In an era where technology is the key driver enhancing capabilities across the military, the soldier remains as crucial as ever for achieving mission success. Some of the missions the soldiers perform can take weeks, away from in difficult terrain like deserts and mountains which requires maintaining an incredibly high level of physical fitness. Around the world, armies are recognizing the importance of maximizing the effectiveness of Soldiers physically, perceptually, and cognitively. As militaries are expected to operate in diverse environments – from Arctic to urban landscapes – developing materials, technologies and capabilities that enable soldiers to survive and thrive has become ever more important.
The Future Soldier Vision is designed to work as an integrated system with survivability, enhanced situational awareness and network capability all central to the concept. The future soldier system can be seen as taking two strands: the wearable and the peripheral, that is, what a soldier physically carriers in gear, and what helps them achieve their mission.
The vision for the future soldier is to be combat effective and also highly mobile, adaptive, networked, sustainable with total battle space situation awareness and information assurance. Therefore, he is equipped with night- vision goggles, radios, smartphones, GPS, infrared sights, a laptop as well as batteries to power them. Protection technology, a network of sensors for information sharing and power and data connectors will also all be built-in.
Another consideration when designing the future soldier – or treating the soldier as a system is the balance between armour and mobility. Major Marco Dâmaso of the Swiss Armed Forces explained that his country is looking to assess the potential of modular armour. If soldiers carry less armour they can move faster; however, they are also less protected against enemy fire. This trade-off, he explained, was a problem with older versions of Swiss body armour that was heavily focused on protection, meaning soldiers would often have to expose more of their body to get into a good fire position – in turn making the soldier more vulnerable.
Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Massachusetts is focused on developing capabilities that increase warfighter capacity to fight and win on the future battlefield. Scientists and researchers at NSRDEC explore Soldier and squad performance in the areas of nutrition, biomechanics, injury prevention, cognitive science, human factors and human dimensions research. NSRDEC also studies Soldier and squad technology integration and anthropology, combined with Soldier systems engineering architecture and systems integration.
Some of the other areas its researching are: effects of frustration, mental workload, stress, fear and fatigue on both cognitive and physical performance; 3-D food printing, to provide individual nutritionally tailored meals to Soldiers ; human/machine teaming to enable missions and the capabilities of autonomous resupply to unburden the Soldier and adaptive vision protection technologies that enable a Soldier’s eye protection to instantaneously change based on lighting conditions while also preventing injury from lasers and blast debris. NSRDEC’s research and development efforts must contribute to readiness today, tomorrow and in the future, as well as provide overmatch capabilities by developing and adapting technologies to empower, unburden and protect Soldiers across the full spectrum of operations.
Militaries are developing technologies to improve many areas including leader development, situational understanding, cognitive performance and overload, physical performance, mental and physical resiliency, cultural understanding, human-system interfaces, and other areas with potential to contribute to decisive overmatch.
Global Soldier Modernization programs
Militaries all over the world are developing many technologies to improve the performance of soldiers across the full range of military operations.
In a world where technology is rapidly evolving, soldier technology needs to adapt rapidly to keep up with modern threats. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has also affecting Military and Soldiers, therefore protection against biological threats has become critical priority. The United States Army is seeking to fast track development of wearable technology that could detect the coronavirus, as the number of infected military members continues to climb. That proposal requested that the devices be designed for pre-detection and early detection of COVID-19 symptoms, be minimally invasive while wearing, and designed for continuous physiological monitoring. “There is a dire and urgent need for development of rapid, accurate wearable diagnostics to identify and isolate pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases and track/prevent the spread of the virus,” the Army wrote in their proposal.
The camouflage and cloaking technologies are also important in battlefield. Media office of the Russian “Tractor Plants” said scientists from Russia’s Saratov State University developed a unique camouflage material, which will be used in by army to make Russian soldiers invisible for the enemy’s radars. However, soldier will still be seen by humans and the traditional reconnaissance assets. The development of the “invisible cloak” and its use in military operations will certainly provide armies with the important elements required for success and victory in any battle, and mainly the surprise factor.
Experts explain that the latest development will create lightweight radio-absorbing or radio-scattering materials used as means of camouflaging both military personnel and equipment. According to Interfax, the Russian scientists didn’t disclose the technology they’ve adopted, however they didn’t deny that they used the latest achievements of the Nano-industry while developing it.
