The Military Of The Future: Planned Obsolescence
Well I’ve been digging through the RDT&E (Research, Development, Test & Evaluation) of the U.S. Army and as usual I constantly stumble upon some crazy funding for the .458 socom ammo Future Force Warrior. The FFW is not an animated TV show on Saturday mornings. Its the human aspect of the Future Combat Systems project from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Basically, the Future Force Warrior is the Army vision of the ultimate soldier. Complete with exoskeletons. helmets with “microelectronic/optics combat sensor suite that provides 360° situational awareness,” electric pistols and caseless riffles. Every aspect of the soldier’s physiological status can be remotely monitored “as well as monitoring of the soldier’s cognitive states, health, and wellbeing.” Of course every soldier needs to carry a small power plant run off a liquid hydrocarbon fuel cell to keep the gadgetry working.
The Army hopes to roll out small pieces of this plan every 2 years with a fully realized end product around 2032. Just in time. The funding for this is so decentralized its almost impossible to an accurate total, but its large. Several billion per year for sure. Typical expenditures are for items such as…
* Eye wear that “addresses the emerging threat of frequency agile lasers on the battlefield” ($3.4M)
* Training will involve “lessons learned from virtual and augmented reality training approaches” as well as to “conduct lab experiments of training effectiveness of massively multiplayer persistent simulations (MMPS)” ($5M)
* Human Factors Engineering Technology ($17.4M) which, among other things, will “Improve human robotic interaction (HRI) in a full mission context for aerial and ground unmanned vehicles (UGVs)($3.6M).
* Software needed to run all this will be “executed incremental development of Soldier computer. Integrated AFRL Cursor on Target(CoT), FalconView and Barebones software packages for alternative computer/SW solution and broader connectivity to Army/joint combat firepower.”($4.9M)
* Of course every future soldier will need a “Personal Area Network” to transmit and receive orders and data across the “battlespace” through advanced antennae that can serve as “network gateway for Soldier connectivity to unmanned ground systems.”($2.6M)
* Now no human could possible carry all this equipment. Thankfully the army is developing “integrated-power exoskeleton devices for the upper and lower body extremities” and various other “biomechanical tools for maximizing Soldier load carriage capability.”($3.5M)
Dressing up soldiers like robots is all well and good, but the political and military wet dream is putting robots themselves on the battlefield, I mean battlespace. “In FY08, [the Army] will evaluate technologies to enable collaborative operation of near-autonomous unmanned systems, including networked air and ground unmanned vehicles, managed by a single Soldier.” But why even have a soldier managing the robots? Here is the full text of the NAUS line item. “Near Autonomous Unmanned Systems (NAUS): This effort addresses the safe weapon operations and self security risk areas of NAUS. In FY07, complete detailed design of concept; fabricate and assemble breadboard components including the ammo handling system; conduct laboratory experiments to prove out interfaces between the weapon, mount, fire control, and ammo handling subsystems; continue design and checkout of the control system; and, define and validate the interfaces with an Armed Robotic Vehicle (ARV) through experimentation. In FY08, will fabricate and assemble prototype hardware; conduct laboratory evaluations to assess functionality of subsystems; and, simulate functionality in wireless operation mode. In FY09, will complete check out of system and integrate with robotic platform”