Mention military exoskeletons
and it will likely conjure up visions of something like Iron Man, that
gives a soldier super strength or the ability to march all day with a
pack the size of a piano. However, exoskeletons can provide more than
brute strength. Taking a page from therapy exoskeletons,
Dan Baechle, a mechanical engineer at the US Army Research Laboratory
(ARL), is developing the MAXFAS exoskeleton that doesn't make soldiers
stronger, but better shots instead.
It sounds like an old Goon Show joke, but soldiers may one day protect themselves from blasts by wallpapering temporary shelters. It may not be very decorative, but the new ballistic wallpaper under development by the US Army Corps of Engineers uses a special fiber inlay to help prevent walls from collapsing under blast effects.
For something commonly called a "dummy," the mannequins used in crash tests are surprisingly sophisticated and so specialized that they're not much use out of automotive safety labs. When the US Army went looking for a dummy of its own, it had to go back to square one by awarding a contract to California-based Diversified Technical Systems (DTS) to help develop the first instrumented dummy designed for military vehicle blast testing.
For centuries, dogs have served in a variety of roles alongside humans, including faithful companion and guardian. The latter function is one that’s seen more focus in recent times as canines have been trained to sniff out buried improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before they are detonated. The dog’s handler also needs to be trained to detect subtle cues from the animal, which is where a video game developed by the US military comes into play.
Sikorsky's record-breaking X2 Demonstrator
helicopter may be a museum piece these days, but the technology that went into it is still alive and kicking as the United Technologies subsidiary takes the wraps off the first of its two S-97 Raider helicopter prototypes. According to Sikorsky, this event marks the beginning of the armed reconnaissance ‘copter’s flight tests aimed at providing the US Army with its next generation of combat rotorcraft.
If you've ever gone outside on a foggy night and shined a laser pointer about, you’ve seen two things: how flashy a raygun it makes, and the problem laser weapons face in such conditions as fog and rain scatters the energy that should be destroying missiles. However, in recent tests at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, Boeing and the US Army have shown that their High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD)
is capable of successfully locking onto and taking out targets in very laser-unfriendly foggy, rainy, and windy maritime conditions.
While aircraft such as the X-47B
are paving the way for unmanned aircraft filling combat roles, autonomous aircraft are also being developed to tackle more mundane – but still dangerous – military operations. To this end, the first fully autonomous resupply, reconnaissance, surveillance and target-acquisition demonstration using the Squad Mission Support System
(SMSS) unmanned ground vehicle, K-MAX unmanned helicopter
and Gyrocam optical sensor was recently conducted at Fort Benning, Georgia.
As one of the contenders in the race to win a $US100 billion contract from the US government for the Army’s next generation of attack helicopter, AVX Aircraft Company has conceived a futuristic machine kitted out with coaxial rotors, ducted fans and a retractable undercarriage that could hit speeds of over 270 mph (435 km/h).
Over the next quarter of a century
, the US Pentagon sees robots becoming more and more a part of military life with robot warplanes, submersibles, and infantry vehicles taking their place on the battlefields of the future. It may conjure up a very flashy vision of Transformer-like killing machines, but the US Army sees the first robots as autonomous vehicles used in the more prosaic task of delivering groceries and other supplies.
As well as protecting soldiers from impacts, modern helmets and masks are also designed to provide protection against chemical and biological agents. Such gear requires a powered air purifying respirator to supply air, but these traditionally rely on a separate battery pack and blower unit that is connected to the mask via a hose. The US Army is developing technology for a compact self-contained mask that is not only lighter and less cumbersome, but also helps keep soldiers cool.