The United States military has long been one of the biggest inventors of new technology. In honor of its history and continued role as a place for scientific research and innovation, here are 10 of the coolest new things the military is researching and developing.
1. Infrared Camouflage
With the rapid advancement of technology, the camouflage of the past is no longer sufficient. Even when a servicemember or military vehicle is able to visually blend into its surroundings, infrared sensors can now locate them based on their body heat and the electromagnetic signatures they give off.
During recent testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Army officials shared their plans to continue developing infrared camouflage that can disrupt and diffuse these signatures in order to better protect their troops and vehicles.
To us, it kind of sounds like the real-life version of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.
2. Wearable Robot Suits
The Soft Exosuit from the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is essentially a wearable, lightweight robot that troops can use to increase their endurance and strength.
With integrated sensors and cables that transmit extra support where it’s needed, the exosuit allows the wearer to move naturally, but with additional support where they need it most. This support is provided automatically and is tailored to the individual wearer’s needs by a microcomputer.
3. Cyborg Insect Spies
As part of another DARPA project, the military is developing technology that would allow them to control the brains of bugs and direct their flight paths.
These cyborg insects (seriously, how cool does that sound?!) would then be used to perform reconnaissance and spying missions in areas people can’t easily access.
4. Self-Guiding Bullets
Like something out of a cartoon or comic book, DARPA is also working on developing self-guided bullets that can change their own trajectory in order to hit their target.
Called the EXACTO bullet, which stands for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance, it uses optical sighting and guidance systems to adjust its path in real time.
5. Biodegradable Ammunition
Another bullet-related development that the Army is looking into is the creation of biodegradable ammunition.
Though only intended to be used for live-fire training purposes (and not combat), the goal of the new ammunition is two-fold: to make the cartridges biodegradable and to have them contain bioengineered seeds.
These seeds will sprout into plants that can remove the toxins and pollutants released into the environment by the training ammunition.
6. Submarine-Stopping Slime
Inspired by the hagfish (Google it at your own risk!), the Navy is currently developing a type of synthetic slime that can be used to stop enemy submarines by clogging up their propellers.
The slime works by expanding up to 10,000 times its original size when it comes into contact with water. It’s primarily made up of two different proteins, one of which is tightly curled until the water causes it to unravel and expand, creating a physical barrier in a matter of minutes.
Another cool part about this slime? It doesn’t have any long-term environmental effects, since it will naturally dissipate with time.
7. Laser Cannons
Like something out of Star Wars, the military is looking to arm a variety of its vehicles, including trucks, fighter planes, and Navy ships, with lasers.
The laser cannons on aircraft would allow pilots to overcome the difficulties they face to correctly time and aim at threats approaching from behind. In addition, they could also be used to protect aircraft from surface-to-air missiles.
The lasers mounted to ships would help defend them against attacks by drones and boats, while truck-mounted lasers would neutralize mortar shells or incoming drones.
8. Smooth-Surface Wall Climber
The Z-Man wall climber was inspired by geckos’ ability to climb a variety of smooth, vertical surfaces. But we also like to think Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spiderman also played a role.
With the ability to climb up walls—even those made of glass, metal, or fiberglass—troops would have a greater element of surprise, especially in urban settings.
9. Super-Strong Copper & Tantalum Alloy
In another development reminiscent of superheroes, the Army has created a new alloy that is incredibly strong—it’s even been compared to Captain America’s fictional vibranium shield.
Just like Cap’s shield, this new alloy is able to withstand extreme impact without deforming, as well as drastic temperature changes. Because of these attributes, it can be used in a variety of capacities, including protective gear for servicemembers.
10. Metal Foam
Another metal-based technology, a material coined Composite Metal Foam (CMF) has been engineered by the Army as part of a research partnership with North Carolina State University. Like its name suggests, CMF is a metal that is filled with foam-like air pockets.
Thanks to its composition, CMF is much lighter than traditional metal. But it’s also much stronger and better at withstanding ballistic impacts. The holes in the metal disperse and distribute both heat and energy from a collision.
Tell Us Your Favorite Military Innovation!
In addition to these 10 developments, there were many, many others that we could have included. Some honorable mentions are the Visual Eye room mapper, a satellite melter, brain implants that help restore memories, and synthetic lifeforms that can alert and track enemies.
With so much amazing research being performed by the military, we know we’ve probably missed some! If you feel like we left something off the list, comment and let us know. At Low VA Rates, we’re so grateful for the military and all they do—including making the world a better place through new technology.