Future military taking shape

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine veterans who are watching their old service branch change with time are seeing new weapons, uniforms, protective gear, vehicles, aircraft and the use of new electronics in all offensive and defensive systems. The changes are happening quickly and most civilians will be unable to keep up with the pace of developments.

For example, the bombs and artillery shells are being fitted with technology to convert them from "dumb" munitions to smart weaponry, which allows the bomb or shell to adjust its course as it travels to a target. At the same time remote control aircraft are being flown by human pilots thousands of miles away who are communicating with the unmanned aircraft with signals relayed from satellites. These drone aircraft are carrying laser guided missiles and other smart weaponry to allow a pilot in Colorado flying a drone over Afghanistan to search for a specific target and then destroy that target.

Even personal weapons carried by infantry troops are changing. Grenades for 40mm grenade launchers are being adapted with smart grenades which can hit unseen targets behind walls or other cover.

The Marines are currently testing the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program. This is a system for helicopters which can, without constant human control, fly resupply to troops. The system has been tested on two different types of helicopters and is now being tested on the Vietnam-era Huey helicopters. The system constantly scans and pilots the helicopter around obstacles and finds clear landing spots. Troops needing ammunition can request a resupply to a GPS-identified location and the helicopter, once launched, will fly to that location without detailed programming.

All of the electronics being carried by soldiers require batteries which can greatly increase the load carried by the soldier. Among the solutions being tested is the "Powerwalk," which straps to a soldiers leg and harvests energy from the soldier's movements.

The one constant that continues is the citizens filling the ranks of our military. It is their courage, decision making and moral judgments which apply our society's standards to the use of technology in war.

Jack Dragoni attended Boston College and served in the U.S. Army in Berlin and Vietnam. He lives in Chaffee, Missouri.

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