Engineering the Army’s Dominance

A push for increased effectiveness relies on good engineering.

When it comes to fighting an enemy, an “unfair” advantage is a very good thing to have. There will be no leveling of the playing field, and the US Army intends to make it an uphill battle for our adversaries. Whether through improvements to current technology or the establishment of entirely new techniques, the future of warfare is very much an engineering effort. 

 As described in an Army press release, “To achieve that supremacy, Army researchers aggressively pursue technological overmatch.” As described by Keith Jadus, acting director of the lethality portfolio for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, that overmatch means, “We need to be able to see farther, reach farther and to ensure that our forces are protected outside the range and influence of the enemy.”

There are a number of ways that is being addressed. These include improvements in areas such as cost, range and precision, but it also involves new or emerging technologies such as scalable and disruptive energetics, nonlethal technologies and directed energy.

For instance, in regard to energetics (explosives) achieving a higher energy density has long been a priority. The goal, quite literally, is to get more bang for your buck. The advancements to-date have been incremental in nature, consisting of five or ten percent improvements. By rethinking the physics from the molecular level up, researchers hope to make order of magnitude enhancements. As described by Jadus, “It may mean a 40mm grenade with 155mm artillery effects.” He admits that sort of result may not be achievable in all cases, but the paradigm shift promises movement in that direction.

Unconventional weapons such as lasers and microwave energy are another push toward the boundaries of battlefield technology. Lasers are advantageous as they don’t require ammunition beyond the energy required to power them (which isn’t trivial in itself). Although there is plenty of work to do yet, promising laboratory and field tests indicate this sort of technology is likely to be seeing more action in the future.

Microwave energy can be used as an effective, non-lethal deterrent. Jadus describes the potential use in crowd dispersion, “…if a crowd starts to come toward the vehicle, we can politely move them out of the way by putting a little bit of energy on them.” If the crowd proves violent, methods can be escalated to meet the challenge.

While there are many challenges associated with new technologies, the Army is dedicated to meeting and overcoming the obstacles. By supporting the basic science and engineering behind new technologies, they are ensuring technological overmatch is not just a goal, but a reality.


Photos courtesy of the US Army