US Army Tests New Drone Swarm

The latest drone test exercise run by the US Army was different to most, in that instead of showcasing a brand new multi-million-dollar aircraft, it instead used a swarm of standard off-the-shelf consumer drones.

The objects of these exercises were twofold. Firstly, deploying the drones as a swarm to simulate a threat and later testing the possibility of utilizing the same cheap swarms in military operations. This would allow the US Army to adapt to the potential threats of consumer drones when used against their forces and develop countermeasures against these tactics.

The exercises included a combat simulation with a swarm of drones supporting the opposing forces, who used them to spot enemy defensive positions, allowing their forces to gain a tactical advantage against them. Another test was flooding the airspace with drones, disrupting radar with dozens of small airborne objects.

Individually, a single consumer drone is no match for any one of the combat drones used by the US Army in it’s current operations, being far more vulnerable to both gunfire and jamming. However, with costs of up to 100-times less than this specialist hardware, it becomes far more feasible to deploy large numbers, as well as allowing them to be more disposable. Shooting down one small drone is easy. Shooting down one hundred is far less achievable. And with the potential for these consumer drones to be customized relatively cheaply with longer range equipment, night-vision and similar sensors and even weaponry, consumer drones seem to be gaining a place in modern warfare.

Can you imagine the toys you see on shelves everywhere now, being deployed in war, and will this change the face of the low-cost drone market? Only time will tell.

US Army Developing Robotic Exoskeletons?

Whenever I hear a new piece of tech which is being developed with the aim of blurring the lines of real life and science fiction, I am curious, but it’s then sometimes followed by a groan when you realize it’s for the purposes of war, destruction and general super power posturing. A new Robotic Exoskeleton is being developed by yes the US army to assist in the training of soldiers and their shooting accuracy.

A gentleman by the name of Dan Baechle who is a mechanical engineer is testing MAXFAS, a mechatronic arm exoskeleton at the Army Research Laboratory in the United States. As you can see by the image below, this device contains a motor for the MAXFAS cable which is driven behind the wearer. This in turn pulls the cables that are attached to arm braces; the effect of this would be similar to a puppeteer who pulls strings to make certain objects move. The braces are constructed from carbon fibre; this is useful because it adds very little weight to the arm. Always amuses me when you’re handling a potentially lethal object but always remember to wear goggles.

By having sensors placed onto the braces it feels and corrects any shaking in the arm by sending signals to the motors. By doing this, the arm would be able to focus without the slightest of human tremors and therefore improves shooting accuracy at a faster rate, which is fantastic for the shooter, perhaps not so much for the target.

This design has the potential to be implemented outside of military circles, for example, if an individual has Parkinson’s disease and has a constant tremor, this might be able to help manage this. I also feel that perhaps the US government should lend its researchers and dev team to produce cutting edge tech with the aim of assisting the general public, after all, finances should be allocated for not only war but peace.

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The US Army Introduces a New Camouflage Design

After the US Army announced that it had selected a new camouflage uniform, finally selecting the replacement for its pixelated camouflage outfits, known as the Universal Camouflage Pattern. The reason was simple that those outfits did not work and now the replacement uniforms which are a version of older uniforms are coming.

In 2004, the Army adopted the new patterns in the hopes of improving invisibility, but that failed pretty bad, the new pattern may have made troops more visible. So 6 years later in 2010, the Army launched a competition to find the next generation of camouflage, but no one won the competition as reported by Gizmodo and the Army went for the self-designed pattern; under the contract from a company that had designed the stopgap camouflage after it was discovered the UCP designs did not work. The Army had that self-designed pattern since 2002, meaning, essentially, everything that happened afterwards never needed to.

“The biggest one is the claim (oft-repeated) that it was a $5 billion waste. That’s not true because people conflate the purchase of uniforms and equipment with the camouflage effort. They are different. For instance, the vast majority of that amount refers to the purchase of uniforms which were used, worn out and discarded during the time period which is referred to. So that was not “wasted” money. People got their use out of that gear. There WAS money spent on development of camouflage, and that, of course, is a sunk cost. But that is a matter of several million dollars, not $100 million, and certainly not $5 billion.

This is not a defense of UCP, which, although it performs pretty well under night conditions, will not be missed by the most Soldiers, said an unnamed army official.”

The new uniforms will be named “Operational Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniform (ACU)” are ready and comes with two T-shirt variants, TAN 499 and Sand and they will be sold in military clothing stores across the United States on July 1st and the possession will go mandatory October 1st, 2019.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wiki.

Army Exoskeleton Makes Gunshots More Accurate

The US Army has developed a revolutionary new exoskeleton that improves a soldier’s aim with a gun. The Mobile Arm Exoskeleton for Firearm Aim Stabilization (MAXFAS) automatically steadies a soldier’s gun arm, cancelling out trembling without locking the limb, leaving it free to point at other targets at will.

“Army soldiers have to be able to hit a target at over 300 yards away,” Daniel Baechle, co-creator of MAXFAS and mechanical engineer for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland, said. “That’s more than three football fields put end-to-end. Prior to basic training, many soldiers have never tried to hit a target that far away.”

