US Army Awards Top 10 Inventions of 2007
Militaries tend to reflect their national cultures in various ways, and Americans have always been inveterate tinkerers and inventors. It’s a streak that runs deep in the culture, as even a casual glance at America’s late night TV will confirm. Cases in point on the military side of things include the Chavis turret, Hummer mine-rollers, and the door-ripping Rat Claws.
The American political-military-industrial complex has a mixed record when it comes to putting these kinds of innovations in the hands of people on the front lines. On the other hand, the current war has offered an illuminating side by side comparison of the American system vs. other militaries. Despite its size, the American system compares well, thanks in part to agencies like the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force. Another source of encouragement is the Army’s annual “Top 10 inventions” recognition program, which began in 2002.
These programs winners over the past 2 years [2005 | 2006] ranged from modified M113 APCs to wound dressings with built-in blood clotting agents. In June 2008, a new set of winners were announced. Presenting, the US Army’s Top 10 inventions of 2007:
1. Damage Control Resuscitation of Severely Injured Soldiers (Army Institute of Surgical Research). This is a new set of treatment steps for the soldiers, who require massive transfusions. Limiting the amount of intravenous saline solution (normally 3x blood volume), and transferring an even mix of plasma and blood (rather than the usual 4 plasma : 1 blood unit ratio) stabilizes the patient’s blood pressure, lowers the likelihood of fatal shock, and minimizes renewed bleeding. Early use of a clotting factor called rFVIIa has also been beneficial, and other blood products, such as platelets and cryoprecipitate are used as needed.
The treatment works especially well for non-compressible injuries – which comprise 70% of lethal combat injuries. The Army says that the technique has reduced the mortality rate for severely injured soldiers in the field from 65% – 17%. Civilian medical centers have taken notice, and are expected to begin using these techniques themselves. Dr. Michael Dubick, senior research pharmacologist for the Army ISR:
“The American Association for Trauma Surgeons calls this one of the biggest improvements to trauma care in the last 10 years… We’ve met with over 26 civilian centers and are working with 16 of them.”
2. M110 7.62mm Semi-Automatic Sniper System (Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center). Modern warfare features heavy engagement in urban zones, the need to protect bystanders while killing one’s enemies, and difficult targets, All of these features have expanded the importance of snipers on the battlefield. Read “XM110 SRSS Sniper Rifle Fielded” for more coverage of America’s new 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper rifle.
3. XM982 Excalibur Precision Guided Extended Range Artillery Projectile (Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center). Raytheon’s Excalibur shell uses the same kind of GPS/INS guidance employed by JDAM smart bombs. It is currently fired from M777 ultra-lightweight howitzers, but can be added to most 155mm artillery systems via electronics retrofits etc.
Unlike aircraft, artillery shells are never stopped by bad weather, arrive in seconds to minutes, and don’t require $15,000 per flight hour aircraft to be orbiting overhead. On the other hand, smart bombs offer the kind of pinpoint accuracy needed for close support and precision targeting on today’s battlefields. A laser-guided Copperhead artillery round was fielded in limited numbers during the 1980s, but it was expensive, and never achieved widespread adoption. Until Excalibur and its guided MLRS rocket companions arrived, therefore, bombs dropped from aircraft were the only realistic option in situations like urban combat, or in other situations where precision targeting was required. Excalibur completed final testing in 2007, and was fielded successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan.
4. Unmanned Aircraft System Shadow 200 Communications Relay System (Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center). This innovation mounts a modified AN/PRC-152 battlefield radio on Shadow UAVs, creating instant line of sight for battlefield radios and network transmissions over a 100+ mile radius. This solves a major communication problem in remote areas, or in mountainous regions like Afghanistan, using an existing platform that is readily at hand.
5. HMMWV Egress Assistance Trainer (Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center). Hummers that roll over following an explosion, or end up in canals, can quickly become death traps for their crew. While Rat Claw solutions and quick escape windows help, prior training will also make a big difference in maximum stress situations. But how do you train people safely for vehicle rollovers? You use this simulator, which is now part of standard training for all soldiers. Best of all, survival rates in rollovers are showing improvement.
6. Self Protective Adaptive Roller Kit (Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center). Very similar to the system profiled in “USMC Pays $14.35M for 150 Mine Roller Vehicle Attachments“. These weighted wheel assemblies clip on to the front of a vehicle, and detonate pressure-based mines before the vehicle can roll over them.
7. Reconnaissance Vehicle System (Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center). An adaptation of Force Protection’s Cougar 6×6 MRAP vehicle, used by combat engineers to clear roads. The RECCE adds a number of additional features including the Protector/CROWS gun that can be operated from inside the vehicle; ‘Blue Force Tracker‘ that shows identifies enemies and all friendly forces (sometimes found on other vehicles as well); Gyrocams; and a Robot Deployment System that lets the crew deploy and retrieve tracked MTRS robots without having to open the vehicle.
8. Improvised Explosive Device Interrogation Arm (Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center). A robotic arm that be operated from inside MRAP vehicle. It can detect metal, lift objects, and perform shallow digging. How do you see what the arm is working on from inside a blast protected cabin? Through the camera mounted on the arm.
Vehicles like the Buffalo and BAE’s RG-33L already have this capability, but the Buffalos are in high demand and the US military buys most of its RG-33Ls without the interrogator arm. This Army-developed arm can be attached to a number of different vehicles (so far, the Husky and RG-31), which provides a cheap and easily transportable way of adding mine clearance capability to a unit or a specific area. The new arm was fielded in Iraq in May 2007, and Afghanistan in July 2007. See US Army release.
9. Objective Gunner Protection Kit (Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center). This system is installed on American MRAPs, Hummers, and other vehicles in theater to protect the roof gunner from enemy fire, while leaving visibility clear. It has become the standard, and more than 8,000 kits were fielded in 2007.
The “Chavis Turret” appears to provide better protection with minimal to no loss of visibility, especially in urban warfare environments where attacks from above are common. It was invented for use on USAF Hummers, however, and the US Army has not adopted it.
10. Picatinny Blast Shield for Light Armored Vehicle (Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center). The wheeled LAV-25 Armored Personnel Carrier remains a mainstay in the US Marine Corps. The blast shield is made of transparent armor windows, and is designed to fit on top of a LAV-25 turret. It serves much the same function as the Objective Gunner Protection kit. Lie the OGPK, it’s an open top design. More than 150 were fielded in 2007.
- Gannett’s Army Times – Army to recognize greatest inventions of 2007
- ZDNet – Photos: Army designates year’s best inventions
- Raytheon (July 18/08) – U.S. Army Selects Raytheon’s Excalibur as a Best Invention of 2007
- US Army (Juy 28/08) – Mechanical Arm Attaches to Vehicles for IED CLearance
- US Army (June 16/08) – Soldiers Select Four Picatinny Inventions as Best of 2007. OGPK, XM982 Excalibur, M110 Sniper System and the Picatinny Blast Shield for the Light Armored Vehicle. Since the Army Greatest Inventions program began in 2002, Picatinny teams have won 17 out of a possible 60 positions.
- US Army (June 13/08) – Army Invention Saves Severely Injured Soldiers’ Lives.