June 6, 2005
The U.S. Army announced, this month, what it considers its most important recent weapons and equipment developments. Below are the top ten items, in no particular order.
1. Armor Survivability Kit for the HMMWV. While the troops immediately began improvising protection for their hummers in 2003, the Army Research Laboratory quickly came up with a standardized (and tested) add-on kit, which contained ballistic glass for the windshield, as well as armor panels for the truck body. This kit probably saved more lives than any other recent development.
2. Chitosan Hemostatic Dressing. Using a freeze dried substance that caused clotting of blood, these dressings greatly reduced bleeding (which is the most common cause of death among wounded American troops.) This device was a major breakthrough in bandage technology.
3. Electronic Information Carrier (EIC). Makes it much easier to keep track of what treatment troops have had between the battlefield and a hospital. EIC is a wireless data storage and transfer device for medics and hospital personnel to get medical data to, and from, the data chips on soldiers dog tags. The IEC has a range of less than a foot, and a USB plug as a manual back up. The EIC can hold four gigabytes of data.
4. Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Countermeasure Equipment. Roadside bombs (IEDs) quickly became the main cause of American casualties in Iraq, and the Army Research Laboratory quickly came up with a supply of countermeasures equipment and techniques for dealing with this threat. The work continues, and the impact of IEDs has been greatly reduced because of it.
5. Lightweight Counter Mortar RADAR (LCMR). Lighter, faster and cheaper than earlier equipment, which was especially useful in Afghanistan. In Iraq, LCMR use forced enemy mortar teams to give up attacking some bases, because firing positions in residential areas (that American artillery or air strikes would not hit) were not available.
6. Lightweight Handheld Mortar Ballistic Computer. Finally, a hand held device that incorporated GPS and digital radio communications, for calculating where to aim mortars accurately. Made mortars much more accurate, and faster to respond to calls for fire.
7. M107 Cal .50 Long Range Sniper Rifle. The troops had been clamoring for this, and with a war on, the army was able to get an official version approved. Before that, commercial versions of the rifle were used.
8. New Army Combat Uniform. Better camouflage pattern, better material, better design. Popular with the troops.
9. Upgraded Aviation Force Battle Command Brigade and Below / Blue Force Tracking (Upgraded Aviation FBCB2 / BFT). This was the device that allowed all American commanders to see, on a computer screen, where everyone else was.
10. UTAMS (Unattended Transient Acoustic MASINT Sensor) Mortar, Rocket, Explosion Locator. Using the 19th century standby, sound ranging, combined with powerful microprocessors and signal processing software, UTAMS made it possible to know quickly where hostile fire was coming from. A very useful piece of equipment in combat, that never got much publicity.
All of the above were developed by U.S. Army organizations. These include the Research Laboratory. Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center. Communications Electronic Research Development and Engineering Center. Institute of Surgical Research, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center. Natick Soldier Center. The army spends billions of dollars a year on research, and has dozens of different organizations doing the work.