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.

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Air Force resurrects Pave Hawk fleet from combat damage

When soldiers, airman and sailors are injured by enemy fire, ambushed or pinned down by dangerous attacks, Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters are tasked with the risky combat mission of flying in behind enemy lines — to save imperiled service members.


“We’ve made a promise to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — and that promise is we will always come get you,” Brig. Gen. Eric Fick, Director of Global Reach Programs, Air Force Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview earlier this year.

However, the Pave Hawk fleet has been taxed by recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan; the fleet has been decimated by loss, damage and the wear and tear of consistent high-risk combat missions. As a result, the Air Force is deeply immersed in a crucial effort to restore the fleet to its needed operational strength, Fick explained.

“Due to the constant operation since 9-11, we have suffered loses of those helicopters in an operational sense. The objective is to bring back the fleet to full strength,” Fick said.

Facing the regular threat of Taliban or insurgent RPG, Pave Hawks are armed with .50-cal machine guns and 7.62mm weapons. They are also built with extra armor to defend against small arms fire and various kinds of enemy attacks.

“We are outfitted to go into a hostile environment to recover people, which is why we need extra armor and guns. The mission incorporates more than just recovering the downed airman, it could also include someone who is injured by and IED. We are outfitted to go recover them bring them back and give them the aid that they need. We can do MEDEVAC but also MEDEVAC behind the forward lines,” Fick explained.

Upgrades to the “life-saving” Pave Hawk helicopters include the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.

“This is most likely on a daily basis saving the lives of soldiers, airmen and sailors. When they get in trouble these are the guys (HH-60G) that come get them. These are the aircraft that let them do it,” he added.

Pave Hawk Upgrades

At the moment, the Air Force operates 97 embattled Pave Hawks; the goal is to restore the fleet to 112 helicopters.

The Air Force Pave Hawk restoration and upgrade is progressing along a two-fold trajectory involving the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawks and existing HH-60Gs into new models called Operational Loss Replacement, or OLR, helicopters.

The Army Black Hawks are given new communications technology, navigational systems, radar warning receivers and hoist refueling probes allowing the aircraft to refuel mid-mission. In addition, they are engineered with an infrared jammer and flare countermeasure dispensing system. The converted helicopters are also given longer range fuel tanks and increased armor for combat rescue missions, Lt. Col. Charles Mcmullen, HH-60 program element monitor, told Scout Warrior.

In total, 21 Army Black Hawks will be converted into upgraded models. Three of them will be configured as test models and 18 will go to three different guard units and then to active duty forces, Fick said. The first UH-60 helicopter has already been converted into a Pave Hawk, he added.

The creation of OLR models from HH-60G helicopters includes the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.

“A new color multi-function display on the dashboard can switch between an active moving map and infrared imaging system which can be used in low light to land the helicopter and pick up injured service members,” Fick added.

The new “picture in picture” color display allows pilots to merge separate laptop and control panel screens into a single screen designed to better expedite navigation and decision making while lowering the pilot’s workload.

All existing Pave Hawks will be transformed into OLR models within the next several years. The restoration of the Air Force Pave Hawk fleet is designed to preserve operational rescue helicopters until the services’ emerging new Combat Rescue Helicopter arrives in the mid 2020s.

“The mods will start next year. The challenge is we want to get the OLR birds out first. We are working the phasing and the timing of those mods to make sure we do not reduce readiness,” Fick added.

The Sikorsky-built helicopter operates two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines, weighs 22,000 pounds and reaches speeds up to 184 miles per hour. It has an operating range of 504-miles.

Pave Hawk History

Pave Hawks combat missions began in Operation Just Cause. During Operation Desert Storm they provided combat search and rescue coverage for coalition forces in western Iraq, coastal Kuwait, the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, Air Force statements said.

They also provided emergency evacuation coverage for U.S. Navy SEAL teams penetrating the Kuwaiti coast before the invasion.

During Operation Allied Force, Pave Hawks provided continuous combat search and rescue coverage for NATO air forces, and successfully recovered two Air Force pilots who were isolated behind enemy lines.

