View Full Version : 9 tools that could make you deadlier, faster, smarter

10-10-2009, 01:54 PM
By Amy McCullough

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — For nearly 30 years, the Modern Day Marine exposition has brought hundreds of defense contractors to the Crossroads of the Marine Corps, where they lay out the latest in cutting-edge military technology for eager rank-and-file Marines and the Corps’ top decision-makers alike.

This year, as in the past, the gear on display ranged from the futuristic and purely conceptual to items targeting Marines’ immediate needs in Afghanistan. And to that end, the Corps’ objectives have been clear: To change the game there, Marines need to be smarter, faster and more lethal.

Marine Corps Times embedded with several combat-hardened leathernecks throughout the three-day event, which ran from Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, and asked them what emerging technology could be the most beneficial downrange. This is what they want:

1. Sunglasses that enhance vision

What: Tactical sunglasses

Developer: Smith Optics

Weight: Nominal

What it can do: Ballistic lenses offer protection from fragmentation.

Here’s an affordable alternative to other name-brand eyewear — one that comes with a variety of options. Smith’s Aegis eyeshield has a quick-release lens with antifog and scratch-resistant coating. And for just $50, Marines can purchase the field kit, which includes a hard black carrying case plus clear and dark colored lenses. One smart feature worth noting: the rose-colored Ignitor lenses. Once you put them on, you can’t even tell the lenses are red, but the unique hue offers a tactical advantage when moving into or out of tree coverings, or other from light to dark environments.

2. ‘Like a revolver’

What: M32 and MK14 MOD 0 multishot grenade launchers

Developer: Milkor USA

Weight: The M32 is 14.2 pounds unloaded and 18.2 pounds when loaded with six rounds. The MK14 weighs 14.2 and 18.4 pounds, respectively.

What it can do: Both are handheld, semi-automatic, revolving action grenade launchers designed for repelling an ambush.

The M32 and the MK14 can fire six 40mm grenades in about three seconds. And they are “a lot easier to access” than the M203, the Corps’ existing single-shot launcher, said Sgt. Nolan Couture, who teaches martial arts and artillery to new second lieutenants at The Basic School.

“Instead of fumbling around and wasting time with your gear, you already have six tubes that have different rounds already loaded,” he said. “It’s just like a revolver —

[after you shoot] it’s already changing over to the next one, whatever is in line.” A small number of Marines already are using the M32, which the Corps agreed to purchase from Milkor after commanders in the field issued an urgent needs statement in 2005. Between the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and U.S. Special Operations Command, about 500 have been fielded so far. To date, only SOCom is using the MK14, although Milkor submitted both designs to Marine Corps Systems Command when it opened an industry competition for launchers that do not feature the M32’s revolving chamber. SysCom’s level of interest is not clear.

The Corps plans to buy 2,118 launchers in all, officials have said. That would give a typical infantry company three each, though the weapons could be moved around between units, depending on mission needs.

3. Laser to improve accuracy

What: CGL Foregrip Laser

Developer: LaserMax and Colt Defense

Weight: Less than 8 ounces including mount and batteries

What it can do: Provides the accuracy of a laser without moving your hand from the trigger.

This three-in-one foregrip laser combines an LED traveling light with pulsating and steady lasers used to improve a shooter ’s accuracy.

Designed to fit the shooter ’s hand comfortably, the grip promises to relieve stress and allow him to remain in the same position longer without shaking or needing to readjust. It operates on AA batteries and can last for 30 hours with a constant beam, and 60 hours with a pulsating beam.

Better still, this guy is durable. It can withstand submersion in salt water, extremely hot and cold environments, and the weight of a Humvee, said LaserMax director of military production Christopher Gagliano, a retired sergeant major. (Yes, they ran over one to find out.) “This would be very effective for urban environments because it’s more convenient [than other lasers] and you don’t have to take your finger away from the trigger or take the weapon down. You automatically know where your target is,” said Cpl. Matt Kaufman, who has deployed as an infantryman to Afghanistan and Iraq.

4. Backpacks of the future

What: Ergonomic Load Carrying System; Electricity-Generating Load Carrying System

Developer: Lightning Packs

Weight: The ergonomic pack is about 12 pounds. The electricity-generating model is about 14 pounds with battery and charger.

What it can do: Both reduce the force on a Marine’s body. The electricity-generating pack can charge lithium ion batteries, which could significantly reduce the weight Marines carry.

It may look and feel strange, but these backpacks just might be the wave of the future. Both sit flat against your back like any other ruck, but the bags are connected to two rails that hold them about 2 inches away from your body. So as you walk, the packs move up and down along their rails, reducing the amount of pressure on your back, knees and joints.

“This pack significantly reduces musculoskeletal injuries — both the ones that happen right away and the ones that happen later in life,” said Gerry Marron, Lightning Packs’ program manager and development engineer.

The electricity-generating model, meanwhile, can harness the energy you expend while walking or running. It can produce 20 watts of power while walking — and up to 40 watts of power while running. That’s enough to charge 80 cell phones or at least two standard military-issue batteries, which can be used to charge radios and other electronics.

Lightning Packs has proven the science, Marron said, but the company wants to make the packs lighter and more rugged. The goal is to match the 9-pound ruck Marines are issued now, he said.

