U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division recently took part in a field exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in which they experimented with a tool not normally used by the armed forces – a smartphone. And no, they weren’t playing Farmville. Instead, they were using custom phones running custom apps, to coordinate the swarming of a mock village and the capture of a high-value target. Judging by how the exercise went, smartphones could soon be showing up on battlefields everywhere.
If you’ve ever removed the battery from a laptop, then you will know that it constitutes quite a large percentage of the total weight of the computer. Well, if you think you’ve got it tough lugging that laptop battery around, consider the plight of infantry soldiers – they have to carry multiple batteries to power devices such as weapons, radios, and GPS equipment, and
they have to do so for hours at a time, often under very harsh conditions. Attempts to lighten the 45 to 70 kg (99 to 154 lb) loads typically carried by soldiers currently include the use of fuel cells
, li-ion batteries woven into their clothing
, and autonomous pack horse-like vehicles
. Now, UK researchers are adding their two pence-worth, by developing wearable solar and thermoelectric power systems.
Mortars have existed for hundreds of years, proving extremely useful in World War I where the high angle of flight of the shells made them an ideal weapon for the muddy trenches of the Western Front. The weapon’s simplicity coupled with the ease with which it can be transported and operated means mortars are still in common use today but, although methods of calculating azimuth and elevation angles for targeting have improved, their greatest weakness still remains their lack of accuracy. Mortars are now moving into the 21st Century with U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan set to receive a first-of-its-kind, GPS-guided 120mm mortar munition that can pinpoint targets at ranges of up to 6,300 m (20,669 ft).
As soldiers are fitted out with more and more electrical sytems
to extend their capabilities, they become increasingly dependent on the power needed to run them. Since soldiers in the field don’t always have ready access to an electrical outlet when they need to top up the batteries, the U.S. Air Force has developed a device that taps directly into the electricity flowing through overhead power lines... a kind of bat-hook for real-life superheroes
Lockheed Martin is putting an updated, ruggedized version to its HULC Robotic Exoskeleton
through lab evaluation tests. The hydraulic "power-suit" now boasts better protection from the elements, improved fitting and easier adjustment, increased run-time and new control software.
The US Army’s Nett Warrior program involves equipping dismounted soldiers with wearable battle tracking electronics in order to increase situational awareness and reaction time and reduce the risk of “friendly fire”-related accidents. One Nett Warrior-equipped Infantry Brigade Combat Team requires a collection of batteries weighing 155 pounds (70 kg) for one 24-hour mission, and could consume the power of 140 batteries per day. That’s a lot of gear, and is the reason why aerospace firm Lockheed Martin first developed the Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) in 2005. An autonomous all-terrain vehicle that can follow troops in the field, the SMSS carries batteries, packs and other gear, and
it now also serves as a mobile charging station.
According to the Pentagon, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are the number one killer and threat to troops in Afghanistan. Now a new tool that shoots a blade of water capable of penetrating steel is headed to U.S. troops in Afghanistan to help them disable these deadly devices. Developed by Sandia National Laboratories researchers, the fluid blade disablement tool produces a high-speed, precise water blade to perform some precision type destruction on whatever IED it’s up against.
The problem with head injuries is that people who receive them often don’t realize how serious they actually are, until it’s too late. That’s why BAE Systems
developed the Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic System (HEADS) helmet sensor back in 2008. Used by the US Army and Marine Corps, the sensor is mounted inside soldiers’ helmets, and indicates when it has received concussive force sufficient to cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Last week at the Farnborough International Air Show, BAE announced the launch of the second generation of HEADS sensors.
The threat of injury and even death hangs over the head of most active men and women in the armed forces. However, the treatment for some injuries can be life-threatening as well. Soldiers unfortunate enough to be injured in the line of duty are usually given morphine for pain relief in the field. However, morphine also depresses normal breathing and blood pressure, sometimes to near-fatal levels. So medics need a short-acting drug that aids normal respiration and heart beat, but in doses that still allow effective morphine pain relief. It’s a bit like a dangerous ‘balancing act’, made worse because it’s often performed under extreme circumstances. Using nanotechnology, University of Michigan (U-M) scientists have developed a combination drug that promises a safer, more precise way for medics and fellow soldiers in battle situations to give a fallen soldier morphine, together with a drug that limits morphine’s dangerous side effects.