8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

As Captain America and Iron Man prepare for their civil war, they probably don’t realize they have competition coming from the U.S. military. The Department of Defense wants troops with super strength, telepathy, and immunity from pain. Here are 8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to create super soldiers:


1. Bulletproof clothes made of carbon chainmail

 

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
Photo: US Marine Corps

 

Researchers tested the potential ballistic protection of graphene by firing tiny bullets of gold at it. They found that the material was stronger, more flexible, and lighter than both the ballistic plates and the kevlar vests troops wear. And, a million layers of the stuff would be only 1 millimeter thick.

MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies is working on an effective manufacturing method for graphene-based chainmail, potentially giving troops better protection from a T-shirt than they currently get from bulky vests.

2. Synthetic blood

Synthetic blood would be much more efficient than natural cells. The most promising technology being investigated is a respirocyte, a theoretical red blood cell made from diamonds that could contain gasses at pressures of nearly 15,000 psi and exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen the same way real blood cells do.

Super soldiers with respirocytes mixed with their natural blood would essentially have trillions of miniature air tanks inside their body, meaning they would never run out of breath and could spend hours underwater without other equipment.

3. Seven-foot leaps and a 25 mph sprint

Scientists at MIT and other research universities are looking for ways to augment the human ankle and Achilles tendon with bionic boots that mimic kangaroo tendons. Humans equipped with such boots would be able to leap seven feet or more, sprint at inhuman speeds, and run all day without wearing out their muscles.

4. Pain immunizations

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
Photo: Lance Cpl. Andrew Kuppers

DARPA’s Persistence in Combat initiative aims to help soldiers bounce back almost immediately from wounds. Pain immunizations would work for 30 days and eliminate the inflammation that causes lasting agony after an injury. So, soldiers could feel the initial burst of anguish from a bullet strike, but the pain would fade in seconds. The soldiers could treat themselves and keep fighting until medically evacuated.

5. Freedom from sleep

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
Photo: US Army

Not all animals sleep the same way. DARPA wants to find a way to let humans sleep with only half of their brain at a time like whales and dolphins or possibly even skip sleep for long periods of time like ENU mice, a genetically-engineered species of mouse, do.

6. Telepathy

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
Not all brain implants look very comfortable. Illustration: U.S. Patent Application Richard A. Normann

Part of DARPA’s “Brain Machine Interface” project is the development of better computer chips that can directly connect to a human brain via implants. In addition to allowing soldiers to control robotics with thought alone, this would allow squads to communicate via telepathy.

While the chips are already improving, the project has some detractors. One offshoot of the research is the ability to remote control mice via implanted chips, and some defense scientists worry about the risk of troops having their minds hacked.

7. Powered underwear

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
Photo: Department of Defense

 

While the Harvard researchers working on it prefer the term “soft exoskeleton,” the DARPA-funded robotic suit is essentially a series of fabric muscles worn under the clothes that assist the wearer in each step or movement. This reduces fatigue and increases strength without requiring the huge amounts of power that bulkier, rigid exoskeletons need.

8. Gecko-like climbing gloves and shoes

 

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
Photo: Youtube/Stanford

 

Geckos use tiny hairs on their feet to grab onto surfaces on the molecular level. While the “Z-Man” project wouldn’t necessarily give humans the ability to crawl along a ceiling like a gecko, special climbing gloves and shoes would allow soldiers to easily climb sheer rock faces or up skyscrapers without any other equipment, drastically easing an assault on the high ground and effectively turning them into super soldiers.

Researchers have made breakthroughs and can actually support up to a 200-pound man with current prototypes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the upgrade M2 Browning fans have been waiting for

The M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun — fondly referred to as “Ma Deuce” — is rightly seen as a legend, with over 80 years of service to the troops. This machine gun has outlasted attempts to replace it, including the XM312 in recent years. But if there is one complaint about it – yes, even legendary guns draw complaints – it’s that it’s too heavy and it only shoots about 635 rounds per minute.