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Russia’s new robot tank performed horribly in Syria

Russia’s new Uran-9 robot tank apparently had a terrible debut in Syria.

The unmanned tank couldn’t operate as far away from its controllers as expected, had problems firing its 30mm gun, and couldn’t fire while moving, amid other problems, according to Popular Mechanics, citing the Defence Blog.

Unveiled in September 2016 and deployed to Syria in May 2018, the Uran-9 is an unmanned tank that was supposed to be capable of operating up to 1.8 miles away from its controller.


But in Syria, it could only be operated from about 984 to 1,640 feet from its operators around high-rise buildings, the Defence Blog reported, citing reports from the 10th all-Russian scientific conference “Actual problems of protection and security” in St. Petersburg.

The robot tank’s controller also randomly lost control of it 17 times for up to one minute and two times for up to an hour and a half, Defence Blog reported.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Uran-9 combat unmanned ground vehicle

The Uran-9 is heavily armed with four 9M120-1 Ataka anti-tank guided missile launchers, six 93 millimeter-caliber rocket-propelled Shmel-M reactive flamethrowers, one 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon, and one 7.62-millimeter coaxial machine gun.

But its 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon delayed six times and even failed once, Defence Blog reported, and it could only acquire targets up to about 1.24 miles away, as opposed to the expected four miles.

Apparently the tank’s optical station was seeing “multiple interferences on the ground and in the airspace in the surveillance sector,” Defence Blog reported.

The unmanned tank even had issues with its chassis and suspension system, and required repairs in the field, Defence Blog reported.

“The Uran-9 seems to have proven to be more about novelty than capability, but that doesn’t mean these tests are without value,” SOFREP reported. “In time (and with funding) a successor to the Uran-9 may one day be a battlefield force to be reckoned with.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

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Army’s new goggles allow soldiers to see through walls

The brand new Integrated Augmented Vision System goggles are a game changer for infantry. The Army looks to purchase upwards of 40,000 for its soldiers at the end of 2021. 

Made by Microsoft, the new goggles have been going through rigorous testing by soldiers over the past year. This is the Army’s way of providing a true heads-up display or HUD, something which wasn’t accomplished in previous technological goggle attempts. Currently, soldiers must stop what they are doing to consult with a handheld device or paper to get information. No longer, these new goggles will project the vital information in real time as they wear them. 

It’s a technology Army leadership committed to as a part of their 2018 defense strategy.

Not only will IAVS provide vital HUD, but infantrymen will be able to see through the walls of their combat vehicles. It will also come with night vision, heat sensories, threat detection and aids for target acquisition. 

In April of 2020, its developers also adjusted the design to take the wearer’s temperature and vital signs, something especially important as the world continues to battle COVID-19. By October of 2020, Army Special Forces, Rangers, and soldiers with 25th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division and 82nd Airborne Division and members of the Marine Corps had tested the device.

“This changes how we operate honestly,” said Sergeant Philip Bartel in an interview with the Army. “Now guys aren’t hanging out of vehicles in dangerous situations trying to get views on what’s going on. Leadership will be able to maneuver their elements and get view-on-target without having to leave the safety of their armored vehicles. Maneuvering elements with that kind of information will minimize casualties and will overall drastically change how we operate and increase our effectiveness on the battlefield.”

new goggles
A soldier wearing AN/PVS-5 night vision goggles. These are cool, but the new goggles are game changers.

Forbes likened the new technology to video game Call of Duty, which has constant access to vital information as players navigate imagined combat situations. For soldiers on the ground living through the real call of duty, this advanced technology isn’t just a technological advancement. It’s life or death. 

Major Kevin Smith has been heading up the research, development and integration of the technology. In an interview with the Army he stated “It’s futuristic technology that we’ve all talked about and seen in movies and video games, but it’s something that we never imagined we would have the chance to fight with. It’s definitely technology that we are really excited to use as soon as they can get it to us.”

