Army researchers explore the future of computing

The May/June 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine focuses on future computing.

The May/June 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine focuses on future computing.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 1, 2015) — Supercomputers and new kinds of algorithms are making a big difference as Army scientists explore what’s possible with future computing, according to a senior computer researcher.

“It’s enabling us to do things like design new munitions and design new materials from scratch,” said Dr. John Pellegrino, Computational and Information Sciences director at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. “We’re just beginning to see how to do modeling of materials so we can have control over every stage of the development and therefore come up with totally new classes of ultra-lightweight and ultra-strong materials for armor or new kinds of electronics for example.”

Pellegrino is the featured interview for the May/June 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.

“There is almost limitless potential out there,” Pellegrino said. “We’re doing some really fascinating work from modeling and simulation of materials by design from the atom all the way up to the interaction of humans and information and hardware — whether that be robotics or information systems embodied in chips — that will enable the Soldier to be very highly instrumented and capable and have more information and access at their fingertips than ever before.”

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Revolutionizing Soldier communication

Noninvasive electroencephalography based brain-computer interface enables direct brain-computer communication for training. (U.S. Army photo)

Noninvasive electroencephalography based brain-computer interface enables direct brain-computer communication for training. (U.S. Army photo)

By Jenna Brady, ARL Public Affairs

What if you could communicate through your computer or phone without making a sound or moving a single muscle?

Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory are investigating this very concept, which has the potential to revolutionize both medical applications and the way in which Soldiers communicate on the battlefield.

The science behind this idea is known as Brain-Computer Interface, known as BCI, which aims to create technologies for recording brain activity and establishing computational methods and algorithms to translate the signals into computer executable commands.

BCI has been most commonly used with individuals who are paralyzed and cannot move or communicate verbally due to paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body, with the exception of their eyes.

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Envisioning the Future of Computing

Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton commands the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton commands the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

By Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton, Commanding General, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command

As we invest in a future where technology will lighten the load and better protect Soldiers, we look to scientists and engineers from across the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command and ask, “What decisive capabilities will future computing bring for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation?”

With advanced computers, the U.S. Army continues to see improvements and efficiencies. But where will we be in 10 years?

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Virtually Human: Researchers explore powerful medium for experiential learning

In the Army’s Emergent Leader Immersive Training Environment, or ELITE, soldiers hone their basic counseling skills through practice with virtual humans like virtual Staff Sergeant Jessica Chen.

In the Army’s Emergent Leader Immersive Training Environment, or ELITE, soldiers hone their basic counseling skills through practice with virtual humans like virtual Staff Sergeant Jessica Chen.

By Orli Belman, USC Institute for Creative Technologies

New research aims to get robots and humans to speak the same language to improve communication in fast-moving and unpredictable situations.

Scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies are exploring the potential of developing a flexible multi-modal human-robot dialogue that includes natural language, along with text, images and video processing.

“Research and technology are essential for providing the best capabilities to our warfighters,” said Dr. Laurel Allender, director of the ARL Human Research and Engineering Directorate. “This is especially so for the immersive and live-training environments we are developing to achieve squad overmatch and to optimize Soldier performance, both mentally and physically.”

The collaboration between the Army and ICT addresses the needs of current and future Soldiers by enhancing the effectiveness of the immersive training environment through the use of realistic avatars, virtual humans and intelligent agent technologies, she said.

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Unleash the Power: DOD Supercomputing Resource Center achieves four petaflops

By Joyce P. Brayboy, ARL Public Affairs

When Lila Todd Butler graduated from Temple University in 1941 as the only female mathematician in a class of 1,600, she had no idea she would be one of the computer programmers of ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer.

Butler retired from the Ballistics Research Laboratory in 1979 after having written the book of routines that ran the ENIAC and having dedicated her life to developing scientific computer languages.

When she and five other women who had worked at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s predecessor laboratory, BRL, returned nearly 20 years later for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for what we know today as the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Defense Supercomputing Resource Center in 1996, it marked a new era of high-performance computing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

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Computers harness language translation

Afghan Army doctors in a clinic adjacent to Forward Operating Base Lightning and outside the city of Gardez in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, received copies of the critical care manual translated during a partnership between doctors who were in the region and U.S. Army Research Laboratory researchers using computer translation technology. (U.S. Army photo)

Afghan Army doctors in a clinic adjacent to Forward Operating Base Lightning and outside the city of Gardez in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, received copies of the critical care manual translated during a partnership between doctors who were in the region and U.S. Army Research Laboratory researchers using computer translation technology. (U.S. Army photo)

By Joyce P. Brayboy, ARL Public Affairs

While leading a medical training team in Kabul, Afghanistan, a U.S. Navy commander became frustrated as he faced the challenge of interpreting complex medical information.

