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Super Soldier: Future of Combat Troops

A brief look into some interesting advancements to our bio technology and a desire to integrate that into our current forces to dictate what warfare can look like in the future.

The boom in the bio-tech industry has led to some really amazing scientific breakthroughs.  Some on the scale of complete organ cloning to re-engineering what was once thought to be impossible. This is reflected by countless breakthroughs that have been in the news over the past few years.  It has included everything from  exoskeletons powered by  to fully 3D printed skin with working blood vessels to implantable computer chips that help control you central nervous system called brain computer interfaces.  9 times out of 10 these technologies were created by the military researchers(probably in Area 51..shhhhh) with the primary purpose of giving our men and women an advantage in combat situations.  According to a recently published study by the Department of Defense (DOD), these breakthroughs have been poled together with the hope that they will be used to create super soldiers that will dominate the battlefield by 2050, if not earlier.

While it’s a true that technological breakthroughs have always been vetted out for military applications, the DOD’s report, which was researched and written by its Bio-technologies for Health and Human Performance Council (BHPC), gives a quick glimpse into the future of the military’s planned technological strategies in a transparent and detailed way. There is a report out,  courtesy of Futurism, has the distinct sci-fi title of “Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Implications for the Future of the DOD.”  That sounds like some military assembly line-esque wording.  But the real question is, what would this look like?  Combing through YouTube, I found this video from the US ARMY CCDC Center that gives you a quick glimpse into what warfare could look like in the future.

If you thought that video was a trailer for a Modern Warfare video game, you’re mistaken.  In fact, this video was actually created by the Army CCDC or more formally known as the United States Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. This is the research and development branch of the Army that creates the ideas and integrates the technologies that our men and women in uniform have been using in combat and training environments since 2003. Their motto is “Through Science We Change.” That should give you some ideas of the things they have invented and tested on our military. 

This video instantly gave me vibes of an episode of Black Mirror season 3, episode 5 titled “Men Against Fire”.

In this episode, soldiers were outfitted with a neural implant that gave them the ability to not only see combat environments, ally tracking and vitality information real-time, they also had the ability to identify the enemy. In this epsiode, the “enemies” were termed roaches  This was later found to be the conflict in the episode.  Check out the trailer below:

Types of Enhancements

Exoskeleton Enhancements

One of the more recent reports mentions soldiers getting fitted with lower body machine operated exoskeleton that would make ground troops faster, fatigue less and afford super human strength and also injury reduction.

The Army is currently spending billions of dollars to multiple companies to design exoskeletons that would fit into military application today.

This looks promising, lets not find any videos surfacing  of Hammer Industries, Iron Man 2, level fails.

via Marvel’s Iron Man 2

Neural Implants

As mentioned earlier we have seen an instance, albeit from a fictional TV series, but it was a realistic perspective on how this technology could be integrated. 

One article from the MIT Technology Review details how this technology from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency the entire Military’s R&D department) in conjunction with 3 MIT students can be utilized to control drones in a combat environment without using a remote.  There are plenty of downsides to this, one being the legal, moral and ethical precedent that doesn’t exist at the moment.  Also, just the cost to surgically implant this device in hundreds of thousands of soldiers could get extremely costly in a short amount of time.

Ocular Enhancements

One of the cooler bio-technological enhancements would be to have ocular implants to allow soldiers to see distance, obstacles in ther way, enemies, and also to see in not so great conditions.  One thing I instantly think about is utilizing this tech to give a soldier contact lenses to provide night vision or to give someone X Ray vision to see through walls.

Currently U.S. soldiers use bulky, relatively heavy night vision goggles to see in the dark. One possibility is the development of contact lenses with the same capability, perhaps even with a digital zoom that uses augmented reality to project critical data (enemy and friendly positions, routes, etc.) onto the wearer’s field of view.

One of the more difficult questions to ask is how could we utilize this technology without doing too much in the way of harming someone?  As shown in the Black Mirror Episode, these implants can be used for good, but it really all depends on the controller of this tech.

Auditory Enhancements

As it currently stands, solders are required to wear ear protection to prevent hearing loss. According to the VA about 2.7 million veterans suffer from some sort of hearing loss.  

The issue alot of us face is, we need to utilized the sense of hearing in a combat environment, but the current ear protection is designed to keep the sound muffled as much as possible.  How can we find a middle ground to protect the ears but also give us the ability to hear critical sounds?  This would give yet another advantage to our ability to communicate within a squad and with command, without carrying this bulky radio

It will be interesting to see how they can take all of this technology and integrate it into soldiers to create a super Army to defeat enemies foreign and domestic.  Our only real competition are the Russians.  They are step for step with us on alot of this technology.  They are also rumored to have the first fully Cyborg soldier.  That has yet to be seen but this tech will become more and more prevalent in the coming decades.  So beware, in 10 years when you see 42 year old Money(Me) sticking around in the Army to get my chance at jumping around with a full body exoskeleton, crashing into cars and behaving more like the Iron Man 2 Tony Stark, don’t be surprised.  You’ve been warned!

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