it difficult to operate, and it´s vulnerable to ground fire. Grade: C

Talon Small Mobile Robot

Clawed ground robot, used to dismantle explosives. Multiple cameras, sensors and communication devices can be mounted between tracks. Pros: Has saved lives by letting soldiers handle bombs remotely. Can be made waterproof for underwater detection. Cons: Difficult to use at night, and sometimes gets tweaked by nearby radio jammers. Grade: A

M1A2 Abrams Battle Tank

Seventy-ton General Dynamics tank armed with machine guns and a 120-millimeter cannon. Has thermal sights and the latest battlefield network terminals. Pros: Nearly invulnerable to attack. Fast and quiet (for a tank). Can see and shoot accurately in the dark-even at 40 mph. Cons: Not suited to urban combat. Big, expensive, and sucks gas. Grade: C

Link 16 Data Exchange System

Permits similarly-equipped aircraft to exchange location and targeting data. Also connects aircraft with Navy ships and Army missile batteries. Pros: In theory, Link 16 enables a small number of vehicles to cover a vast territory. Cons: Has evolved in fits and starts, so many vehicles use incompatible message formats. Grade: D

Buffalo Route-Clearance Vehicle

Responding to threats from roadside explosives, the Army deployed this nearly indestructible 23-ton Buffalo route-clearance vehicle with tremendous success. Built by Force Protection Industries, it uses a clawed, 30-foot arm to move debris and examine potential explosives. Grade: A

RQ-4A Global Hawk

The RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle, designed by Northrop Grumman for high-altitude reconnaissance missions, is the first fully autonomous air vehicle used in combat. It was critical to identifying Iraqi defense systems early in the war. Grade: A

MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

General Atomicsâ€built remote-controlled craft can circle above a target for 24 hours up to 400 miles from base. Equipped with sensors and Hellfire missiles. Pros: Provides excellent, real-time surveillance imagery and the ability to attack targets with little advance notice. Cons: Only a handful are airborne at any time, so most units don´t get them when they want. Grade: A

Litening Targeting and Sensor Pod

Carried on Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft, Northrop Grumman´s Litening has day and night sensors, laser targeting, and a data link to transmit live imagery. Pros: Turns jets into sophisticated surveillance platforms at the flip of a switch. Cons: Expensive, and available only in limited numbers. Grade: B+