Although IAVS is still in the prototype phase, the results are impressive. It’s reported that as many as 40,000 goggles will be ordered for soldiers once the technology is fully approved. Operational tests are scheduled to begin in July 2021 and if all goes as planned, the Army will be making a big purchase. Writing the check for these life-saving goggles will be well worth the cost.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The military spends millions to not upgrade computers

The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.


Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?

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The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.

The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.

But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)

When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.

(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)

If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.

(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)

And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.

So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.

And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.

While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.

So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.

But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.

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The world’s ‘best tank’ is stuck on mothballs

The Armata family of vehicles, with the flagship T-14 main battle tank, were supposed to be the future of armored warfare, tipping the balance of conventional forces in Europe back towards Russia and ensuring the country’s security and foreign might. But now, Russia has announced that it will be buying only 100 of them, far from the 2,300 once threatened and a sure sign that crippling economic problems are continuing to strangle Putin’s military.


8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank was supposed to put Russian armor back on top, but the design and tech are still questionable and Russia is only buying 100 of them, meaning very few of them will be available for operations at any one time.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

All of this will likely be welcome news for U.S. armored forces who would have faced the T-14s in combat if Russia used them against American allies and NATO forces.

The signs of trouble for the Armata tank were hidden in the project’s debut. It’s always suspicious when a tank or other weapon project seems too good to be true. Snake oil salesmen can profit in the defense industry, too. And there were few projects promising more revolutionary breakthroughs for less money than the T-14.

It is supposed to weigh just 70 percent of the Abrams (48 tons compared to the Abrams’ 68) but still be able to shake off rounds from enemy tanks thanks to advanced armor designs. Its developers bragged of an extremely capable autoloader, a remote turret, and an active protection system that could defeat any incoming missile.

When something sounds too good to be true, maybe check the fine print.

Still, it wouldn’t have been impossible to come up with a breakthrough design to shake up the armored world. After all, while the Abrams was expensive to develop, it featured some revolutionary technology. Its armor was lighter and more capable thanks to ceramic technology developed in Britain, and its engines, while fuel-hungry, delivered massive amounts of power. These factors combined to create a fast, agile beast capable of surviving nearly any round that enemy tanks could shoot at it.

But the T-14 doubters gained fuel when one of the tanks broke down during preparations for a Victory Day parade.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

The Russian T-90 tank is good, but few people believe that Russia went through all the trouble of developing a new tank but doesn’t want to buy it.

(Photo by Hargi23)

Still, the advanced systems on the T-14 might work. Drive trouble in a single prototype doesn’t mean the entire program is a failure.

Whether the tank works or not, Russia has discovered that it overreached. Officially, Russia is buying only 100 of the new tank because the T-90 it has is already so capable, but experts doubt it. Russia gave a similar rationale for severely scaling back orders of the Su-57 fifth-generation aircraft. It has ordered only 12.

That project, like the T-14, had been plagued by doubts and setbacks. India was originally a co-developer of the jet but backed out of the project after 11 years of sunk costs over concerns about the plane’s stealth characteristics and engine performance as well as economic concerns about how large a role Indian manufacturers would have in production. India is still vetting bids for its next jet purchase.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Russia’s Su-57 has design flaws and under-strength engines, causing many to wonder if it would really rival American fifth-generation fighters if it even went into serial production.

(Photo by Anna Zvereva)

None of this money problem is a surprise. Russia is subject to a slew of international sanctions resulting from actions like the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and meddling in European and U.S. elections. While sanctions generally act as a minor drag on healthy economies, they have a compounding effect on weak economies.

And make no mistake: Russia’s economy is weak. It is heavily tied to oil prices which, just a few years ago, would’ve been great news. From 2010 to 2014, oil often peaked above 0 per barrel for days or weeks at a time and was usually safely above a barrel. Now, it typically trades between and a barrel and has slumped as low as .

Russia has attempted to maintain military spending through the tough times but, in 2017, something finally gave and spending dropped 17 percent.

