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U.S. soldiers wired to record blast effects

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July 30, 2012

The U.S. Army is deploying personal blasts sensors for soldiers to record data from IED at...

The U.S. Army is deploying personal blasts sensors for soldiers to record data from IED attacks (Photo: Cougar vehicle struck by IED, Credit: Department of Defense)

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have been a major hazard for Coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan for over the past decade. The toll that they’ve taken in lives and equipment has been terrible, but the U.S. Army hopes to alleviate some of this with new vehicle and body blast sensors shipping to Afghanistan in August 2012. These sensors, built jointly with Georgia Tech Research Institute and the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force are part of wireless information network designed to aid doctors and engineers by collecting blast and pressure data from the vehicles and soldiers themselves.

IEDs are a major problem for the military because even though they are very widely used and a lot is known about the sort of damage they can do, there’s not much consistent data on how blasts affect a particular individual in a particular situation. Part of the reason for this is that the only time and place to get that data is when an IED actually goes off in the field.

That’s the idea behind the new sensors being deployed in Afghanistan. They’re part of the Integrated Blast Effect Sensor Suite (I-BESS). This is a system of smart, wireless sensors installed in a combat vehicle’s body along with four worn on each soldier’s torso (two front, two back) called the Soldier Body Unit and one in the helmet called HEADs II. These sensors detect pressure and acceleration, but they’re not simply measuring instruments. Each of these are “smart” devices that talk to one another and respond depending on the situation.

For example, if a group of soldiers is traveling in a vehicle and it runs over a bomb, the sensors in the vehicle will record the blast data and store it in a black box recorder for later download and analysis. So far so good, but the vehicle is also aware of the sensors the soldiers are carrying and downloads their data through their seats. If the soldiers leave the vehicle, their sensor packs “wake up” and will record data in the event of a blast. When the soldiers return to the vehicle, the data is downloaded when they sit down and the sensors go back to sleep.

The goal of the I-BESS system is not just that it can collect data, but that it doesn’t interfere with combat operations, is easy for soldiers to understand, can be easily installed in all existing vehicles and is upgradable. In addition, the system components have to be robust and rely on government-owned, standard software and interfaces.

One thousand Soldier Body Units are scheduled to be deployed along with sensors for forty two combat vehicles. The Army hopes that the data collected will lead to more effective countermeasures and medical treatment. This data may be of importance even outside of the combat zone because vehicle accidents, such as rollovers, involve similar force.

The following video provides an overview of the Integrated Blast Effect Sensor Suite (I-BESS).

Source: Defensetech.org

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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6 Comments

All: please describe how a physician would use the information provided by the sensors to make decisions.

BillCorr
30th July, 2012 @ 03:58 am PDT

Either the U.S. Army has the worst doctors in history, because they can't tell when a soldier is in pain or when a limb is missing, or they just want another excuse to privatise public money.

Don't get me wrong. I know there are soldiers who didn't show any sign of injuries or pain and yet they've suffered trauma, but this won't help them, since it won't be able to make accurate enough measurements of pressure waves for a doctor to rely on it.

These are WAVES. And waves will travel through the soldier's body and where they'll meet (after they where deflected by something) they'll cause the injury. The sensors will only detect the direction and pressure, and this isn't enough for a solid feedback.

Maybe if they're able to detect the waves as they travel through the soldier's body? Still doesn't seem reliable.

For God's sake, if a soldier is lucky enough to survive a blast, give him the ****ing benefits.

Nitrozzy Seven
30th July, 2012 @ 08:03 am PDT

BillCorr, a physician would not use the information, not directly.

What can be done with the information is analysis. The see what forces are being put on the body when a soldier is caught in the blast. Doctors can then receive more training about what happens to the body, what to look out for and new procedures can be developed to treat the injuries.

Also if you look at the forces imparted on vehicles and compare it with the direction the blast came from, perhaps they can use that to develop better armour and techniques to protect the vehicle and therefore the soldiers inside.

At least that's my take on the article. What do other people think?

Paul451
30th July, 2012 @ 08:16 am PDT

re; Paul451

I agree these sensors are about understanding what is happening with the intent on making better protection systems, an knowing were the damage occurs in the body and what it looks like.

If you get hit by a truck while crossing the street and get both legs and an arm broken everybody can see those injuries but if you ruptured a small blood vessel inside the ribcage you better hope somebody is trained to see the faint signs of a collapsing lung before it kills you.

Slowburn
30th July, 2012 @ 01:22 pm PDT

It is clear that US soldiers are being used as Blast Test Dummies. The government should use this information in recruiting ads.

grtbluyonder
31st July, 2012 @ 05:47 am PDT

As an occupying army the soldiers involved in transporting supplies are the most common casualties of wars started by politicians and conducted by military officers safe in their offices sitting at their desks. Having data on the soldiers being used as canon fodder is not going to help put all the pieces back together again.

Easy to shred a brain but no one has every been able to put one back together again. Small wonder that we currently have 870,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan waiting on their disability claims. It took more than 40 years for Vietnam war veterans to have their claims from injuries resulting from the use of dioxin in the agent orange with 20 million gallons dumped all over the country and its inhabitants and US soldiers.

What should be monitored is the radiation exposure of personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan where the US illegally spread tons of uranium all over the landscape to be breathed in with the dust on a daily basis. No surprise if there are thousands of soldiers with leukemias in a decade or two.

Calson
29th August, 2012 @ 11:43 am PDT
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