Commander Kurt Henry was seeing cases of intestinal tuberculosis that he knew were treatable, but the regional hospital’s critical care unit did not have medical manuals to provide treatment instruction for newly assigned doctors.

When he scanned the Internet for documentation about treatment options, he only came across information written in English. His team spoke the native language of the Afghan people, Dari, recalled Steve LaRocca, computer scientist and team chief at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

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Cognitive science research: Steering Soldiers in the right direction

Dr. Tad Brunyé (right) and Breanne Hawes, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center Cognitive Science Team, examine brain hemodynamic and electroencephalography results for a study examining the brain signatures of mental workload during virtual navigation research (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm).

Dr. Tad Brunyé (right) and Breanne Hawes, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center Cognitive Science Team, examine brain hemodynamic and electroencephalography results for a study examining the brain signatures of mental workload during virtual navigation research (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm).

By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public Affairs

Soldiers face special challenges during navigation. Their jobs are physically demanding. They are often under extreme stress, and they often need to make quick decisions in an ever-changing and sometimes dangerous environment. They may be cold, hot, hungry or tired. All of these factors can affect the ability to make wise navigation decisions.

Army researchers use virtual reality to test to test Soldiers and discover influences on choices people make when choosing a route.

Dr. Tad Brunyé, a member of the Cognitive Science Team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, investigates spatial and non-spatial influences on Soldier navigation choices.

“This type of knowledge will help optimize Soldier performance,” Brunyé said. “Soldiers also show reliable biases in memory for landmark locations due to the emotional nature of events that transpired at that location.”

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Limitless potential of Future Computing

Interview with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Dr. John Pellegrino

Dr. John Pellegrino is the director of the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate and chief information officer for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
He is responsible for basic and applied research and its transition in the areas of network and information sciences, cyber defense, high-performance computing and battlefield environments. His duties include research program development and coordination, technology transition and support to current forces, as well as responsibility for laboratory network operations. He has technical oversight of the state-of-the art-high performance computing assets, computational capabilities, and wide area networking methodologies for the laboratory, Department of the Army, and DOD; as well as oversight of the DOD Major Shared Resource Center at ARL and the Army High-Performance Computing Research Center.Pellegrino earned a bachelor of arts in physics from Gordon College in 1976, a master of science in physics from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980 and completed his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981.
He has authored and co-authored more than two dozen technical papers and reports, and is co-editor of the book “Accousto-Optic Signal Processing.”

Army Technology Magazine recently interviewed Dr. Pellegrino.

Question: What is your vision for the future of computing?

Pellegrino: We’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with computing.

We see the future of computing continuing down two paths. One, to be the big iron computing, or the massive computing architectures and machines. It is massively parallel and incorporates new kinds of algorithms. It’s enabling us to do things like design new munitions and design new materials from scratch.

We’re just beginning to see how to do modeling of materials so we can have control over every stage of the development and therefore come up with totally new classes of ultra-lightweight and ultra-strong materials for armor or new kinds of electronics for example.

As we march forward, we’re going to be tackling big problems in networks. What is a composite network? How does the Internet work? How are we going to be able to protect it, and extract information from it? That’s one whole train of research in computing and application of computing that will be going on.

We have only a vague idea at this time how to protect that information. Cyber-defense is a big issue. The communications, even protecting parts of the communication, how information is connected, how to keep communications robust even in the face of heavy adversarial action … it’s a big deal.

On the other side, it’s the embedded computing that will be in just about everything. We see these things going in a trajectory to be more and more powerful, but to be more embedded and integral with things.

One of the futures of computing that many of us see is that extremely interesting space of the intersection with the human and the computer. The human originality, creativity, the spark, will benefit from the augmentation of more mundane things to really enable that creativity and foster and let it grow without having to worry about the ordinary porting around stuff.

