The Future is Here: Google Glass for the Battlefield

q-warrior see through displayWearing a Google Glass headset in public may get you called a “hipster”, “poser”, and (my personal favorite) “glasshole”. But not surprisingly, armies around the world are looking to turn portable displays into a reality. Combined with powered armor, and computer-assisted aiming, display glasses are part of just about every advanced nation’s Future Soldier program.

Q-Warrior is one such example, the latest version of helmet-mounted display technology from BAE Systems’ Q-Sight line. The 3D heads-up display provides full-color, high resolution images and overlays data and a video stream over the soldier’s view of the real world. In short, it is designed to provide soldiers in the field with rapid, real-time “situational awareness”.

q-warrior1The Q-Warrior also includes enhanced night vision, waypoints and routing information, the ability to identify hostile and non-hostile forces, track personnel and assets, and coordinate small unit actions. As Paul Wright, the soldier systems business development lead at BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems, said in a recent statement:

Q-Warrior increases the user’s situational awareness by providing the potential to display ‘eyes-out’ information to the user, including textual information, warnings and threats. The biggest demand, in the short term at least, will be in roles where the early adoption of situational awareness technology offers a defined advantage.

The display is being considered for use as part of the Army Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) system, a powered exoskeleton with liquid armor capable of stopping bullets and the ability to apply wound-sealing foam that is currently under development.

q-warrior2As Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) science adviser, said in a statement:

[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in.

The device is likely to be used by non-traditional military units with reconnaissance roles, such as Forward Air Controllers/Joint Tactical Aircraft Controllers (JTACS) or with Special Forces during counter terrorist tasks. The next level of adoption could be light role troops such as airborne forces or marines, where technical systems and aggression help to overcome their lighter equipment.

iron_man_HUDMore and more, the life in the military is beginning to imitate art – in this case, Iron Man or Starship Troopers (the novel, not the movie). In addition to powered exoskeletons and heads-up-displays, concepts that are currently in development include battlefield robots, autonomous aircraft and ships, and even direct-energy weapons.

And of course, BAE Systems was sure to make a promotional video, showcasing the concept and technology behind it. And be sure to go by the company’s website for additional footage, photos and descriptions of the Q-Warrior system. Check it out below:


Sources: wired.com, baesystems.com

The Future is Here: The Hybrid Tank!

hybrid_IFVIt’s a strange thing when military planners and environmentalists find themselves seeing to eye to eye. And yet, the latest crop of proposals being considered by the Pentagon to replace their aging vehicles includes a design for a hybrid tank. Designed to replace the venerable M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the GFV (Ground Fighting Vehicle) is a gas-electric hybrid that will save the army on gas and reduce their impact on the environment.

In truth, the GFV is but one of several clean energy alternatives that is being considered by the Pentagon. As far as they are concerned, the next-generation of military hardware will need to take advantage of advances made in solar, electric, hybrid and other technologies. But of course, this is not motivated out of a desire to save the environment, but to save on fuel costs.

hybrid_IFVsideWith peak oil supplies diminishing worldwide and the only remaining sources confined to geopolitcally unstable regions, the current high-cost of gasoline is only likely to get worse in the near future. What’s more, the Pentagon and every other army in the developed world understands the dangers of Climate Change, with most scenarios taking into account dwindling fuel supplies and wars being fought for what little will be left. Little wonder then why they would consider cutting their consumption!

As for the GFV, the design calls for a large, highly modifiable ground combat vehicle that grew out of years of military and defense contractor studies. Designed by BAE Systems, the engine is the result of collaboration with a number of firms who helped adapt the design of a civilian hybrid gas-electric engine. Compared to competing designs, it presents a number of advantages.

hybrid_IFVfrontIf BAE’s proposal is adopted by the military, the Defense Department is expected to save approximately 20% on its fuel costs, compared to an alternate GCV vehicle design that uses traditional propulsion. Additional advantages include the ability to switch to pure electric mode for short periods of time, the elimination of significant heat traces from the battlefield, and the ability to operate more quietly at night.

In a recent interview, BAE Systems’ Mark Signorelli further indicated the advantages of the design:

There are also 40% fewer moving parts with higher reliability, requiring less maintenance and decreasing vehicle lifetime cost. Vehicle acceleration, handling and dash speed are improved even over fuel hungry turbine systems. Finally, the system’s ability to provide large amounts of electrical power accommodates the integration of future communications and weapons technology for the next 30 to 40 years.

What’s more, the GFV is capable of undergoing extensive modification, which is a strength in and of itself. With just a few added accessories, the vehicle can work as a tank, hence why it is named a Ground Fighting Vehicle (GFV) and not an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), which is specifically designed to transport and defend infantry.

hybrid_IFVfleetThe vehicle can also be augmented with electric armor, jammers, and experimental energy weapons thanks to the in-vehicle electric power source. Most of these weapons are currently being developed by the military and are expected to be making the rounds in the not-too-distant future. As such, BAE also stressed that their vehicles could be operational for decades to come without becoming obsolete.

So telling when the decision will be made, thanks to the vagaries of politics and the military-industrial complex. However, the scuttlebutt indicates that the odds of the BAE design being adopted are good, and the company spokespeople indicated that the first GFV’s could be rolling off the line by 2020 and fielded by 2022. I guess Prius owners will have new reasons to brag!

Source: fastcoexist.com

The Future is Here: Invisible Tanks!

Swedish-made CV90 with ADAPTIV panels

So far, we’ve heard of stealth fighters, stealth ships, and stealth suits. But what about stealth tanks? Why shouldn’t the mobile armored fighting vehicle be included in this race to make all weapons stealthy? Well its seems BAE (British Aerospace Marconi Electronic) Systems has decided to do just that. Working with the concept of Infra-Red imaging and its use on the modern battlefield, BAE has created the ADAPTIV camoflage system.

Basically, modern military vehicles use IR imaging for a number of purposes, namely target acquisition, night vision, homing and tracking. Ever since the late 80s and early 90s, any vehicle that did not have these capabilities found themselves at a marked disadvantage on the battlefield. After all, if you can see your enemy but they can’t see you, then you can destroy them with impunity!

A prime example of this happened during the Gulf War, where Iraqi armored formations were eviscerated simply they did not have the ability to see in the dark. While they moved about blind, US Abrams tanks simply targeted the enemy using their night vision and began picking them off one by one.

However, with every advanced army in the world employing IR technology, the pendulum has once again swung to defense. With all armies able to see an enemy vehicle’s thermal signature, any vehicle that has a way to hide it will now have the edge. That is the principle of ADAPTIV, which combines the idea of Infra-red concealment with the larger concept of adaptive camouflage.

Essentially, this consists of sheets of hexagonal panels that act as pixels when attached to the exterior of the vehicle. These pixels can individually change temperature very rapidly and combine to display an infrared image of the background scenery captured from cameras on board the vehicle, allowing even a moving tank to match its surroundings. BAE has also put together a library of images to display the heat signature of other vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and natural objects, such as large rocks.

Pretty cool huh? Already the technology has been proposed as being adaptable to more than just land vehicles. It can also be added to helicopters, surface ships, for commercial use, and can even send friendly identification signals. Check out the BAE promotional video below for a demonstration.