At the 2017 Association of the United States Army annual meeting (AUSA 2017), US Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) presented a concept for the US Army’s future soldier of the 2030 timeframe, which promised everything from powered exoskeletons, to futuristic optics, to individual network capability. I captured the Command’s two future soldier concept demo videos that were running at the conference, embedded below:
Fair warning, RDECOM: These are on the Internet now, so they’re permanent.
To say the the concept looks like something from a video game is a bit of an understatement. The always-running exoskeleton-powered super-soldier depicted in the videos sports thermoregulated clothing, integrated power and data, advanced integrated sensors including integrated day/night thermal, and is the beneficiary of an individually tailored diet, advanced training and simulation, and “neural engineering”, whatever that means. His weapon, depicted as a sort of OICW-esque bullpup, features an advanced optic that can hand off targets from one squad member to another using an integrated processor. To round everything out, he will be protected with integrated hearing protection, body armor, and a suit that defends against chemical, biological, and directed energy weapons. Of course, all of this is powered by some sort of fantastic battery or capacitor in his backpack, which (naturally) can draw power from its environment and wirelessly distribute it to every subsystem on the soldier’s body.
Regarding the new concept, the US Army’s Twitter account proudly advertised:
#USArmy will prioritize science and tech efforts to develop new Army capabilities.
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) October 10, 2017
To which I ask: Isn’t this “we’ll solve it with science!” attitude a big part of the Army’s problem to begin with? Isn’t the fact that the Army is too-often unwilling to take a hard look at itself and reform its behavior and organization, but would rather spend money on pie-in-the-sky technology products that promise the world and end up cancelled after years and billions wasted the very thing that Senator McCain publicly berated Milley for in the first place?
Maybe I’m being to harsh – this is an RDECOM presentation after all. However, to me, it seems like something I’d expect from DARPA more than RDECOM, even, in how ludicrously ambitious and technology-focused it is. This isn’t to say that some of the technologies in the presentation might not eventually be realized, but the idea that the Army is seriously pursuing that end-of-the-rainbow wishlist as a total package is… Disconcerting, to say the least.