Infantry: Fear The Noise

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August 4, 2016: In wartime battlefield necessity and new technology often result in useful innovations that keep going. Case in point is the impact of loud battlefield noises for troops. This causes short term and long term problems. The American military has been seeking solutions for a long time and since 2001 has achieved considerable success in obtaining what came to be known as “sound dampening devices”.

For example since 2013 the U.S. Army has bought 20,000 TCAPS (Tactical Communication and Protective Systems) ear bubs for combat troops. This is the latest generation of this equipment, the first ones appearing in 2006. TCAPS cost $2,000 per pair, not much more than those that appeared back in 2006. But TCAPS is smaller, more comfortable to wear, more reliable, draws less power and has more capabilities.

The concept of noise cancellation systems has been around since the 1930s but did not become affordable or practical (at least for civilians) until the 1980s. That was when you could get headphones for over a thousand dollars each. The price came down and capability increased and by the end of the 1990s you could sue ear buds.

Military applications have always existed, mainly because modern battlefields have become noisier. All the gunfire, equipment sounds and explosions makes it difficult for the troops to communicate. Sure, there are hand signals, but it means you have to look at the guy, and use one of your hands. Radios for each soldier have become common in the after 2001, but there was still the noise problem.

Noting the growing capabilities of noise cancellation systems, several former American special operations guys got together in 2002 and founded a company (Silynx) to produce a solution especially designed to deal with the needs of the combat trooper. By 2005 there appeared QuietOps, an in-the-ear (like iPod ear buds) noise cancellation system that plugs into military communications systems. The noise-cancellation hardware and software are state-of-the art, and the user can quickly switch modes via a wireless controller that attaches to the rail that comes on most assault rifles there days. That way, the user never has to take their hand away from their weapon. The system can be set to just suppress sudden loud noises, or all loud noise, while letting quieter sounds through. QuietOps is pitched mainly to special operations troops, but individual troops willing to spend over five hundred bucks for some battlefield ear protection. The appearance of QuietOps led other companies already in the sound dampening devices business to develop products for the military market. By 2013 that led to TCAPS.

 


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