Well, there’s not been much progress on the former. The M2 comes in at about 84 pounds, per GlobalSecurity.orgThe GAU-19 did a good job addressing the “slow” rate of fire, but it packed on 22 pounds. So, that and the GAU-19’s need for electricity rules it out as an option for grunts. But they still want to send more lead downrange.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
The GAU-21, also known as the M3M, can fire 1,100 rounds a minute. (Photo from FN America)

Thankfully, there is an answer: the GAU-21, also known as Fabrique Nationale’s M3M machine gun. This is a modified version of Ma Deuce that, according to a handout available at the Association of the United States Army’s expo in Washington, D.C., is able to fire up to 1,100 rounds a minute. Not quite the 1,300 of the GAU-19, but still very impressive.

The real nice thing is that the M3M does this and comes in at just under 80 pounds. That’s a four-pound drop from the baseline M2. Now, the 26-pound difference may not seem like much, but that’s 26 pounds that a grunt doesn’t have to carry, leaving them more space for ammo, rations, or extra first-aid supplies.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
A flight of F-86 Sabres over Korea led by Benjamin O. Davis. Their battery consisted of six M3M machine guns, known today as the GAU-21. (USAF photo)

The M3M can be used on aircraft (one notable user was the F-86 Sabre), land vehicles (often mounted on the same pintles as Ma Deuce), and on naval vessels. It was the secondary armament of the M1097 Avenger, and also was used on OH-58 helicopters. In short, this gun provides a lot of firepower without the weight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Kimber moves its headquarters to Troy, Alabama

Kimber has made a name for itself as a manufacturer of high quality small arms, especially their 1911 pistols. Based on the original design of John Moses Browning from over a century ago, the 1911 platform is famed for its crisp single-action trigger, .45 ACP stopping power, and being the winner of two world wars as well as the U.S. military’s longest serving sidearm. Today, Kimber makes pistols that have been used by the USA Shooting Team, LAPD SWAT, MARSOC, and John Wick.

Keanu Reeves with a Kimber Warrior. Kimber headquarters has moved to Troy, Alabama.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) with a Kimber Warrior 1911 (Lionsgate)

Originally founded in 1979 in Clackamas, Oregon by Australian immigrant Jack Warne and his son, Greg, Kimber of Oregon started as a manufacturer of precision .22lr rifles. The late 1980s and early 1990s were tough on Kimber and Jack left to found the Warne Manufacturing Company. Greg revived Kimber with the financial backing of Les Edelman, owner of Nationwide Sports Distributors. Though the younger Warne was eventually forced out of the company, Edelman saw great opportunity in pairing Kimber’s reputation for quality and extensive network of dealers with his newly acquired Yonkers-based company, Jerico Precision Manufacturing.

Jerico was undergoing a drop in production due to cuts in defense spending, but still maintained a sizable industrial capability. Edelman moved Kimber’s production to Jerico’s facilities in New York, thus ending the Kimber presence in Oregon. It was at this time that Kimber began manufacturing the high quality 1911 handguns that the company is known for today.

LAPD SWAT carrying Kimber Custom II 1911s. Kimber Headquarters moved to Troy, Alabama.
LAPD SWAT is famed for carrying Kimber Custom II 1911s (LAPD)

Though its professional connection to tier one units like LAPD SWAT and MARSOC led to great commercial success and expansion of operations to New Jersey, Kimber faced political opposition from both states.

In early 2018, Kimber announced that it would move its manufacturing operations to Troy, Alabama with a new design engineering and manufacturing facility beginning operations in early 2019. “We are pleased with the impressive track record that Alabama has with attracting and retaining world-class manufacturing companies,” Edelman said.

Less than three years after announcing the move of its design and production facilities, the company announced that it would also move the Kimber headquarters to Troy. The company says that it will have 366 employees in Troy with a $38 million investment. “The final step in completing this new facility is adding staff across all departments,” the company announced in a press release. “Kimber’s new headquarters is situated on 80+ acres with more than 225,000 square-feet of space and is now home to industry-leading design engineering, product management and manufacturing capabilities.”

Kimber is not the only company to move its business to the area. In 2019, Lockheed Martin broke ground on a new missile facility at its Pike County campus, also in Troy. Less than three hours to the southwest, Airbus opened its A220 final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama in May 2020.

READ MORE: Targets to take your firearms training to the next level

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.

As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.

For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.


But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”

A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.

The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.