Keep in mind that, typically, military strength trends with economic strength; more money, more might. But Russia has struggled to maintain its world-power status after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its annual GDP is actually smaller than that of Texas, California, or New York. That’s right. If Russia was a state, it would have the fourth largest economy in the country.

Still, Russia can’t be written off. It’s either the second or third most powerful military in the world, depending on who you ask. And the other slot is held by China, another rival of American power. With thousands of tanks and fighters in each country’s arsenal, as well as millions of service members, both countries will remain major threats for decades or longer.

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Why this million RPM machine gun is too awesome to be fielded

It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.

In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.

Why?


8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

These could revolutionize drone warfare.

(Metal Storm Limited)

In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”

Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.

Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.

Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.

These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.

There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.

Articles

This is the most powerful sidearm ever issued by the US military

In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.


Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

After he was discharged from the Texas Rangers, Walker self-funded a trip to New York to meet Colt. The duo based their design on the five-round Colt Paterson revolver. Walker and Colt would add a sixth round to the chamber, along with a stationary trigger and guard. With that, they created the most powerful black powder handgun ever made.

With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.

When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
(Warner Bros.)

There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.

Walker was killed leading troops through Huamantla, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. Colt, who was bankrupt when he met Walker, rebuilt his business and reputation beginning with the Colt Walker 1847.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.

Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.

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The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army Just Wrapped Up Its First Robot Vehicle Experiment. Here’s What It Learned

U.S. Army modernization officials are about to finish the service’s first experiment to see whether the Robotic Combat Vehicle effort can make units more deadly on the future battlefield.

For the past five weeks, a platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division has been conducting cavalry-style combat missions using two-person crews in specially modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles fashioned from M113 armored personnel vehicles in the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.


The platoon has operated in the rugged terrain of Fort Carson, Colorado, testing different technologies to control the robotic vehicles, sending them out hundreds of meters ahead to scout for enemy positions.

“This experiment was 100% successful … because we learned; the whole purpose was to learn where the technology is now and how we think we want to fight with it in the future,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told defense reporters Thursday during a virtual roundtable discussion.

“All of the technology was not successful; it’s a sliding scale. Some knocked our socks off, and some — we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

The experiment, scheduled to end Aug. 14, is one of three designed to evaluate the performance and potential of robotic combat vehicles on the battlefield, Coffman said.

Some of the technology tested in the experiment worked better than anticipated, he added.

“The interface with the crew … so the soldiers see where they are, they see where the robots are, they can communicate graphics … it just absolutely blew us away,” he said. “The software between the robotic vehicle and the control vehicle — while not perfect — performed better than we thought it would.”

There were challenges with the target recognition technology that links the robotic vehicle with the control vehicle.

“It works while stationary, but part of the challenge is how do you do that on the move and how that is passed to the gunner,” Coffman said. “We’ve got some work to do with that.

“We have some work to do with the stability systems with the weapon systems as you are going across terrain,” he continued.

Another challenge will be to get the control vehicle and the robot vehicle to communicate adequately beyond 1,000 meters.

“The distance between the robot and the controller is a physics problem and, when you talk flat earth, you can go over a kilometer from the controller to the robot,” Coffman said, adding that potential adversaries are wrestling with the same challenge.

Several defense firms participating in the experiment have “created radio waveforms to get us the megabytes per second to extend that range” in dense forest terrain, he said.

“That’s the hardest part, is you get into a dense forest, it’s really hard to extend the range,” he said. “We tested them; we went after them with [electronic warfare] … so we have a really good idea of what is the realm of the possible.”

The Army announced in January that it had selected QinetiQ North America to build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light, and Textron to build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Both companies were present at the experiment, but their prototypes are still being finalized and did not participate.

After the experiment, an independent evaluation will be conducted on the technical and tactical performance of the robots to decide whether manned-unmanned teaming in combat vehicles can make combat units more effective, Coffman said.

In the first part of fiscal 2022, the Army is scheduled to conduct a second experiment at Fort Hood, Texas, using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles to focus on company-size operations. The service also plans to conduct a third experiment in the future that will focus on more complex company-size operations.