Smart watches have been handed out to soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army, reports the PLA Daily. Developed by the PLA Navy, the smart watches are equipped with smart verification systems, electronic compasses, BeiDou satellite navigation and other remote receivers.
Militaries have also started using gene modification like CRISPR for soldier enhancement. US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe made the claim in an opinion piece, titled “China is national security threat No. 1,” published In Dec 2020 by the Wall Street Journal. Ratcliffe wrote that China is developing “world-class capabilities in emerging technologies” and US intelligence shows this includes “conducting human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] in the hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities.” French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly also announced in DEc 2020 that French armed forces have been given permission to begin researching “enhanced soldiers.” The Pentagon is also reportedly researching “human enhancement technologies,” while billionaire US technology entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Neuralink is in the early stages of developing computer chip implants to solve ailments and injuries, which could have military applications.
In 2019, the Australian Defence Department documents reported taht the ADF has adopted an “accelerated” plan to integrate robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), data and soldiers to “achieve tactical advantage. “Emerging technology and speed of lethality development cycles require the Soldier Combat System (SCS) to continuously modernize levels of protection and lethality,” the documents said. “The next generation of SCS will explore the integration of machines, sensors and data to enhance close combatant survivability, lethality and local environment understanding.”
L-3 Communications has announced that it has been awarded a contract totaling $208 million by the Australian Defence Force (ADF), to deliver soldier modernization technology. Under this contract, L-3 will provide the Australian Army with innovative targeting and detection capabilities that are designed to perform at night and under all weather conditions. These include binocular night vision goggles, which incorporate white phosphor image intensification technology, a compact multifunction aiming laser with integrated white light capability, and the next generation of lightweight, miniature laser rangefinders.
Russia’s Ratnik infantry combat gear
Ratnik is a Russian infantry combat system designed to improve the connectivity and combat effectiveness of the Russian army. The system has protection against environmental threats from weapons of mass destruction and non-lethal weapons, command and information systems, communications, sensors, navigation systems, life support systems, protective eye-wear, sound-protection, thermal wear and water filtration. Other Improvements include modernized body armor and helmet with special monitor (eye monitor, thermal, night vision monocular, flashlight).
Russia is working on third generation Ratnik gear now. Third generation equipment is looking to include combat exoskeletons. “We are completing the scientific research on creating the future layout of the Ratnik-3 combat gear. The implementation of the project will allow increasing the performance of a soldier by 1.5 times in completing various tasks,” Salyukov told Russia Defense Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda in comments translated by Tass.
” Combat gear incorporations include the integration of combat and support robots as well as reconnaissance and attack drones of small and mini-class,” said Russia’s General of the Army Oleg Salyukov.
UK MOD’s vision of Soldier 2020
The Future Soldier Vision (FSV) is part of the Ministry of Defence’s plan to ensure that British soldiers of the future have high quality equipment, utilising the latest technologies. It recently has unveiled what a soldier could be wearing and using on the battlefield in the 2020s, based on current military research and emerging commercial technology.
- Head sub-system concept incorporating hearing protection, lightweight sensors for information sharing and an integrated power supply.
- Torso sub-system concept of segmented armour that can be customised to the user or situation with integrated connectors and power supply. It also features a quick release cord which releases armour at the shoulders in an emergency and flexible shoulder pads for added protection and to help with weight distribution when carrying loads.
- Smart watch style wearable communications concept which incorporates sensors to record the user’s biometric data.
- Smart glasses concept which include a heads-up display, integrated camera and bone conducting headphones to increase situational awareness without compromising hearing.
- A robust personal role computer concept enabling better information sharing and communications between personnel.
- Ergonomically designed and customisable the weapon concept will allow targeting information to be shared between soldiers and their units.
US Army’s Future Soldier
The U.S. Army is developing a “third arm” device that can be attached to a soldier’s protective vest to hold a weapon. The purpose of the device is to redirect all of the weight of a weapon to the soldier’s body and lessen the weight on the soldier’s arms, freeing up his or her hands for other tasks. The prototype of the third arm weighs less than four pounds thanks to the use of carbon fiber composites. “We’re looking at a new way for the Soldier to interface with the weapon,” said Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the Army Research Laboratory’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.
As the Army Research Laboratory explained, some soldiers are weighed down by combat gear heavier than 110 pounds. Those heavy loads may worsen as high energy weapons are developed for future warfare. The third arm could also allow soldiers to use future weapons with more recoil. Additionally, researchers plan to examine the device’s potential applications for various fighting techniques, like shoot-on-the-move, close-quarters combat, or even shooting around corners with augmented reality displays.