“Using the Army standard M16 rifle, moving the muzzle by just one-sixteenth of an inch will result in the shot being off target by more than 17 inches at 300 yards away,” Baechele explains. “So even small tremors can result in huge aiming errors.”

Early studies on soldiers using MAXFAS show a shooting accuracy improvement of up to 27%, and Baechele hopes to improve the technology even further.

“The far-future concept I envision is that MAXFAS could become an untethered device, perhaps with motors, power supply, and control computer all in a backpack,” he predicts. “MAXFAS could then be worn on the battlefield to improve soldier aim. Alternatively, the tremor-damping algorithms could be incorporated into an existing or future exoskeleton.”

Couple MAXFAS with the recently-developed smart bullets and the US could be building the next generation of super soldiers.

Thank you Popular Science for providing us with this information.

‘Super Hornet’ Figher Jet to Carry Autonomous Anti-Ship Missile

The US Navy is planning to put Lockheed Martin’s autonomous LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) on the F/A-18 Super Hornet. This addition will make the jet capable to fire the missile that tracks and wipe out targets mostly or entirely on its own. LRASM does use an autonomous guidance technology designed to allow the weapon to avoid obstacles in the air while in flight as far as the unclassified range, 200 nautical miles (370.4 Kilometers) which suggests that the LRASM is more than capable to cover longer distances than that.

“We wanted to make sure it can exit the canister when the booster lights up and the missile stays intact. We’re furthering the maturity of our surface launched integration and planning on doing a few flight tests in the near future,” Hady Mourad, Program Director with Lockheed Martin Missiles, told Military​.com in an interview.

The research department arm of Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA and Navy is developing the missile and plans to put it in F/A -18 Super Hornets by 2019. Just a little information about range, guiding system and technology is publicly available, the rest of the program remains secret. Officials reportedly confirmed that Air Force B-1B bomber will carry LSRASM by 2018.

Thank you Defence Tech for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

US Army Invents Virtually Immortal Pizza

I’m sure many of you have eaten a pizza that wasn’t exactly fresh, personally I think my upper limit was around the 46 hour mark and even that it was a decision based on being tired, hungry, drunk and an abundance of left over pizza being available. So can you imagine eating a three year old pizza? Well thanks to a few tweaks to the basic recipe, the US Army have created a pizza that doesn’t spoil anywhere near as quick as fresh pizza.

US service men and women have to survive on what is known as ready To Eat (RTE) meals when in the field, especially in areas without field kitchens and other supplies, but it is very difficult to create food that can be stored in small enough packets that doesn’t spoil, as some of these supplies may have to undergo extreme temperature changes or remain stored for years at a time prior to eating.

Jill Bates, who runs the lab, said “It pretty much tastes just like a typical pan pizza that you would make at home and take out of the oven or the toaster oven,” she said. “The only thing missing from that experience would be it’s not hot when you eat it. It’s room temperature.”

Pizza has been a long request for many who have to survive on RTE and now it looks like the US Army’s Natick Soldier Research , Development and Engineering Center has solved the problem. It’s taken two years to find an ingredient that can trap moisture, keeping the dough fresh without spoiling the food. It should keep for at least three years and even survive in 80 degree head until consumed.

Thank you Huffington for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Huffington.

US Army Working on Autonomous Convoy Project, Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

We expect Google to be the main topic of discussion when it comes to autonomous vehicles, not to mention after the acquisition of Boston Dymamics and DeepMind. But this time we skip Google and go to the US military, where they are developing an autonomous convoy. If proved successful, the project will help trucks get supplies through hostile territory without having to put any soldiers at risk.

Lockheed Martin and the US Army have announced the completion of an autonomous demonstration that has shown the ability for an autonomous convoy to operate in an urban environment. The demonstration used multiple vehicles of different models. The demonstration happened at Fort Hood, Texas this month as a part of the Army and Marine Corps Autonomous Mobility Applique System program.

The demo marked the completion of the Capabilities Advancement Demonstration and involved driverless tactical vehicles navigating hazards. The vehicles in the demo navigated obstacles like road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled vehicles, and passing vehicles. The demo also faced the autonomous vehicles with pedestrian and traffic circles in urban and rural test areas. The demo proves that the software and hardware needed performed as designed.

Thank you Slash Gear for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Slash Gear

Plans For A New Spy Plane In The Works, Codenamed SR-72

Throughout most part of the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force turned to the SR-71 Blackbird for many of its most important spy missions. The jet-black jet could fly at more than three times the speed of sound and at altitudes of 85,000 feet, faster and higher than anything adversaries had to counter it.

The last flights of the Blackbirds were in 1999 and the U.S. military hasn’t had anything close to them since. It appears that now, Lockheed-Martin, the maker of the SR-71, says the “Son of the Blackbird,” the SR-72, is in the works and it will be twice as fast as and way more lethal than its father. That’s because the SR-72 will be designed to launch missiles, something the SR-71 didn’t do.

“Even with the SR-71, at Mach 3, there was still time to notify that the plane was coming, but at Mach 6, there is no reaction time to hide a mobile target,” Brad Leland, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for hypersonic, told Aviation Week and Space Technology. For those interested in knowing more about this futuristic spy plane can have a look at the publication here which provides a detailed look at the SR-72 plans.

Thank you CNN for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of CNN