Saturday, August 7, 2004

Hasta la vista, baby

Future Warrior Exhibits Super Powers (Science Blog - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 @ 5:53 PM PDT by bjs)

The Army's future soldier will resemble something out of a science fiction movie, members of Congress witnessed at a demonstration on Capitol Hill July 23. ...

Two uniform systems are under development. The Future Force Warrior system will be available for fielding to soldiers in 2010. The Vision 2020 Future Warrior system, which will follow on the concept of the 2010 Future Force Warrior system, is scheduled to be ready

wait for it...

10 years later.

The two new uniform systems are being developed under the Future Combat System Program. ''This Army initiative will develop and demonstrate revolutionary capabilities for the future soldiers in battle,'' said Jean-Louis ''Dutch'' DeGay, a Soldier Systems Center representative.

Remember throughout this article, this guy is a salesman.

The new systems include a weapon, head-to-toe individual protection, onboard computer network, soldier-worn power sources, and enhanced human performance.

''The Future Force Warrior will be a responsive and formidable member of an invincible battle space team,'' DeGay explained, describing the system scheduled to be fielded by 2010.

Ah, I love the smell of naive militaristic hubris in the morning!

''The 2010 Future Force Warrior system will meet the more immediate, short-term demands of our fighting warriors in the battle space, while the 2020 model will remind you of an ominous creature out of a science fiction movie,'' DeGay said. He added that the system will leverage all the technologies and lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ever read Orson Scott Card's *Ender's Game*? Great sf book. One of the plot elements in EG is that the government trains children for battle, without them realizing it, by promoting battle and flight sim games. The economy and mass culture were thus driven, in large part, by strategic aims. I often wonder how much of the global unrest might just be a cover, or a dramatic pretext, for reconnaissance and weapons testing.

Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq carry large amounts of external weight, often 120 pounds or more, to be battle-ready. DeGay said the new uniform system -- from head to toe -- weighs 50 pounds.

The body armor of the new uniforms will absorb the shock of a bullet much better than current bulletproof vests. ''The hard body armor has been stood off of the body by 2½ to 3 inches, so when the soldier is shot, the force is more evenly distributed to decrease injuries such as broken ribs,'' DeGay described.

Soldiers will be able to chat online with each other while they are walking down a jungle trail. The new system has the ability for each soldier to be tied into tactical local and wide-area networks with an onboard computer that sits at the base of the soldier's back. ''We essentially call the 2010 soldier an 'F- 16 on legs' because it gives the soldier the same capabilities as they would normally have on aircraft and other platforms,'' DeGay explained. The F-16 is an Air Force fighter jet.

As long as young men know they are signing up to become mere blunt weapons, this level of flagrant objectification and dehumanization doesn't worry me (for now).

Soldiers wearing the new system will have no need for an external microphone to communicate. ''The helmet has sensors that register vibrations of the cranial cavity so I don't have to have a microphone in my mouth. That allows the soldier to control the entire computer via voice-activation,'' DeGay explained.

The onboard computer will monitor soldiers' overall physiological picture of how they are performing in the battle zone. ''Warrior Physiological Status Monitoring System gives the soldier's body core temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, whether the soldier is standing or prone, and how much water the soldier has drunk,'' DeGay said.

He pointed out that with the new system commanders will be able to consider each soldier, aircraft and vehicle as part of a node of a tactical network that shares data with each other, sending and receiving data inside the battle space.

Ant colony warfare.

The second uniform system, the Vision 2020 Future Warrior concept, will follow the 2010 Future Force Warrior with more advanced nanotechnology. ...

Think about a good action movie that shows an average person walking down a street with a nice designer suit. All of a sudden, gunshots are heard and just before a bullet hits this person, his soft fabric suit transforms into an incredible display of alien armor that deflects bullets. ...

''What we hope to gain from this program is body armor that wears like a traditional textile impregnated with nanomachines connected to an onboard computer, DeGay explained. ''So when you shoot a round into the uniform system, it's normally pliable until it senses the strike of a round -- it becomes rigid, defeats the strike of the round and becomes soft again.''

Not to be "that guy," but I've had a similar idea for years. I always imagined the police using velocity-responsive nightsticks. While they're at rest, the sticks are just like hard rubber, not a real threat. But the faster they get swung, the denser, or harder, they become. A cop could tap a suspect on the head as a warning or crack his skull in (hopefully) self-defense. The difference would all depend on how fast he swung the stick.

I always imagined the technology would stem from kinetic properties of chemical matrices. Meaning, I envisioned some (unknown) substance that literally becomes more like a solid with greater speed. Think of water when a person runs his hand gently through it versus when someone falls from a bridge onto it: same stuff, extremely different feel. Buw now with nanotechnology, there is good hope my idea will be taken by another, more brilliant person.

A shortcoming of traditional body armor is that it can only absorb so many strikes from machine-gun rounds. ''When you have a uniform with this new nanotechnology, it can absorb unlimited numbers of machine-gun rounds,'' DeGay pointed out.

Another potential development is inserting ''nanomuscle fibers'' that can actually simulate muscles, giving soldiers more strength. Fabric is impregnated with nanomachines that create the same weight, lift and feel as a muscle. ''So I coat the outside of the armor with a nanomuscle fiber that gives me 25 to 35 percent better lifting capability,'' DeGay explained.

The uniform from the waist down will have a robotic-powered system that is connected directly to the soldier. This system could use pistons to actually replicate the lower body, giving the soldier ''upwards of about 300 percent greater lifting and load-carriage capability,'' DeGay said. ''We are looking at potentially mounting a weapon directly to the uniform system and now the soldier becomes a walking gun platform.''

This is fine and dandy until some snooping hacker starts toying around. Think I'm paranoid? Look at how vulnerable cell phones are. It's a basic rule of thumb, a truism for all of life, really, that the greater the technological payoff, the worse the glitch damage is. For example, because the modern airline system is so tightly interwoven, even a single delayed or cancelled flight can send tremors of even worse problems through the entire skyway. (See James Gleick's Faster for more on this issue.) All this magnificent Future Force thecnology (and it is inspiring) is just as well integrated, and thus just as vulnerable to a massive, cascading, positive-feedback shockwave of nano-bedlam.

1 comment:

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