The Corps has shown interest in both models. Prototypes, demonstrated at the Office of Naval Research booth during the expo, could be field tested as early as next year, Marron said. And the electricity-generating pack was discussed at the Marine Corps Energy Summit held this summer in Washington.

5. Internal sight won’t permanently alter weapon

What: LMS 1441 and LMS-1441 IR Laser Sighting System

Developer: LaserMax

Weight: Less than 1 ounce

What it can do: An internal gun sight laser for the Beretta M9 pistol, it can be installed without permanent modifications to the weapon.

Imagine this: Pistol out, you’re chasing an enemy, ducking from a brightly lit area into the dark one. With a visible laser inside your M9, you could remain focused on your target without losing situational awareness.

It just might improve your hit ratio, too, according to LaserMax.

The Laser Sighting System is a quick, easy drop-in replacement for the M9 that doesn’t alter its function or reliability. The pulsating red beam closely aligns with the factory iron sight, making it easy for your eyes to find. The infrared model can project a beam visible only with night-vision goggles.

6. Handheld rail gun packs punch

What: Torrizo Electromagnetic Accelerator Rail Gun 6000

Developer: Torrizos Thomas

Weight: 8 pounds (projected)

What it can do: Although still in development, the TEMAG is expected to have an accuracy range three to four times that of conventional rifles.

Developed by a former reservist, the TEMAG 6000 may be in its infancy, but the concept behind this handheld rail gun won several fans at the expo.

Conceptually, the weapon will be able to shoot a .22 caliber, magnetically sensitive round made from a combination of aluminum and steel with the force of a .50 caliber round. The muzzle velocity: about 6,000 meters per second.

Its guts include a magnet, two parallel conducting rails consisting of a hollow tube with 8 gauge copper wire and two iron boron rails. Thomas is considering putting solar panels on the butt stock so the battery can recharge while on patrol.

Thomas, a former lance corporal discharged in 2004, said he has been working on the project for about eight years. He said he attended the expo with the hopes of finding additional funding so he can move forward with research and development.

7. Pack could ease Marines’ load

What: King Cab pack Developer: Mystery Ranch Weight: 8.5 pounds What it can do: Allows easy access to all your gear, eases pressure on back and shoulders.

Compared to the Corps’ Improved Load Bearing Equipment pack and its detachable assault pack, which offers one large and one small option for Marines on patrol, the King Cab’s modular design could be a huge improvement in combat.

It can carry everything from ammo cans, to first aid kits and is easily adjustable to fit mission requirements, Mystery Ranch designer Paul Gleason said.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Fay, a combat artist who has documented the infantry’s endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the new King Cab could carry all of his gear and its additional side saddles would “make good pillows” in the field.

The King Cab also can be used in conjunction with the Mystery Cinch, which keeps the pack’s weight off your shoulders and transfers it to the front of your body armor.

“We are trying to make rucking with body armor suck less,” he said.

8. 2 radios in 1

What: JT RS HMS Manpack

Developer: General Dynamics C4 Systems

Weight: 14½ pounds with battery

What it can do: The Manpack is like having two radios in one. It allows a Marine to communicate with both his squad leader and command leaders when they’re spread out during a mission.

This two-channel networking radio, which weighs about the same as most single-channel radio systems, allows an operator to communicate with a war fighter outside the wire while maintaining dialogue with higher headquarters. Currently, the Corps uses a single channel radio system.

It has embedded encryption and GPS capabilities, and can transmit voice and data, according to the company’s Web site. The new technology also reduces power and extends the battery life beyond that of the average radio, said Chris Brady, vice president of Assured Communications Systems for General Dynamics C4 Systems.

9. Solar energy on the go

What: Foldable solar panels

Developer: PowerFilm.

Weight: Varies

What it can do: Solar panels can lighten a Marine’s combat load by allowing him to recharge batteries while he is on patrol.

The average infantryman carries more than 100 pounds of gear — plus another 9 pounds in batteries, so anything that can help lighten the load would be a huge plus on the battlefield.

PowerFilm’s solar panels fold up like a road map and can be used to charge field communication radios, GPS systems, laptop computers — even iPods. They come in various sizes with weights ranging from a few ounces (for a AA battery charger) to about 3 pounds (for a 60-watt charger).

Marines seem to like the idea of a renewable energy source that could eliminate the need to carry extra batteries — and extra weight — in combat.

“I’m not sure how much our batteries weigh, but it’s enough to be a consideration,” said Capt. Mike Regner, a student at Quantico’s Expeditionary Warfare School. An infantry officer, he deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 and to Iraq a year later, so he is no stranger to grunts’ heavy combat load.

PowerFilm’s most popular product is the smaller USB + AA Solar Charger, which provides a full charge in four hours of sunlight, said sales director Ronald Mason Jr.

The AA charger costs about $100, he said, and can charge most small USB devices.

Already, several flexible 62-watt solar panels are in Afghanistan with members of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines.

It’s a test run to see how well they would hold up in combat, officials said.

Those panels were manufactured by another company, Global Solar, although the Corps “is always looking for new capabilities,” said Maj. M. Naomi Hawkins, a spokeswoman for Systems Command.


10-10-2009, 05:06 PM
Most of this looks pretty good, but I'll believe the railgun when I see it actually work.

10-10-2009, 11:10 PM
mmmmmm weapons