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Gear makers show off ‘cool factor' at AUSA

Feb. 25, 2013 - 09:16AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 25, 2013 - 09:16AM  |  
The Combat Assault Glove
The Combat Assault Glove (Lance M. Bacon)
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A number of cool things set to improve life as you know it were on display at the Association of the U.S. Army's winter symposium. Here are the top five:

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A number of cool things set to improve life as you know it were on display at the Association of the U.S. Army's winter symposium. Here are the top five:

Combat Assault Glove

Wiley X has improved its popular assault gloves with "Touchtec," which allows soldiers to operate touch-screen devices.

Smartphones and tablets responded as though the glove wasn't there. The material is soft enough to conform to the individual's hand, so there was no "fat fingering" when sending a message.

This is a must-have as the Army turns smartphone technology tactical. Nett Warrior, the centerpiece of this endeavor, puts everything from situational awareness to aerial feeds in the hands of the individual soldier — and counts on the soldier to send back battlefield intel.

The improved gloves will be available by the end of February, said Chris Holmes, government sales account manager. And they will come with the familiar attributes you've come to know and love: durable goatskin leather with a 110-percent Kevlar weave and hard knuckle protectors.

Less than a year ago, Wiley X unveiled the intermediate cold-weather glove with Drifire fleece. That also has been a big hit among soldiers, who like that it breathes when you're hot and captures your heat when it is cold.

Wiley X, a leader in ballistic eye protection, also plans to unveil some cool new eyewear this spring, Holmes said.

Kwikpoint Smart Guides

If you have deployed to theater, then you've carried one or a dozen of these helpful handouts in your cargo pocket.

Now there are new editions you'll want to add to your collection.

First is the Counter-IED Smart Guide. This is not the brick-size guide you carried in Afghanistan. (In fairness, that brick was a lot better to carry than the cinder-block-size manual published by the Army.) Driven by the Maneuver Center of Excellence, this new spiral-bound edition is smaller and concise. It covers 10 critical areas and offers a handy safe standoff distance cheat sheet.

Newer soldiers who have always relied on these guides have no idea how hard it was to communicate with natives at the onset of the war. Back then, soldiers needed an interpreter and a lot of patience.

This problem won't be repeated as strategic focus shifts to the Pacific region. Kwikpoint already has visual language translators for practically every country and language, and that is a good thing. While future training will have a regional focus, disaster assistance can happen anywhere, at any time.

Army Times also picked up a draft guide for adjusting the headspace and timing of the M2 .50-caliber machine gun. Mitch Sherman, Kwikpoint's military and government sales manager, said the guide was requested by the Army, and the guide is spot-on.

But it begs the question: Why is anyone manning a .50-cal without knowledge of headspace and timing? Getting this wrong will cause a malfunction at best and an explosion at worst.

Ironically, the XM806 lightweight .50-caliber machine gun, which fell prey to budget cuts less than a year ago, would have allowed quick barrel changes without adjustments for headspace and timing. It also cut the weight of the 128-pound M2 by half, reduced recoil by 60 percent and boasted an effective range of 2,000 meters, 170 better than the M2.

Perhaps the money saved will be used to buy some headspace and timing guides.

Counterfire radar

They call it the Omni-directional Weapon Locating, or OWL, radar. It isn't much to look at, but it can look in a whole lot of places others radars can't see.

The OWL will provide hemispherical coverage. It scans from minus 20 degrees to a vertical 90 degrees, which means it can detect objects ascending from a valley or descending from above. Current radars typically track objects when they are within the 30- and 60-degree window.

And this radar's search isn't focused on mortar and artillery rounds alone. OWL's 360-degree azimuth coverage lets it track objects throughout flight, and nonrotating antenna architecture lets it track slow-moving targets, such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

The revolutionary radar is the product of SRC Inc. and the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate. It has been in technology development for 2½ years, and a technology demonstrator is expected by year's end, said David Bessey, director of business development.

Also keep an eye on SRC's Vigilant Falcon air defense system.

The success of unmanned aerial systems is no secret, and bad guys will increasingly rely on this technology like you do. Vigilant Falcon can detect, track and identify those threats out to 40 klicks. It also delivers "electronic negation capabilities." That's a polite way of saying the system can steal or alter electronic communications sent to and from the UAS.

Semi-active shock system

Hydropneumatic and semi-active shock systems may not top the list when you think of cool new gear. But trick out your Humvee or mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle with these and you will have smoother rides at faster speeds with less maintenance.

General Kinetics has products on a wide variety of Army vehicles. The company combined decades of experience with emerging technologies to build a four-stage modular suspension system that incrementally improves your ride when and where you need it.

In Stage 1, a position-sensitive passive damper activates valves to allow more hydraulic fluid to enter the system. This allows tire movement to pass into the spring and dissipate as heat instead of entering the frame, where it thrashes the vehicle crew. This provides not only a smoother ride but also a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in speed over terrain, said Don Flynn, vice president of business development.

A semi-active damper comes into play in Stage 2. It adds an electronic control unit to determine conditional forces such as speed, weight, terrain and angle. The unit then adjusts the amount of hydraulic fluid provided to ensure the best damping — and this happens in milliseconds.

This semi-active system is on the British MXT, making it the only one of its kind fielded in Afghanistan. It also has more than 55,000 miles of Army testing, said Flynn, a former cavalry officer.

"What we found is that it is able to go anywhere from 20 [percent] to 65 percent faster over terrain and the 10,000-mile durability test saw hourly operating costs cut by about half," he said. "When you have less banging and clanging on things like the frame and ball joints, you save money."

This damping technology is in the final two stages, which provide mission set options.

The spring is removed in Stage 3, and the shock becomes a strut. This is a big bonus in today's Army, in which vehicle weight and height change regularly. A metallic spring is certified for certain weights. When you get out of those parameters, performance suffers.

This technology allows hydraulic changes to change shaft position to maintain peak performance. It also lets you easily lower vehicle height for transport.

This manual feature is automated in Stage 4. Imagine you have bad guys closing in and a hot extract on the way. The vehicle can meet height requirements with the push of a button in the cab.

Lockheed Martin JLTV

Though the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is not new, Lockheed Martin did something that definitely puts it in the "cool" category.

The company on Feb. 21 fired a Direct Attack Guided Rocket from a prototype JLTV. The 10-pound warhead hit its lased target, which was more than three miles away.

This capability, though cool, is not a requirement in the ongoing JLTV competition. But Lockheed is making some big gains there, as well.

The Army selected three vehicles in its race to replace the Humvee with JLTV. AM General, Lockheed Martin and Oshkosh received contracts valued at a combined $185 million. Each is building 22 vehicles that will endure hundreds of rigorous tests in the engineering and manufacturing development phase.

The Army/Marine Corps team is looking for a $250,000 base vehicle with mission kits. That keeps the cost in the area of a recapped Humvee but offers better mobility and the survivability of an MRAP.

Lockheed Martin relied on systems integration experience and the insight of more than 100 people to beef up force protection while cutting weight from this modular design. A "very focused optimization effort" further cut cost. It eliminated exotic materials, simplified components and made the most of parts commonality, said Kathryn Hasse, director of Lockheed's JLTV systems.

The company also tapped soldiers for feedback on everything from mirror placement to maintenance access. The easy-to-use crew cab was designed for the war fighter by the war fighter.

The EMD phase is scheduled to wrap up in late 2015. The Army wants at least 20,000 JLTVs, with the potential to buy a lot more. Officials want to replace a third of the 150,000-vehicle Humvee fleet with the JLTV. The Marine Corps plans to buy 5,500.

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