Imagine when the catapult was introduced as an amazing new addition to modern warfare—kings and generals of the past must have thought they were seeing the peak of military technology. Of course that wasn’t the case, and although it’s tempting to think the same about the awe-inspiring tech used in today’s military, there’s always something even more incredible around the corner.
So what will the future of military technology look like? A lot like science fiction, at least according to this list of projects from the world’s leading tech centers:
Ground forces are often deployed to areas that trucks, Jeeps, and even ATVs can’t navigate, which means troops must carry all supplies on their backs. All that weight leads to slower movement, higher levels of fatigue, and an overall drag on the mission—but not when robotic pack mules are available. Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics is currently developing autonomic four-legged mules that can carry immense amounts of gear and supplies while remaining agile on tough trails. They’re also surprisingly quiet—a key trait for use in secret missions.
Meshworm and Flybot
Robotics feature significantly in futuristic military technology, and mechanical helpers aren’t limited by size. Some of the smallest robots in development include the Meshworm—propelling its indestructible body forward like an earthworm—and the Flybot, a remote controlled robot the size of a bumblebee. Both robot “bugs” can reach previously unreachable places, like confined spaces or areas contaminated by chemical or biological weapons, and report back crucial data that human soldiers could never hope to acquire otherwise.
Military conflicts fought exclusively by robot soldiers is a decent possibility in the future, but before that day comes, armed forces will more closely resemble Iron Man with powered exoskeletons. Mechanized titanium leg braces will allow soldiers to carry up to 200 pounds for an unlimited time without fatigue, and there are plenty of possibilities for addon weapons, sensors, and other modifications—perhaps even rocket-propelled flight, like researchers’ comic book inspiration.
While many military tech ideas come from sci-fi, one invention currently under development seems to be inspired by one of the most popular fantasy books ever: Harry Potter. Imagine what Special Forces could accomplish if they had his invisibility cloak? A Canadian camouflage design company is trying to turn fantasy into reality with their. Quantum Stealth camouflage, a material that bends light waves around it to make the wearer invisible to the naked eye, night vision goggles, and thermal signature detectors—it doesn’t even cast a shadow.
The ultimate in terms of sci-fi becoming reality, space-based lasers are currently banned by international agreements—but that doesn’t mean researchers aren’t working on potential weapons just in case those agreements expire. The laser could be used to blast a destructive beam at an enemy location thousands of miles away, or it could provide protection against incoming enemy missiles or attacks against US satellites in orbit.
Plasma force fields
Innovations in weaponry are important, but so are innovations in shield technology. Boeing is on the forefront of this field, having recently received a patent for a plasma force field that can repel or absorb shock waves from explosives. Although the tech is still in the exploratory phase, it will apparently use electricity, lasers, and microwave radiation to superheat an area in front of the shockwave to create a field of protective plasma.
Bullets haven’t changed that much since their origins as small solid projectiles, but new technology promises to give the humble bullet quite the update. Researchers at the US’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are outfitting .50 caliber shells with inbound computer guidance systems, which can control small fins on the bullet’s surface and allow it to make course corrections during flight. They can even home in on moving targets, taking sharpshooting to incredibly precise new levels.
Another use for military-grade bullets
Someday our military might have no more use for standard bullets, but until then, Bullets2Bandages will continue to collect spent cartridges and transform them into customizable Bullet Bottle Openers and Tap Handles. We’ll also continue to support our troops by donating 15% of our annual profits to veteran charities—at least until robot soldiers take over.
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Posted by Kevin Kelly
Marine Veteran & Content editor and creator.