The U.S. Army has set up a special high-tech laboratory aimed at better identifying and integrating gear, equipment and weapons in order to reduce the current weight burden placed on Soldiers and give them more opportunities to successfully execute missions, service officials said. The Warrior Integration Site (WinSite) bills itself as a “collaborative design environment,” and is using 3D printing for the rapid prototyping of new, lightweight equipment. But as well as rapid prototyping with a 3D printer, staff at WinSite are also using 3D scanning technology to “digitalize” existing Army equipment, enabling designers to integrate and modify that equipment in new CAD projects.
One of the ARL’s Human Sciences Campaign areas is to augment physical performance, through technology designed to increase the physical strength of the Soldier or increase their endurance. The Exoskeleton research follows the class of Soldier-borne technology and control algorithms that can increase the physical strength or power of a Soldier through mechanical augmentation. Exoskeleton technology can be active (powered) or passive (unpowered).
Soldiers of different countries are developing exoskeletons for their protection. Russian armed forces may soon be fitted with exoskeleton suits every inch of which is bulletproof. The gear consists of heavy body armor and a futuristic helmet that entirely covers the head. Russia isn’t the only country looking to build an army of supersoldiers. US Army chiefs are also developing an Iron Man-style suit to give troops ‘superhuman strength’. When made, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) is set to be bulletproof and give the wearer enhanced strength
Today’s exoskeletons allow soldiers to carry 17 times more weight than normal and march with significantly less strain on the body. With an XOS 2 suit, for example, a solider can carry 400 pounds but feel the weight of only 23.5.
The Human Universal Load Carrier is a hydraulic-powered exoskeleton suit intended to support soldiers on the battlefield and allow them to transport heavy loads for extended periods of time without the usual exhaustion that would come with such a task. This exoskeleton suit is built to transfer the weight to the frame and reduce the risk of injury to the user. The design has also been developed to allow the individual wearer to retain full range of motion while also being compatible with other technology such as armour, heating and cooling systems as well as a range of custom attachments.
United States Department launched the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (Talos), a futuristic piece of military hardware that encloses soldiers within a bullet-bouncing, internally cooled, computerised exoskeleton. United States, Special operations command, had given a Broad agency announcement for TALOS with a vision to integrate S&T projects focused on far ridgeline capabilities into an integrated suit that better protects the SOF warfighter.
TALOS concept aims to improve the “comprehensive ballistic protection, situational awareness, and surgical precision and lethality” of operators, particularly relevant to Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT). Some of the Technologies that were asked in BAA were, Advanced Armor technology consisting of materials for next generation ballistic protection, Mobility/Agility technology consisting of Enhancement platforms such as powered / unpowered exoskeletons.
Situational Awareness (SA) that promotes timely, relevant, and accurate assessment of friendly, enemy and other operations within the battle space in order to facilitate decision making and capabilities of stealth. For example, weapon sighting is already changing on the battlefield as small, moveable weapon-mounted displays enable the soldier to see targets around the corner with only the weapon exposed.
Command, Control, Communications & Computers (C4) including conformable & wearable antennae and wearable computers and Individual soldier combat ready displays. Army Research Laboratory is working on a wearable ultra-lightweight computer with a flexible display to fix to a soldier’s wrist, which will act as a hub for sending and receiving vital information
Higher frequency bands (above 60GHz) provide high bandwidth , High atmospheric absorption provides excellent immunity to interference, offers high security, and allows re-use of the same frequencies in relatively close locations.
Power generation and management, including soldier power generation systems, power scavenging, renewable energy, power distribution, power management, and power storage solutions that are light weight, and soldier portable/wearable.
Thermal management of suit occupant to manage heat to reduce the soldiers’ metabolic rate and prolong endurance and Medical technology including Embedded monitoring, oxygen systems, wound stasis, electromechanical compensation.
But research is also steering the military towards another goal: technologies that augment. Instead of building shells around ourselves, we’re also creating wearables that tune into the human body. One driving force is the rise of soft robotics. Audio comms company Invisio has made earplugs called TCAPS – tactical communication and protective system – that enhance hearing by sensing explosive noises and turning down the volume before it hits the wearer’s eardrum. For softer sounds, the reverse happens: whispers are emphasised, allowing soldiers to communicate over the din of warfare.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armour called ‘liquid body armour.’ It ‘transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,’ the Army website said. It will also have ‘nerves’ in the form of sensors that lie against the skin to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels.