The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.

The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.

“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

Schoolhouse

Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.

Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.

Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.

Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.

“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”

With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.

The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.

“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”

The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.

Crew chiefs

Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.

By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.

“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.

One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.

“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.

While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.

While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.

“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”

Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.

Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.

“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”

Training for combat

Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.

HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.

At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.

“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.

While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.

For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.

“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”

Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.

“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

But can it fight? Russian tank filmed using turret to cut fruit

Russia’s T-80 battle tank was once expected to be among the best in the world. They were the first tanks developed by the Soviet Union to utilize a gas turbine engine, giving it an impressive top speed of 70 kilometers per hour and a far better power to weight ratio than its predecessors. It was even dubbed the “Tank of the English Channel,” because Soviet war games calculated that it could plow through Europe and reach the Atlantic Coast in just five days.


Then it went into battle, and like so many Russian efforts since, reality failed to live up to the hype. When called into service to fight in 1994’s separatist war in Chechnya, the latest iteration of the T-80 (The T-80B) absorbed heavy losses against the lesser equipped Chechnyans. Inexperienced operators combined with fuel-hungry engines left some T-80s useless, as they burned through their fuel reserves idling before the fighting even began.

Others were quickly destroyed by Chechnyan RPGs thanks to a significant design oversight. The T-80 was among the first Russian tanks to utilize an auto-loader for its main gun, which kept stored propellant in the vertical position beneath the tank where it was only partially protected by the tank’s wheels.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Russian T-80 Main Battle Tank shown while not serving as a fruit chef

(Vitaly Kuzmin)

All it took was a few well-placed shots with RPG-7V and RPG-18 rocket launchers to literally pop the top off of a T-80, as the propellant exploded and destroyed the vehicle. T-80s, the Chechnyans quickly assessed, were easy targets — especially when they were out of gas. All told, nearly a thousand Russian soldiers and 200 vehicles were lost in the conflict, with the T-80s serving as both the most advanced vehicles present and the most often destroyed.

Today, the 51-ton T-80 remains in service in the Russian military in rather large numbers, despite its embarrassing debut. Some 5,500 total tanks were produced during its run, and thanks to Russia’s stagnant economy and the limited production run of their latest advanced tank, the T-74, it seems likely that Russia will continue to rely on the T-80 as a main battle tank for years to come.

History may have already shown that the T-80 is a troubled platform that’s perpetually thirsty for fuel and that harbors at least one fatal flaw along with a laundry list of lesser issues. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its uses. Sure, the T-80 may not hold up to ground troops armed with RPGs, but it actually makes for a pretty decent stand-in for your SlapChop.

T-80 tank VS battle group of fruits (watermelon, pear and apple) ARMY-2019, Kubinka, Russia

youtu.be

As you can see in this footage, surely meant as a demonstration of the stability and precise control allotted by the T-80s 125mm main gun, this vehicle really can do a passable job at slicing fruit.

Of course, you’ll need a Russian soldier that’s willing to stand there and do most of the busy work (like moving the fruit into the tank’s reach, separating it, and moving it away again) but that’s just the price you pay for a fresh fruit Soviet-Smoothie. I suppose this video would still be pretty impressive, if Russia weren’t the first to show off their tank skills using food. Long ago, Germany released a video of their own Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (designed and built in the same era) hitting the trails with a stein of beer sitting comfortably on its turret.

If you think chopping a watermelon is good, you’ll love this.

Leopard 2 Beer Test

youtu.be

Unlike slicing fruit, this actually serves as a good demonstration of the Leopard 2’s ability to keep its main weapon pointed at distant targets, even as it traverses all sorts of terrain. In a fight, that serves a far greater purpose than any fruit salad might, no matter how well prepared.

The Russian video does, however, offer a glimpse into what may be another secret weapon Russia has maintained since the cold war. If all else fails, their tanks can always fix bayonets.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines print barracks in 40 hours with expeditionary setup

The Marine Corps is leading the way in employing advanced technologies and robotic construction.

In early August 2018, the Additive Manufacturing Team at Marine Corps Systems Command teamed up with Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. As a joint effort between the Marine Corps, Army and Navy Seabees, an expeditionary concrete 3D printer was used to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.