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Virtual is Reality: Natick aims to help subject matter experts see big picture

Mary Giacalone, an NSRDEC program analyst (left) and Rick Haddad, co-lead for the Force Protection, Soldier and Small Unit, Science and Technology Objective Demonstration, work on early deliverables on a virtual demonstrator, which is part of a much larger, Army-wide, Soldier System Engineering Architecture effort. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

Mary Giacalone, an NSRDEC program analyst (left) and Rick Haddad, co-lead for the Force Protection, Soldier and Small Unit, Science and Technology Objective Demonstration, work on early deliverables on a virtual demonstrator, which is part of a much larger, Army-wide, Soldier System Engineering Architecture effort. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public Affairs

Natick researchers are creating a virtual world to provide an accurate, instant and interactive snapshot of the Soldier and his or her equipment.

With optimal performance in mind, Rick Haddad and the Soldier Capabilities Integration Team from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are working to ensure the Soldier and equipment work together in concert.

“We developed a likely task scenario environment that a Soldier or squad would be operating in and took every protection project and found where it most likely would have value to the warfighter within the scenario,” Haddad said. “We created a visual where people could see how their project fits in the operational environment and how it works with other products.”

The team created a virtual demonstration of 77 projects. In the long-term, Haddad said he hopes the virtual demonstration will spark the development of a web-based interactive tool that will extend across Army Science and Technology to make products for the Soldier more compatible and enhance Soldier performance.

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Cyber strategy in tactical environments

“We’re highly reliant on distributed communications systems, which are more prone to interception because you are in close proximity to the enemy within radio line of sight range,”  said Giorgio Bertoli, CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, acting chief scientist.

“We’re highly reliant on distributed communications systems, which are more prone to interception because you are in close proximity to the enemy within radio line of sight range,” said Giorgio Bertoli, CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, acting chief scientist.

By Kristen Kushiyama, CERDEC Public Affairs

The U.S. Army is analyzing cyberspace requirements and outlining potential technical investments based on its Cyber Materiel Development Strategy released in February 2015.

Doctrinal, operational, acquisition and research and development communities for Army materiel development worked together for more than two years on the comprehensive strategy, which looks at where Army cyberspace capabilities currently are and what lies ahead.

“The Army must be prepared to operate and fight within the Cyberspace Domain,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Heidi Shyu. “It is essential … that we use our limited acquisition and science and technology resources to identify and address critical Army specific problem sets and capability gaps. Where possible, we must leverage the best solutions and ideas available through our partnerships and collaboration within the Department of Defense, other government agencies, industry and academia.”

Shyu appointed Henry Muller, director of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, as the Army Cyber Task Force lead.

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Miniaturization: Where good ideas and technology meet

Shane Thompson, an electronics engineer with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, displays a compact processor board, developed by AMRDEC's Image and Signal Processing Function, which performs both target acquisition and tracking. (U.S. Army photo by Nikki Montgomery)

Shane Thompson, an electronics engineer with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, displays a compact processor board, developed by AMRDEC’s Image and Signal Processing Function, which performs both target acquisition and tracking. (U.S. Army photo by Nikki Montgomery)

AMRDEC Public Affairs

Miniaturization and advances in computing have had an enormous impact on all aspects of life — especially in the realm of digital image and signal processing.

Only a decade or two ago, appreciable computing power required to perform military-grade image and signal processing tasks necessitated large, clunky computers or racks of dedicated processors.

Now, powerful processing speeds and computational capability are common in tablet computers and even smart phones.

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center now has advanced computational power capabilities in a package small enough to bring complex image and signal processing technology to small battlefield weapons.

“We are leveraging advances in computer technology to push the Army’s state-of-the-art in a diverse range of military applications,” said Steven Vanstone, AMRDEC Image and Signal Processing Function acting chief.

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Computer simulations improve lethality

Michael Cataldi, a mechanical engineer and modeling and simulation analyst with the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, explains how the Army uses Finite element modeling to evaluates structural integrating of small caliber munitions during launch. (U.S. Army photo by Todd Mozes)

Michael Cataldi, a mechanical engineer and modeling and simulation analyst with the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, explains how the Army uses Finite element modeling to evaluates structural integrating of small caliber munitions during launch. (U.S. Army photo by Todd Mozes)

By Eric Kowal, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs

With the steady increase in computing power, engineers are able to improve lethality with sophisticated computer models by eliminating unworkable designs.

Mechanical engineers can understand the effects different caliber ammunition will have on targets.