Wearable Biosensors are being developed that measure EEG, ECG, and EMG (electroencephalograms, electrocardiograms, and electromyography, tests which monitor brain, heart, and muscle activity).The Office of Naval Research awarded a $150,000 grant to Titus and the tech firm Sentience Science to develop tools that could monitor an individual’s stress levels in combat and automatically generate alerts when they reach dangerous levels. “It’s a holistic system with open systems architecture, so if a new technology rises we can swap it in,” said a joint task force member speaking on background during a recent interview at Socom at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
At the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the Army, commercial industry and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have joined forces. Amid wound-healing smart fabrics and enhanced night-vision, researchers are building nanomaterials for helmets. The goal is to protect soldiers from the jarring effects of a blast.
Significant challenge for wearables is the military requirements of extreme ruggedness, including meeting MIL-STD-810 shock specification, sun readability, and small size and weight. The US Army has established that soldier systems must meet MIL-STD-461 radiated and conducted emissions from 2MHz to 18GHz. Exhibiting similar concerns, the BBC reported in May 2015 that China had imposed a ban on its armed forces wearing smart watches or anything similar.
Some of other challenges identified were untethered power source needed to operate the exoskeleton, cool or heat the operator and fuel all the sensors in the suit and latency of the sensors like Night-vision goggles, the display take a second or so catch up the sensor when it detects something. “Although many significant challenges remain, our goal for a Mark 5 prototype suit by 2018 is on track right now,” said member
US Army wants wearable devices to detect coronavirus
The United States Army is seeking to fast track development of wearable technology that could detect the coronavirus, as the number of infected military members continues to climb. That proposal requested that the devices be designed for pre-detection and early detection of COVID-19 symptoms, be minimally invasive while wearing, and designed for continuous physiological monitoring. “There is a dire and urgent need for development of rapid, accurate wearable diagnostics to identify and isolate pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases and track/prevent the spread of the virus,” the Army wrote in their proposal.
A Duke University study called CovIdentify “will assess whether information about smartwatch wearers’ health, such as sleep schedules, oxygen levels, activity levels and heart rate, can detect early symptoms of COVID-19,” the university stated. Researchers at University of California, San Francisco are exploring if smart rings can catch increases in temperature or heart rate that might signal the onset of the coronavirus, Stat News reported. Similar studies are underway with researchers at Stanford Medicine, who have teamed up with Fitbit and Scripps.
Wearable Devices for Sleep Enhancement
Brain State Technologies LLC has produced prototypes of a wearable neurotechnology device designed to support improved sleep and circadian rhythm regulation under contract from the United States Army Research Office. Numerous scientific studies have shown that poor sleep compromises performance and health, and military personnel are especially vulnerable to challenges of sleep disruption because of the need to maintain high arousal levels for prolonged periods, as well as work duties that require night shifts or changing time zones.
“A non-drug, wearable device that successfully facilitates more optimal sleep has tremendous potential for supporting a range of objectives in performance, learning, and health for many populations,” says Lee Gerdes, founder and CEO of Brain State Technologies. Wearable devices the Army is seeking to fund should be designed to indicate elevated temperature, respiratory difficulty, antibodies against COVID-19 and molecular signs of COVID-19 exposure, according to its proposal.
Army’s futuristic combat goggles
US Army is testing IVAS, the acronym for the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, designed to enhance the lethality and survivability of the Army’s Close Combat Force through a combination of technologies and augmented reality capabilities delivered in the form of a Heads-Up Display device.
The goggles are known as IVAS, that projects 3D terrain maps over what soldiers see directly in front of them and allows troops to see in the dark, through smoke and even around corners. Attached to their combat helmets, the clear goggles allow soldiers to know precisely where they are thanks to a heads-up display, known as HUD, that provides them with an overhead compass and overlays maps of their location.
Troops no longer need paper maps to plan their missions ahead of time, instead they use the holograms and 3D terrain maps projected onto their goggles to see what lies ahead. “As a platoon leader, I can see where my entire platoon is pro jected onto like a holographic map, said Lt. Nicholas Christopher, from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. “And for me, that’s amazing because there’s a lot of guesswork that goes out the window.”
