With luck, the Army might be able to use at least some of this technology on whatever aircraft come next. Unfortunately, while engineers started the basic work on the new engine in 2016, officials don’t expect to even start testing the first aircraft with the improved turbine before 2026.
Two more of the Army’s top 10 modernization projects dealt specifically with saving troops’ lives. Since the Korean War, one of the U.S. military’s main strengths has been its increasingly effective medical technology.
By 2016, medics and field hospital staff were already light-years ahead of where their predecessors were a half-century earlier. But the Army knows there are still improvements it can make.
“A medic or fellow Soldier can apply a traditional tourniquet to a person’s limb, but can’t use it to stop hemorrhaging in the abdomen, chest, groin, waist, pelvis or armpit,” U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, the service’s surgeon general, told a meeting of the Defense Writer’s Group in Washington, D.C. in August 2016.
This new “junction tourniquet” offered a potential solution to that problem. While it looks like a relatively standard belt, the tool has inflatable sections.
In an emergency, A soldier would could wrap the device around a larger section of a wounded comrade’s body, then pump it full of air to apply constant, life-saving pressure. Tests showed troops could apply the strap and halt deadly hemorrhaging in just one minute.
By December 2016, the Army had gotten the first junction tourniquets to troops in combat.
Of course, the best way for the Army to save lives would be to prevent soldiers from getting injuries in the first place. In 2016, engineers were working on lighter, less cumbersome body armor.
The experimental ballistic shirt weighed 35 pounds less than the existing Interceptor body armor. More importantly, a soldier could “throw it on like a goalie shirt in hockey,” according Robert DiLalla, the Army engineer leading the work.
“Soldiers have spoken loud and clear with more than 90 percent user acceptance in multiple user evaluations,” DiLalla added. “Typically, as we assess new body armor components, we’d consider 60 percent a successful number.”
The last of the Army’s top 10 improvement efforts for 2016 bordered on science fiction. Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory had spent a considerable amount of time during the year seeing just what they could do with photons.
Photons are the basic elements of light and other electromagnetic waves. A better understanding of the particles might let specialists devise new, faster and — perhaps most importantly — more secure ways to communicate or store information.
Similarly, developing more sensitive equipment to measure and monitor photons could lead to breakthroughs in spy cameras and other surveillance gear. Essentially, the Army does not really understand what photons could help with — but it is eager to find out.
“We don’t really know what all the applications are,” Michael Brodsky, an Army physical scientist, said. “Our mandate, in part, is to find those applications.”
The photon research seems like a good analogy for the Army’s current modernization effort as a whole. The service knows the world is full of complex threats and that no single set of tools will help in every situation.
But Army officials also know that the enemy won’t wait until a perfect solution presents itself.
This first appeared in WarIsBoring here.