The Marine Corps is currently staffing a deliberate urgent needs statement and concept of employment for this technology. The results of the field user evaluation will inform future requirements to give the Corps a concrete construction additive manufacturing program of record.

“This exercise had never been done before,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Operations and Programs/G-3. “People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it onsite and all at once. This is the first-in-the-world, onsite continuous concrete print.”

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force learn how to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer as it constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The team started with a computer-aided design model on a 10-year old computer, concrete and a 3D printer. Once they hit print, the concrete was pushed through the print head and layered repeatedly to build the walls. In total, the job took 40 hours because Marines had to monitor progress and continually fill the printer with concrete. However, if there was a robot to do the mixing and pumping, the building could easily be created in one day, Friedell said.

“In 2016, the commandant said robots should be doing everything that is dull, dangerous and dirty, and a construction site on the battlefield is all of those things,” Friedell said.

The ability to build structures and bases while putting fewer Marines in danger would be a significant accomplishment, he said.

“In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up,” said Friedell. “Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.”

It normally takes 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks hut out of wood. With this FUE, the Marine Corps proved four Marines with a concrete printer can build a strong structure in less than two days. Ideally, the Corps’ use of concrete printers will span the full range of military operations, from combat environments to humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

The world’s largest concrete 3D printer constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in mid-August in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

As the first military services on site in natural disasters, the Navy and Marine Corps are great at providing food and water, but struggle to provide shelter, Friedell said. In many locations, cement is easier to acquire than wood. During humanitarian or disaster relief missions, Marines could safely and quickly print houses, schools and community buildings to replace those destroyed.

“This capability would enable a great partnership with the local community because it is low cost, easy to use, and robotics could print the buildings,” Friedell said. “We can bring forward better structures, houses and forward operating bases with less manpower and fewer Marines in harm’s way.”

The AM Team plans to conduct further testing and wants to get the capability into the hands of more Marines to inform future requirements for cutting-edge technology and autonomous systems.

“Our future operating environment is going to be very kinetic and dangerous because we don’t necessarily know what we’re going into,” said Friedell. “The more we can pull Marines out of those potentially dangerous situations — whether it’s active combat or natural disaster — and place robotics there instead, it helps us accomplish the mission more efficiently.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic weapons sergeant to receive Medal of Honor

A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.

The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.


In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.

(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.

It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.

In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.

In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.

Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.

As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.

(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.

With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.

As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.

As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.

The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.

Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This amazing body armor is made from spider silk

Ten years from now, you might be on patrol with new super lightweight body armor. If you feel something tingling, cool it – you aren’t Spider-Man, but your vest might be made from spider silk – and you probably just need to drink more water. The latest armor under consideration by the U.S. Army isn’t a new kind of porcelain or chemical composition over kevlar. It’s spider stuff.


Making clothing from spider stuff isn’t necessarily new, but mass-producing it might be. The photo above is of a vest made of silk from the Golden Orb Spider, native to Madagascar. It took the designers eight years and a million spiders to make the vest, but the designers of the new body armor aren’t going for anything so intricate.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Ballistic spider silk panels.

Spider silk is a protein-rich liquid that dries into a solid filament that can vary in composition depending on what the spider is doing with the web, such as weaving a web for food or creating an egg sac. It’s flexible, able to stretch well beyond its original length, stronger than steel, and most importantly, can create a mesh able to stop a bullet. But until recently, no one has been able to create enough of the stuff to actually make and test viable options for stopping bullets.

Researchers from Utah State University were able to program the DNA of silkworms to integrate spider proteins into their own silk. Silkworms even spin the silk into threads on their own. The result is twice as strong and elastic as silkworm silk and can be created on an industrial scale. The result was able to stop a slow-moving .22-caliber round with only four layers. Standard Kevlar armor uses 33 layers.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

A bullet can penetrate 29 layers of kevlar.

In 2018 Kraig Biocraft Laboratories announced it was creating panels like those shown above in large quantities for the United States Army. The fabric, called “Dragon Silk,” was also created without using entire colonies of spiders, who were more likely to eat one another than live in peace and create fabric. Kraig Biocraft created silkworms similar to those created at Utah State, using patented genetic proteins. Beyond standard body armor, the company may be the first to create real, popular protection for the groin area.