IVAS utilizes the mixed reality technology that Kipman developed for Microsoft’s HoloLens, to give soldiers more information than they have ever had on the battlefield. The hologram technology of HoloLens has been taken many steps further to help soldiers plan and execute their missions. The goggles also incorporate night vision and thermal imagery technologies that are a significant step up from what soldiers are currently using.
UK’s Dismounted close combat sensors (DCCS) system
The UK’s Dstl) has successfully demonstrated the automatic threat detection capabilities of its wearable sensor technology, dismounted close combat sensors (DCCS) system. The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, together with industry partners Roke Manor Research, QinetiQ and Systems Engineering and Assessment, has developed dismounted close combat sensors which enable GPS-free navigation, automatic threat detection and information sharing for frontline troops.
This wearable sensor system enables navigation even when GPS signals are not available, by using inertial and visual navigation sensors. It considers last known GPS locations and integrates information from visually tracked features captured by a helmet camera and inertial sensors. The DCCS accurately tracks the location of an individual within buildings and tunnels, Dstl said in a statement.
The system has a combination of camera, laser and orientation sensors mounted on the personal weapon. Its acoustic and camera technology automatically identifies where enemy weapons are being fired from and this information is transmitted to the wearer and to commanders. DCCS is expected to enter service in the 2020s.
This integrated visual navigation system is then integrated with high-quality GPS and algorithms developed to understand when GPS can or cannot be trusted and to smoothly transition between the navigation systems when it is most appropriate to do so. “It works by providing a number of different navigation options, then carefully selecting the most trustworthy component at any particular time. There is a need to measure the sensor output but also to carefully monitor the noise and errors with each sensor and fuse the output accordingly.”
The system’s applications are wider than simple navigation. A combination of camera, laser and orientation sensors mounted on the personal weapon will allow soldiers to highlight targets to other troops, unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft at the press of a button. The idea is that this will be quicker, easier and less confusing than giving verbal instructions, while also being extremely accurate. Other uses include identifying wounded personnel, the location of civilians and potential helicopter landing sites.
In addition, acoustic and camera technology will provide a fire detection capability, automatically identifying where enemy weapons are being fired from, even if the individual hasn’t seen or heard them being discharged. This information will then be relayed to the user and to commanders, allowing them to take appropriate steps to deal with the threat.
Australian military developing ‘black box’ for soldiers
Australia is developing the equivalent of a Black Box for soldiers, known as the ‘Fight Recorder’, for its soldiers to be worn on the battlefield, which will act as an emergency beacon for casualties. Minister Pyne said the Fight Recorder would be a soldier-worn system aimed at capturing valuable data on the battlefield, and would act as an emergency beacon to reduce the time taken to reach and treat battlefield casualties.
“Survival rates for battlefield casualties are closely tied to response times and the Fight Recorder will enable Defence to quickly locate and treat casualties,” Minister Pyne said. “In addition to serving as a location beacon, the data captured by the Fight Recorder could be used to inform the design and performance of soldier equipment and protective wear.
Another focus area is Training, that includes a broad-based program of fundamental research and advanced technology development to achieve significant advances in Soldier training and, ultimately, mission effectiveness. The end goal is to discover and innovate powerful new tools, technologies, and methods that can accelerate learning, can be applied at the point of need at any time and are affordable.
The Global Soldier Modernization Market 2015-2025
The Global Soldier Modernization Market 2015-2025 report, published by Strategic Defence Intelligence predicts global Soldier Modernization market to be worth US$8.3 billion in 2015, and is expected increase to US$12.8 billion by 2025, representing a CAGR of 4.38% during the forecast period.
The market is anticipated to be dominated by North America, followed by Asia- Pacific and Europe. The US is the largest spender, with a cumulative expenditure of US$43.4 billion over the next decade. In terms of segments, C4ISR is expected to account for 38% of the global military soldier modernization market, followed by lethality and survivability, occupying shares of 27% and 26% respectively.
Machines and mankind will merge as technology advances, and that will mean a heap of benefits for soldiers in battle, said Tod Lovell, a technology director at Raytheon. “Twenty-five years from now, we may be to the point where the sensors are embedded in the skin and the person becomes the processor,” Lovell said
“The really cool thing is that technology is going to start really paying attention to the state of the human,” Lovell said. “It won’t just be the human operating part of the technology. The human will be part of that system. The system would adapt to the human.”
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