Military forces live and die by their weapons, but those aren't the only tools that matter in a battle. There are all sorts of gadgets and gizmos that can make troops safer and more lethal. Here are 7 of the best:
1. Backpack that can listen to enemy communications
The Wolfhound is an electronic warfare device that allows troops to both locate where radio operators are at and listen in on enemy communications. Operators who can speak the enemy's language carry the backpacks on patrols and interpret what is said for ground commanders. If no soldiers who can speak the local language are available, the system can still record signals so that they can be analyzed later.
2. Virtual reality headsets
The Norwegian Army currently has tanks equipped with four spherical cameras an Occulus Rift headset that allows tankers to "see" the battlefield through the tank's armor like it isn't there. The Norwegian Army still wants to improve the system though, hoping to make it more rugged and responsive. While other apparatuses like the F-35 helmet have given this capability to some U.S. forces, the Occulus Rift is relatively free at only $600 compared to the F-35 helmet's $600,000 price tag.
3. "Lightsaber" that cuts through steel doors
GIF: YouTube/John Granier
Often referred to as a "lightsaber," this device is the TEC Torch. It's a breaching tool created by the Air Force that generates a 5,000-degree flame that can slice through steel in seconds. The TEC Torch was created at the request of special operations forces and works using cartridges that last for two seconds each.
4. Rifle-launched grenade that blows open doors
Breaching an enemy door can be one of the most dangerous parts of a clearing operation, but the Simon Grenade-Rifle-Entry-Munition makes it safer and easier. Riflemen fit the GREM on the end of their barrel and fire a round. The round sets off the GREM which launches 50-100 feet to explode just outside the door. The blast shatters the door and leaves an opening for troops to assault through.
5. Tablet and app for close-air support
DARPA's Persistent Close Air Support program was designed to allow troops to quickly call in close air support missions and get rounds or bombs on target within six minutes. The final program uses an off-the-shelf Android tablet with special software installed. Ground troops enter the requested mission into the tablet app and it is beamed to a tablet in an aircraft. The pilot receives all the information and conducts the mission accordingly.
The ground tablet has already been successfully deployed to Afghanistan while the fully integrated air-ground system has completed all trials with flying colors.
6. Injectable sponges that stop bleeding
X Stat is a 30-millimeter syringe filled with compressed sponges that medical personnel can inject into wounds to stop bleeding. The hemostatic sponges expand, putting pressure on the wound from inside the cavity, and promote clotting. They're mainly designed for controlling bleeds in the groin and armpits where tourniquets can't be used, but are useful in any wound with a cavity.
7. iPads with map apps
While putting maps on iPads isn't exactly a new use of the device, Marine aviators taking them to the battlefield in Cobra attack helicopters is. The iPads replace the paper maps and charts the pilots normally carry.