“We are able to get a more detailed small caliber lethality analysis with more advanced computer technology, by quantifying the numerous constituents of a ballistic event ending in the incapacitation of an individual,” said Mark Minisi, technology team leader at the Small Caliber Munitions Division of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

“It takes a significant complexity of computer power,” Minisi said.

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Army applies computer automation to operational decision making

 

Commander's Virtual Staff will explore commercial technologies and advances in artificial intelligence as part of its efforts to support tactical decision making for Army commanders and their staff. (U.S. Army photo)

Commander’s Virtual Staff will explore commercial technologies and advances in artificial intelligence as part of its efforts to support tactical decision making for Army commanders and their staff. (U.S. Army photo)

CERDEC Public Affairs

Apple’s Siri. IBM’s Watson. Google Now. These well-known systems attempt to interact with humans in natural ways, solve complex problems, try to evolve, and continually better understand their environments and the humans with whom they interact.

Sound familiar? In many ways, each of these technologies are acting much like a staff for their human counterparts. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is seeking to apply cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and computer automation to support tactical decision making for Army commanders and staff.

CERDEC will launch a new science and technology project next year called the Commander’s Virtual Staff, or CVS, which seeks to fundamentally transform how automation is delivered to commanders.

“We have made real progress in getting decision makers data, whether they need it or not; now we need to give them not just data, but information and knowledge as well as decision-aiding tools,” said John Willison, CERDEC Command, Power and Integration director.

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RDECOM charts way ahead for systems engineering

Systems Engineering Viewpoint by Thomas Haduch.

Program managers, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; and life cycle sustainment commands are responsible for Army weapon systems management from inception to retirement.

Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM, encompasses development, engineering, manufacturing, test and logistics activities – all of which require creation of and access to a large set of data about a product.

Product Data Management, or PDM, is the business function within PLM that is responsible for the creation, management and publication of and access to product data.

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Army aviation continues efforts for technology development

The tiltrotor V-280 Valor aircraft is Bell Helicopter's vision of the future as it prepares for flight demonstrations for the Army in 2017. (Artist's rendering courtesy Bell Helicopter)

The tiltrotor V-280 Valor aircraft is Bell Helicopter’s vision of the future as it prepares for flight demonstrations for the Army in 2017. (Artist’s rendering courtesy Bell Helicopter)

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (April 13, 2015) — The Army recently extended technology investment agreements with two commercial companies to continue concept refinement and technology maturation for future vertical lift, or FVL, research. 

The Army is continuing its ties with AVX Aircraft Company and Karem Aircraft Incorporated. 

“This is an opportunity to execute further technology maturation with these two partners and expand the knowledge base of the Joint Multirole [JMR] Technology Demonstrator [TD] efforts in support of FVL decision points,” Dan Bailey, program director for FVL/JMR, said.

AVX will mature coaxial compound design, focusing on aerodynamic stability, high fidelity computational fluid dynamic analysis and limited wind tunnel testing scheduled for 2015-2017. 

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Army science advisor discusses technology issues at Lightning Forge

Soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division execute the Lightning Forge exercise before heading to a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division execute the Lightning Forge exercise before heading to a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 18, 2015) — A U.S. Army science advisor engaged with Soldiers during the Lightning Forge exercise to address equipment challenges.

The environment in Hawaii presents specific issues not seen in most of the Army’s areas of operations, said Maj. Jim Czora, with Army Reserve Sustainment Command, Detachment 8.

“The climate and environment in the tropics is different from what a lot of our military equipment sees in the States or Europe theater,” he said. “The Pacific is very humid and corrosive relative to other operational environments.

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Aviation and missile team selected for vertical flight research award

HMVS during flight testing at Felker Army Airfield at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

HMVS during flight testing at Felker Army Airfield at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Mar. 19, 2015) — A team from the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center were selected to receive the 2015 American Helicopter Society Grover E. Bell Award as part of the Hub Mounted Vibration Suppressor team.

The Grover E. Bell Award is given for an outstanding research and experimentation contribution to the field of vertical flight development brought to fruition during the preceding calendar year.

“The incredible accomplishments by the engineers, scientists and leaders who advance vertical flight technology and by the skilled pilots and crews who operate their products is staggering,” said Ed Birtwell, Vice President and General Manager, Turboshaft/Turboprop Engines for GE Aviation and this year’s Chair of the Board of AHS International. “The AHS International Awards Program has very high standards. Those recognized today are truly outstanding examples of the best that the technical and operational communities have to offer.”