After each of these experiments, the Army will decide “is the technology where we thought it would be, should we continue to spend money on this effort or should we cease effort?” Coffman said.

The service is also scheduled to make a decision in fiscal 2023 on when manned-unmanned teaming with RCVs will become a program of record, he said, adding that no decision has been made on when the Army will equip its first unit with the technology.

Coffman admits that the technology is “not 100% there yet,” but he remains confident that combat leaders will one day have the option to send unmanned combat vehicles into danger before committing soldiers to the fight.

“This is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on Earth,” he explained.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This is the most awesome Delta Force recruiting video we’ve ever seen

It’s an oldie but a goodie — and it’s likely the only publicly-available video showing real-deal Delta Force operators.


Leaked during the height of the Iraq war in 2008, this video crept its way onto YouTube and caused quite a splash when it hit the net. The original footage has since been taken down, but it was added to this compilation video of all Special Forces. Rumors around the original video claimed it was put together by the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta to help recruit new members to “The Unit.”

As that Tier 1 Joint Special Operations group was tasked with fighting the top leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, veterans of the unit from the ’90s and 2000s were burning out — and suffering casualties. In fact, “No Easy Day” author and former SEAL Team 6 commando Matt Bissonnette wrote that some DEVGRU SEALS were tasked to run with Delta in Iraq because the squadrons were under manned.

So it stands to reason that Delta needed new blood. And with an assessment that matriculates only a handful who try, combined with a brutal operational tempo at the time that saw squadrons executing sometimes three raids per night for a 90 day deployment, The Unit had to get soldiers in the door.

Tactical driving? Check. Vehicle takedowns from a Little Bird? Check. Lots of breaching and A-10 CAS? Check.

There’s a lot more to the video to note (including the Delta boys tooling around Baghdad in a specially-modified Stryker vehicle Pandur 1 Armored Ground Mobility Vehicle), but this’ll just give you a taste of what’s in store.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Strykers to be the Army’s short-range air defense solution

When the Stryker family of combat vehicles was developed and produced in the 1990s and 2000s, it was very diverse. There were many variants of the original M1128 made to fulfill a swath of roles, including command and control, medical evacuation, anti-tank, reconnaissance, and more. However, due to warfighting requirements of the time, one variant was never developed: an anti-air Stryker.


The Stryker performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan. So much so that the Army chose to equip the 2nd Cavalry Regiment with this vehicle. The problem, of course, is that looming, near-peer threats — primarily Russia — are not al-Qaeda or the Taliban. So, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment has been getting better Stryker-based vehicles to address a potentially more sophisticated threat. One such variant is the rapidly-fielded M1296 Stryker Dragoon, which gives the infantry fighting vehicle a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. Now, yet another new vehicle will join the force.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
A soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, looks into the distance at a drone, the target of crews for their annual two-week training, while a stinger missile is fired from the Avenger weapon system, at Onslow Beach March 15, 2013. (US Army photo)

According to a report by Defense News, the Stryker will be the basis for an interim short-range air-defense (SHORAD) solution for the Army. We took a look at one version of this vehicle last year, developed by Boeing and General Dynamics. This version was armed with AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun.

Currently, the Army’s short-range air-defense needs are filled by M1097 Avengers, which are high-mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles equipped with a turret that holds eight FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and an M3 .50-caliber machine gun. The Army had also deployed the M6 Bradley Linebacker, a version of the Bradley that replaced the standard launcher that holds two BGM-71 TOW missiles with one that holds four FIM-92 Stingers. The Linebackers, however, were converted to regular infantry fighting vehicles in 2006, according to Army-Technology.com.

8 technologies the Pentagon is pursuing to make super soldiers
The M6 Bradley Linebacker was in service briefly, but the vehicles were converted to M2 infantry fighting vehicles. (US Army photo)

The first of the Stryker-based air-defense vehicles are slated to enter service in 2020, but they may not be alone. The Army is also rushing to field more Avengers in Europe, refurbishing several dozens that were previously awaiting disposal in Pennsylvania.

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