By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army is investing millions of dollars in experimental exoskeleton technology designed to relieve some of the burdensome weight that combat troops carry into battle, with a view to creating “super-soldiers.”

The technology is being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp through a $6.9 million contract award from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center under a two-year, sole-source agreement.

Canada-based B-TEMIA first developed the exoskeletons as a way to assist people who had mobility difficulties Lockheed Martin’s is licensing ONYX, a battery-operated exoskeleton suit that straps on over clothing and uses a suite of sensors, artificial intelligence and other technology to aid natural movements.

The technology could be used to help soldiers carry the special equipment they need in the field, including weapons, body armor, night-vision goggles and advanced radios, which can weigh well over one hundred pounds.

OYNX uses electro-mechanical knee actuators, special sensors and an artificial intelligence computer to become familiar with the user’s movements and apply the right torque at the right time to assist with walking up steep inclines and lifting or dragging heavy loads

In mid-December, Army researchers and soldier equipment officials held a three-day exoskeleton event at Fort Drum, New York, known as a User Touch Point event, that allowed technology vendors, requirement developers and engineers to gain soldier insights on current exoskeleton technology

Keith Maxwell, the exoskeleton technologies manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said people in his company’s trials who wore the exoskeletons showed far more endurance.

“You get to the fight fresh. You’re not worn out,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell, who demonstrated a prototype, said each exoskelelton was expected to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

In 2014, Special Operations Command began its quest to develop the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) an Iron Man-type suit that would provide operators with full-body ballistics protection and increased physical performance. The program has produced a number of prototypes, but still faces many challenges.

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army picked General Dynamics and BAE Systems to build contending prototypes for its Mobile Protected Firepower light tank. The Army plans to choose a winner in fiscal 2022 and have battle-ready tanks by 2025. The service branch has plans to field some 500 of the armored vehicles.

The Army turned to its traditional vendors, with a $375.9 million award to BAE and $335 million to General Dynamics Land Systems. The Mobile Protected Firepower project is in preparation for wars against peer competitors, such as China and Russia. The vehicle is essentially a 30-ton light tank to accompany airborne troops and other light infantry where the 70-ton M1 Abrams heavy tank can’t go. Therefore, two of them must be able to be transported aboard a C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, which has a capacity of about 80 tons.

“Currently, the Mobile Protected Firepower capabilities do not exist in our light formations,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team. “The requirements associated with this will enable U.S. forces to disrupt, breach, and break through those security zones and defensive belts to allow our infantrymen and women to close with and destroy the enemy on the objective.”

Soldiers will test the vehicles during the Army’s trials. The tanks will be fired upon to determine how they stand up to enemy weapons and driven over the types of terrain that troops tend to travel over.

General Dynamics Land Systems’ vehicle is the Griffin, a modified version of the British Army’s new Ajax tracked reconnaissance vehicle equipped with a version of the M1A2 Abrams tank turret.

BAE will produce an updated version of the M8 Buford, an air-droppable light tank the Army flirted with buying in the 1990s but ultimately cancelled.

A third competitor, designed by SAIC, was not chosen to proceed in the competition

By Debbie Gregory.

A new, lightweight ghillie suit for snipers is being tested to replace the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, or FRGS, that will be more functional for troops in hot environments.

The proposed Improved Ghillie System (IGS) a modular system that would be worn over the field uniform.

During the three day testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, snipers concealed themselves in a forest setting while other snipers tried to spot them from distances from 33 to 655 feet.

A ghillie suit is a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble the background environment such as foliage, snow or sand. Typically, it is a net or cloth garment covered in loose strips of burlap, cloth or twine, sometimes made to look like leaves and twigs, and optionally augmented with scraps of foliage from the area.

Program Executive Office Soldier developed the IGS. Components include sleeves, leggings, veil and cape that can be added or taken off as needed.

The Army plans to buy about 3,500 IGSs to outfit the approximately 3,300 snipers in the service, as well as Army snipers in U.S. Special Operations Command.

The ghillie suit was developed by Scottish gamekeepers as a portable hunting blind. Lovat Scouts, a Scottish Highland regiment formed by the British Army during the Second Boer War, is the first known military unit to use ghillie suits.

The IGS features a lighter, more breathable fabric than the material used in the FRGS, and offers some flame-resistance, but soldiers will receive most of their protection from their Flame Resistant Combat Uniform, worn underneath the IGS, Army officials said.

Snipers, except for those fighting in urban terrain, traditionally spend much of their shooting time in a “creep,” pursuing a target in the prone position. A soldier’s creation of his first ghillie suit is seen as a rite of passage into the sniper community.

Great Film To See

By Debbie Gregory.

Did you enjoy “Unbroken” the 2014 film that ended with ended with Olympic athlete and Army Air Forces officer Louis Zamperini returning home after surviving his incarceration in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. It was a Hollywood ending to a big-budget Hollywood movie, but it didn’t really capture what Zamperini considered to be the miracle of his own life.

The movie that Zamperini would want all of us to see is now out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital and follows his life as he meets and woos his wife Cynthia and his life collapses as he struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. Zamperini conquered his demons after a religious conversion at a Billy Graham crusade, and this movie ends as he embraces Christianity and puts his life back on track. It is called “Unbroken: Path To Redemption”.

In the film, Samuel Hunt takes the role of Louis Zamperini from Jack McConnell, and Merritt Patterson plays Cynthia. The evangelist Will Graham takes a rare acting role, playing his grandfather Billy Graham. “Unbroken: Path to Redemption” is the story of one war hero’s attempts to overcome PTSD. Luke Zamperini acknowledges that Christianity may not be a solution for everyone, but it worked for his dad.

Let us know what you think of this film and if you enjoyed it more than “Unbroken” that was produced and directed by Angela Jolie.

By Debbie Gregory.

TITAN, stands for Tactical Interface Tracking Application Node and allows users to log in anywhere in the world with a computer on the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network, using an internet browser, without the necessity for downloads to communicate worldwide with deployed units. This software provides important situation awareness that is important to success. To date, soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division have tested the system.

This works well with the Army’s Home Station Mission Command initiative that moves the service away from deploying division main elements to theater and instead, deploys smaller and more agile units that require less logistics. TITAN has the ability to pull up maps, view multiple global locations and color-code soldiers’ locations. It also enables chat, messaging, sending attachments, situation reports filing as well as creating distribution lists and it does not require training. This will be the Army’s next-generation friendly-force tracking system.

The pilot program for Titan was begun by the Army in August and should be finished soon. There will be additional capabilities developed. TITAN was used during the unit’s National Training Center rotation in November. Major Adam Cloniger, officer-in-charge for the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division is very pleased with Titan.