“After years of research and investment, developing this ground-breaking technology, we are very excited to now see it in the hands of the U.S. Army,” stated Jon Rice, COO. “For me, personally, and for the Company, the opportunity to help protect the brave men and women whom dedicate themselves to our protection is a great honor.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How this flashlight became the most enduring piece of military tech

New gear designs come and go. One troop’s packing list will look drastically different from the next generation’s. Rucksacks have gone through major overhauls since their inception and it feels like uniforms change faster than you can blink. But one piece of military gear has remained virtually unchanged since WWII: the anglehead flashlight.


8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
Torch, Moonbeam, L-Bend, this f*cking, pain-in-the-ass light; troops have many names for it. (Photo by Sgt. Ferdinand Thomas)

Early flashlights were either huge and bulky or dim and short-lived — both were very impractical for troops fighting in combat. And then the TL-122 was first created.

The design was simple. It gave the flashlight a clip and an ergonomic bend so that it could be attached to a soldier’s body, leaving their hands free for fighting. The easily-interchangeable batteries and bulbs made it that much more desirable.

The design of the TL-122 was available to multiple manufacturers and used by many different countries. Only slight variations were made before the Vietnam War, including the TL-122 D, which gave it a new compartment to affix various filters. The red filter is one of the most useful because red light doesn’t hinder the eyes’ natural night vision and is far less conspicuous to enemies.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
The red filters forced mapmakers to change the way they printed the maps, making them easier to read under red light. (Photo by Spc. Jeffery Harris)

Later, a third option was added to the simple always-on/always-off switch: signal mode. Now, troops who set their flashlight to “signal mode” could push the button to turn it on and off. This feature re-sparked troops’ interest in learning Morse code, since you could now tap out a message and send it across the light using the tiny, little button. The TL-122 would later be rebranded as the MX991 by Fulton Industries and would be used by troops, law enforcement, and civilians.

Today, the flashlight hasn’t changed much. There have been changes in materials used to create the frame and the original bulb was replaced with a longer-lasting LED. Any modern-day soldier could pick up their grandfather’s anglehead flashlight from WWII and it’ll be practically the same thing they use today.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is building robot attack tanks

The Army is engineering high-tech autonomy kits designed to give “robot” tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.

Unmanned systems, utilized in a fast-evolving, high-threat ground combat operation, could enable robot vehicles to carry supplies, test enemy defenses and even fire weapons — all while manned vehicles operate at a safer distance.

“A kit of hardware and software can be installed into different ground platforms to increase the level of autonomy,” Osie David, Chief Engineer for Mission Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warrior Maven in an early 2018 interview.


The technology kits, which can integrate on a small unmanned ground vehicle or a wide range of larger combat vehicles, use emerging computer algorithms, on-board processing, and artificial intelligence to gather and organize sensor information.

Robot vehicles, often referred to by Army weapons developers in the context of “manned-unmanned” teaming, are a fast-growing element of the developmental calculus when it comes to future combat platforms.

Having unmanned assets operating in tandem with manned assets in combat introduces a range of new tactics available to commanders. If robot “scout” vehicles could operate in a forward position to identify enemy threats or test defenses, manned tanks might be able to operate at lighter weights, making them faster and more maneuverable in combat.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

In fact, senior Army weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that virtually all future combat vehicles now in development will likely be engineered with various new levels of autonomy.

Using things like embedded infrared optical payloads, unmanned vehicles can use machine-learning technology to process key combat details, independently organize them and then send information to a human in the role of command and control, David explained.

AI enables computers to instantly draw upon vast data-bases with millions of pieces of information to perform real-time data analytics before sending useful information to combat commanders.

The advantage is that combatant commanders can quickly receive integrated intelligence or sensor information from a range of sources, analyzed and condensed to enable faster decision-making.

“Instead of sending bits of information back up to a command post, the autonomy kits can enable sensors to perform detection and object identification in real time…and then push that information up to a human,” David said.

Also, advanced integrated sensors, fortified by AI and greater levels of autonomy, can connect aerial and ground assets to one another — to ID and hand off-targets, send real-time video of nearby enemy activity or pass other intelligence data to vehicle crews.

