As advancements are made to manufacturing and technology, the strengths and shortcomings of military equipment shift, altering what a soldier is able to do in the field. Recently, the U.S. Army explored ways to change how they acquire, maintain and place stockpiles of equipment to enable a faster and more efficient response.

Smaller stockpiles and better materials and increase deployment speed
According to the Military Times, the Army is changing its critical equipment as a means to speed up unit deployment of units to meet threats and assist in humanitarian missions around the world. Smaller, well-placed stockpiles could allow troops on the ground to access military gear, vehicles and weapons quickly, regardless of the mission location.

Changes to the manufacture of equipment is also aimed at improving speed. Troops deployed to the Middle East endure high temperatures and desert conditions. Previous equipment, such as armor vests, kept soldiers safe, but its weight and bulk also trapped heat and slowed them down.

Through their program “Lighten the Soldier’s Load,” the Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) researched how much gear could be dropped before its loss negatively impacted an individual’s operational capabilities. According to The Seattle Times, AWG applied their findings to equipment design and allowed troops to reduce the weight of their gear by up to 24 pounds. The research also pushed the Rapid Equipping Force and Program Executive Officers to collaborate with AWG toward a common goal of improving soldiers’ comfort and speed without sacrificing safety. That cooperation becomes more important as cutting-edge technology promises to dramatically change the training soldiers need in the future.

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Innovations will alter training needs
The U.S. Special Operations Command recently issued a call for white papers from organizations and companies capable of providing advanced technology with military applications. The special forces wish list includes lighter and non-lethal weapons, guided bullets, ways to decrease latency in communications, and technologies to keep people from entering an area. Some of those items are closer to reality than others.

The Associated Press reports that a special “Iron Man” suit may be just a few years away from implementation. Covering a soldier with head-to-toe bulletproof material, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) prototype can monitor vital signs, stop wounds from hemorrhaging and convey battlefield information in real time. Military officials hope that these innovations will protect personnel while making them more effective soldiers.

“We’ve lost a lot of guys to gunshot wounds and explosions,” James Geurts, the Deputy for Acquisition of the U.S. Special Operations Command at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, told The Associated Press. “If there’s anything I can do to more rapidly field technology, give better protection, better capability, any progress, I think we’ve done well.”

According to Defense Tech, the Army purchased smart rifles from a Texas startup, TrackingPoint, to evaluate the long-range weapons. With minimal training, an inexperienced shooter can hit a target about 1,000 yards away on the first shot. Current military snipers have a first-shot success between 20 and 30 percent, according to a marketing official from TrackingPoint.

“That’s the big value proposition,” Oren Schauble told Defense Tech. “This is not necessarily for [snipers]. This is for guys who don’t have that training who need to perform in greater capabilities. This is more for your average soldier.”

All of the proposed changes to gear—whether for high-tech equipment or standard-issue uniforms—will require more than just funding to carry out. Adjusting to new tools could be difficult for even the most seasoned soldiers, but with training to accompany innovation, technology will continue to benefit our troops and help them complete their mission and come home alive.

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