Force fields, human-robot hybrids and super powerful lasers may sound like something from science fiction, but are actually under development by military agencies – and may one day save soldiers’ lives.
Raytheon has developed a prototype of a robotic exoskeleton that allows soldiers to lift 200 pounds of weight easily, but still remain agile.
Project leader Dr. Stephen Jacobsen said: “People call it different things. Sometimes, they call it inventing; sometimes, they call it engineering. Sometimes, they call it being a mad scientist. To us, it’s the process of getting together, understanding the problems, goals and then designing something to satisfy the need.”
Active Protection System technology is now being deployed by the Israeli army to protect its tanks against RPGs. Its Trophy systems are somewhat akin to a reactionary force field; they detect incoming missiles and fire countermeasures to intercept them. Israeli APS producer RAFAEL has entered into an agreement with General Dynamics to adapt and promote the technology to the U.S military.
Boeing is developing an anti-missile system called the Airborne Laser Test Bed, which is mounted on the nose of an aircraft. The device uses infrared sensors to detect plumes of smoke from missiles and then a kilowatt-class solid state laser tracks and destroys the missile before it can reach its target. According to the Department of Defense, the ALTB successfully destroyed an airborne rocket in January and research will continue through this year.
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