It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.

In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

An Iraqi M1A1 Abrams tank

(Photo by Spc. Timothy Koster)

“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.

CERDEC and other Army entities are working on these projects with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to prototype, test and advance these technologies. The current effort is an extension, or next-generation iteration, of a previous TARDEC effort described as “leader-follower” algorithms. This technology, evolved and successfully tested in recent years, enables an unmanned tactical truck or vehicle to precisely follow a manned vehicle in front of it.

The concept with “leader-follower” algorithms is to free up vehicle crew members such that they can focus on other pressing, threat-conscious tasks without needing to expend all their energy navigating the vehicle. These newer kits, however, bring the concept of autonomy to an entirely new level, enabling unmanned systems to maneuver quickly in response to fast-changing ground combat circumstances — without needing human intervention.

The current “autonomy kits” effort is a new Army program, slated to gain traction and begin testing in 2018, Army developers said.

“TARDEC will decide which platforms are used. Some sort of tank is being evaluated, as well as smaller platforms,” David explained.

David explained that the autonomy kits are now being worked on for the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program — a future combat vehicle effort planning to engineer new platforms for the 2030s and beyond.

“We are closely tied with them (NGCV program) and we are looking to see how we can insert this kit onto these future platforms,” he explained.

The kits are also being engineered to help ensure that combat vehicles can continue to function in the event that GPS communications are jammed or destroyed by enemy forces. Gyroscopes and accelerometers, for instance, can help ground forces navigate in the absence of GPS, David explained.

“These technologies are focused on how you actually navigate and detect your position in a GPS denied environment where there is challenging terrain or an enemy is jamming you,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

The United States military is testing a new form of surveillance: high-altitude balloons.

The tests, first discovered by The Guardian’s Mark Harris in an FCC filing, are being conducted in South Dakota through the Sierra Nevada Corporation — a defense contractor employed by the US government.

The balloons can float as high as 65,000 feet, and are able to track vehicles day or night, regardless of the weather.

The goal of the balloons, according to the FCC filing, is: “To provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”


The company named in the filing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on behalf of the United States Department of Defense to test the balloons. The United States Southern Command (Southcom) commissioned the tests; the balloons are scheduled to begin flying in South Dakota and conclude in central Illinois.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted drone aircraft flies a combat mission.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

Though the technology might sound strange, it’s not the first pairing of balloons with tech hardware to enable surveillance: The Israeli government has repeatedly used surveillance balloons with cameras attached in Israel.

The surveillance balloons in this case, however, are equipped with so-called “synthetic-aperture radar” devices from Artemis Networks — a tech company that makes wireless radar devices. Using an SAR device, users can create high-resolution images using radio pulses, which enables a much higher level of detail in surveillance use.

Neither the Department of Defense nor the Sierra Nevada Corporation responded to requests for comment as of publishing.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy awards contract for long-awaited ‘Stingray’

The Navy awarded a contract to The Boeing Co. Aug. 30, 2018, for the MQ-25A Stingray, the first operational carrier-based unmanned refueling aircraft.

This fixed-price-incentive-firm-target contract with a ceiling price of $805.3 million provides for the design, development, fabrication, test, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing for an initial operational capability by 2024.


“MQ-25A is a hallmark acquisition program,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James F. Geurts. “This program is a great example of how the acquisition and requirements communities work hand in hand to rapidly deliver capabilities to our sailors and Marines in the fleet.”

When operational, MQ-25 will improve the performance, efficiency, and safety of the carrier air wing and provide longer range and greater persistence tanking capability to execute missions that otherwise could not be performed.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

MQ-25A Stingray.

(Boeing photo)

“This is a historic day,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. “We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed. Everyone who helped achieve this milestone should be proud we’re here. But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”

The award is the culmination of a competitive source selection process supported by personnel from Naval Air Systems Command and the Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268) at Patuxent River.

MQ-25 is an accelerated acquisition program that expedites decisions that will enable rapid actions with less overhead. The intent is to significantly reduce development timelines from contract award to initial operational capability by five to six years. By reducing the number of key performance parameters to mission tanking and carrier suitability, industry has increased flexibility to rapidly design a system that meets those requirements.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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