Military budgets can contain some surprising items. These six pieces of gear probably raised some eyebrows when they were purchased.
Skateboards were tested during Urban Warrior ’99 for potential use in detecting booby traps and avoiding sniper fire. Documents from the exercise don’t discuss how the “urban combat skateboard” was to be employed, but the boards never made it to full fielding.
The ultra-lightweight combat vehicle is currently in testing with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, but earlier versions have already seen combat with special operations troops in Afghanistan. The vehicles are easily delivered by air and can be used by paratroopers to quickly move around a drop zone, allowing them to mass forces for an assault, quickly move crew-served weapons around the battlefield, and evacuate wounded troops to a casualty collection point.
3. Video game controllers
Since more than half of adults play video games and the average gamer plays 6.3 hours per week, it’s no surprise that many service members are handy with video game controllers. The military is capitalizing on that by using video game controllers to replace unintuitive controls for certain weapons systems and drones.
4. Radioactive identification markers
Small, radioactive markers were worn by some World War II squad leaders so their troops could follow them easily at night. The “luminous discs” were painted with radium. After being exposed to light for a short period, they’d emit a glow for hours. Experiments with the technology dated back to 1912 when the Army was testing them for cavalry units.
Quite a few modern militaries use ski troops, including three branches of the U.S. Armed Forces: The Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. The training and equipment allows the service members to move quickly in winter, mountain, and arctic environments.
6. Children’s toys
When Allied paratroopers jumped into Normandy on D-Day, they needed a way to identify each other in the dark behind German lines. Military planners came up with brass versions of a common children’s toy, the cricket noise maker. Troops would click the noisemaker while near an unknown person in the dark. If the other person responded with a click or code word, the soldiers knew each other as friendly.