hi-tech soldier of tomorrow
Columnist Capt PN, (Retd) Humayun
Akhtar examines the future fighting person.
The war in Afghanistan was a different war to all others
fought so far in our living memory. It was a war of hi-tech weaponry experimented
by the US military command.
Days are not far off, when the American soldier of the future may resemble
something out of Star Wars. They will be dressed in high-tech uniforms,
fitted with everything from navigation and water purifying systems to
The combat gear under development at the Department of Defence relies
on new technology to suit up future soldiers for battle in rough terrain
and hostile environments, said Bill Machrone, the vice president of technology
for PC magazine.
It will also improve their chances of making it home alive, regardless
of the conditions. “Most of the stuff that the Army has today is
to fight in open fields and forest; but we expect more warfare in bad
terrain, like in the mountains or even on urban streets, and this is suited
for that,” Machrone told Good Morning America. “It’s
a great advancement in survivability.”
A uniform known as the “Objective Force Warrior” may be fully
developed within a decade. It is an “all-seasons” waterproof
suit that adjusts to the soldier’s internal body temperature, eliminating
the need to change clothing. “He can actually go from Arctic cold
to desert heat and back again,” Machrone said.
The uniform will be reasonably lightweight — even with its built-in
water purifying system. “You can actually pour dirty ground water,
even sweat or urine into this system,” he said. “It will purify
it and rehydrate the soldier,” he said. The Objective Force Warrior
uniform could be available by 2012 at the latest.
The computerized portion of the suit includes a tiny screen on the front
of the helmet with real-time information on its flip-down display.
Heat Seeking Battle Garb
Another futuristic uniform, known as the “Land Warrior”,
resembles a space suit and features a built-in infrared sensor wired to
the soldier’s weapon that detects body heat in the dark. Although
the military has used body heat sensors before, the sensors have not been
part of an integrated system.
In the past, soldiers had to rely on printed maps with information that
is at least several hours old at the time they set out on a mission. But
with the Land Warrior suit, each soldier can get up-to-the-minute information
via a helmet-mounted Global Positioning System (GPS), a small wireless
voice and data communication system, and a wearable computer linked to
an intra-squad wireless LAN (local area network).
A flip-down display on the helmet allows the soldier to scan the surroundings
in the darkness, using thermal and night-vision sensors connected to his
weapon. This display also gives each soldier a view of a situation map
that can pinpoint where both friends and foe are located, in real time.
With that knowledge, the soldier can better figure out how to tackle the
“If he’s on a battlefield, he can call in fire, just like
sending in an e-mail. He’ll specify the kind of attack. It’s
sent, it happens, and just that easily, he’s in touch with his commanders.”
The thermal imaging sensor on the top of the rifle allows a soldier to
fire without exposing himself to enemy fire because the sensor, which
detects heat, eliminates the need to actually look through the rifle’s
scope. It works in the dark or the daylight.
“He could be behind the wall, firing around the corner in the dark,
in bad conditions. His thermal scope will target, and he can fire accurately.”
The suit relies on lithium batteries and carbon fibre to power the computerized
equipment, and uniform designers have shaved the weight of the uniform
down from 90 to about 50 pounds.
The communication portion of the gear is made in such a way that the technology
behind it would be shrouded, should it fall into enemy hands.
Uniforms like this might be used in battle soon — probably first
by Special Ops forces. The whole system is scheduled to go into mass production
later this year.
Warriors of 2025
The next generation of warriors may be able to literally blend in with
their surroundings. Scientists are studying animals to develop technology
that could be used for chameleon-like battle wear that changes colour
depending on its surroundings.
“The technology is advanced to where the surface of suit is a chameleon,”
Machrone said. “If a soldier is leaning against a marble wall, the
suit changes coloration to that, or if a soldier is lying on a black tarmac,
it changes to that.”
The uniforms of 2025 are also expected to draw on advanced biometrics
technology and be able to monitor the wearer’s heart rate and perspiration,
then pass that information on to commanders and medics. With real-time
information on their troops’ physical condition, commanders should
be able to improve the soldiers’ chance of survival.
And if a soldier is wounded, the “smart suit” would serve
as a hi-tech medic, applying pressure to the wound in the proper area.
By about 2025 at the latest, soldiers will likely maintain their global
positioning screens. They will also be firing “smart weapons”,
with bullets that can actually direct themselves toward a target that
is emanating body heat.
Eating on the Run
Perhaps the most striking scenario for future soldiers is a development
that could eliminate their need to eat or rest: the food patch. It works
much like the nicotine patch used by smokers trying to quit.
“Sustenance patches applied to the body will release the necessary
nutrients. Not a seven-course meal, but enough to keep you going.”
Soldiers would be fed, kept awake, and would be capable of surviving in
even the most arduous conditions. But the patches would only be used on
a temporary basis. Hot meals will be available when back at base!
About the author
“Captain PN, (Retd) Humayun Akhtar S.Bt, a former navy officer,
who was trained in UK and the US retired in the rank of Captain. Started
freelance writing and journalism. While in the navy, held the appointments
of the Director of Budget, Store, Procurement. Served 3 years with the
Naval Attache at Pak Embassy, Paris. Awarded Sitara-e-Basalat. Now living
in the United States.”