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Combat rations database allows Soldiers to learn about meals, ready-to-eat nutrition

A Soldier digs into a First Strike Ration in the mountains of Afghanistan. Nutritional information about the First Strike Ration and other individual rations is now available at the online combat rations database.

A Soldier digs into a First Strike Ration in the mountains of Afghanistan. Nutritional information about the First Strike Ration and other individual rations is now available at the online combat rations database.

NATICK, Mass. (March 16, 2015) — When Soldiers rip open meals, ready-to-eat, also known as MRE, in a combat zone, most people probably are thinking more about flavor and filling their stomachs than about the nutrition.

However, that does not mean nutrition is not important. The new online combat rations database, or ComRaD, formally launched earlier this month by the Department of Defense’s Human Performance Resource Center, or HPRC, provides warfighters, military dietitians, food service officers and leaders the opportunity to learn more about the nutritional value of what is inside those packages.

ComRaD is the result of a collaborative effort between HPRC, the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, also known as NSRDEC, and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, at Natick Soldier Systems Center. The database contains nutrition information about the MRE, First Strike Ration, Meal, Cold Weather, and Food Packet, Long Range Patrol.

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Army looks at the future of aircraft survivability

Mark Calafut works for the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

Mark Calafut works for the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

By Mark Calafut, CERDEC

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The interconnected world of electronic systems provides an opportunity and a challenge for Army Aviation. As the Army develops its next-generation survivability systems, it has the opportunity to cost-effectively leverage advanced commercial electronics and integration technologies. However, it also faces the challenge of maintaining its technological edge, because many of those same commercial electronics are available to potential adversaries.

Today, Army aircraft are protected by a collection of survivability technologies, including onboard electronic survivability systems. Each onboard survivability system is designed to be independently effective at detecting or defeating a specific class of weapon systems, such as electro-optic and radio-frequency guided missiles or ballistic munitions. When adversaries employ these weapon systems against Army aircraft, the appropriate onboard survivability system automatically detects and defeats the threat, protecting the aircraft and crew.

Historically, onboard survivability systems were designed and developed independently. As technology matured and new weapon systems emerged, the Army upgraded existing survivability systems, or in some cases, added entirely new survivability systems to the aircraft. Instead of a truly integrated survivability suite, the result is a piecemeal approach whereby modern aircraft are protected by a collection of proprietary systems, often developed by different contractors and generally not built with open architectures that would much more readily enable their interoperability.

This presents disadvantages. Although many onboard systems require common components, the independent design and development of the systems prevents components from being centralized and shared. The independent designs came from systems not developed from a systems-of-systems approach with an open standard that established a technical vision for interoperable systems.

In many cases, this leads to duplication of components, such as processors or displays that would be unnecessary if the systems were integrated. However, the present lack of integration also prevents onboard systems from communicating with one another and operating cooperatively, which limits reliability and adaptability. For example, if a single protection system fails or is destroyed, the other onboard systems cannot intelligently compensate for that loss.

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Army researchers design better protective gear

An Apache crew member dons the Joint Service Aircrew Mask during an operations test conducted at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo)

An Apache crew member dons the Joint Service Aircrew Mask during an operations test conducted at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo)

ECBC Communications

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Chemical-biological protective gear worn by Army pilots and aircrews has evolved to improve survivability in flight.

Engineers at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, are putting design at the forefront of new Mission-Oriented Protective Posture gear, known as MOPP, in order to carefully tailor a suit that addresses specific pilot needs during a given air mission.

Army engineers are working on a chemical-biological protective mask that mitigates thermal burden and hydration issues for flight crews that can also fully integrate with specific current and future aircraft.

“With more than 130 different platforms, five different helmets and a variety of aircrew equipment, focusing on one mask design became difficult,” said Don Kilduff, an ECBC engineer who has supported JSAM since its inception. “Over time, the program split into different systems to meet the specific needs across the DOD aviation community.”

The Joint Service Aircrew Mask, known as JSAM, was initiated in 1999 by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense and the Joint Project Manager for Protection.

The goal of the program is to provide individual respiratory, ocular and percutaneous protection from chemical and biological warfare agents and radiological particulates for pilots and aircrew.

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