The United States military has a long history of being on the cutting edge of technology. Some of their advancements have become such everyday parts of American life that we tend to forget they were once created or improved by the military. Such household staples as duct tape and superglue have their origins with the military. GPS, digital cameras, and weather radar are all things we use on a daily basis that had their beginnings as military technologies. Widespread use of penicillin and ambulances grew out of military needs as did canned food, an invention created from necessity by the French military during World War I as a way to transport large amounts of food for soldiers on the ground. Epinephrine auto-injectors (think: EpiPen®) are derived from a technology developed first for the U.S. military. Not to mention computers, microwave ovens, the space program, blood banks, or the now ubiquitous internet. It’s getting harder to remember a time before the internet. Without its 1977 forefather, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), our 2020 COVID-19 quarantine would look a lot different.
The U.S. military does not rest on its laurels; research and development of new, innovative technologies is constant. Not surprisingly, a large effort exists to improve manpower and training. In its Sailor 2025 initiative, the U.S. Navy identified ready, relevant learning as critical to staying on the forefront in the new century. As a result, the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System (C-ARTS)—a High Velocity Learning Environment (HVLE)—came about with heavy input from Cape Henry Associates (CHA). This state-of-the-art mobile training system brings training to the Sailor, rather than requiring the Sailor to come to it. Outfitted with cutting-edge classrooms; reconfigurability for optimal use; and 3D, augmented reality (AR), and traditional teaching methods, C-ARTS is the future of military training and already in use. The U.S. Army is also invested in AR technology to offer improvements in combat training such as better efficiency and providing Soldiers with the advantage in training and response times. The 2017 “Training and Doctrine Command” document states that “the priority in the near term is to increase situational awareness and lighten the Soldier’s physical load, which will improve combat effectiveness.” By embracing AR and artificial intelligence (AI) innovations, the Army will ensure continued leadership on the battlefield as well as back home, treating Soldiers returning from combat with such conditions as PTSD.
Technology is not just limited to the training arena, but is found in the weapons systems the U.S. military continually develops and improves. The U.S. leads the world stage in technologically savvy military machines, such as the Army’s SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor aircraft. Light tank prototypes and more autonomous aircraft are in development, helicopters in particular. The Air Force owns and operates drones and has recently announced plans to test their new AC-130J laser system designed to make disabling weapons systems easier. Robots, augmented reality headsets, and hypersonic missiles are further examples of some of the technology being tweaked for military use.
As the internet and new technologies become more widely used, public sector tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon have joined the defense contracting circle. Microsoft’s $480 million deal to provide HoloLens technology to military members was hailed as a game changer and it currently offers its Azure cloud services and IT consulting and support services to Department of Defense (DoD) agencies. Amazon’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the official cloud provider for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and works as a computing subcontractor for the DoD. Security, of the utmost importance for the U.S. military, and advances in AI are projected to be areas of great advancement over the next 10 to 20 years.
Beyond weapons systems, training, and security, developments in medicine are continually being made to include biological and chemical factors, and already artificial clotting agents are deployed with Soldiers to minimize blood loss from battle injuries. Within the next 15 years progress should allow alterations in military members’ immunology to protect against chemical and biological warfare. Handheld portable medical stations are also planned for the future.
Battle management software is being developed and improved every day. The military requires large amounts of data to be captured, analyzed, and available for decision-makers in as close to real-time as possible, and CHA has been involved in efforts to advance that capability. For more information on this project, check out the case study on the CHA website.
The future will see many more advancements likely beyond our current imaginings. Technology is critical for the military and always has been. We can expect things like human exoskeletons, modular and armed robotics systems with crowd control capabilities, and autonomous watercraft not requiring physical crews. Our military seeks to be ever vigilant in developing technology to meet the needs of the nation it serves, and whatever the technology needs, CHA stands ready to create or refine the solutions.