By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOM Public Affairs
Military researchers demonstrated how their scientific and engineering efforts enable technological overmatch for Soldiers during the Department of Defense Lab Day at the Pentagon May 14.
Subject-matter experts from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s seven centers and labs displayed examples of their latest research to hundreds of uniformed and civilian defense employees in the Pentagon’s Courtyard.
ADVANCED MILITARY EXPLOSION-MITIGATING LAND DEMONSTRATOR
The CAMEL demonstrates research integrated into a vehicle platform from RDECOM’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Officials, including U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., stepped inside the CAMEL for a closer look to inspect the vehicle’s emerging technologies. Dunford will become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey retires later this year.
The vehicle is the culmination of a three-year program, said Chantelle Korson, demonstrator lead for the CAMEL. Several design and engineering initiatives were developed for the project, and the components were combined with a focus on limiting injuries to Soldiers of all sizes.
Lessons learned from the CAMEL can be integrated into future military vehicle platforms, she said.
“There has been an increased blast threat in theater over the past five to 10 years,” Korson said. “We have built mechanisms for transportability, high mobility and lethality, and then we’ve put Soldiers in those platforms. If I sit in some legacy platforms today, my head will hit the roof.
“We really need to design from the occupant out. Our population has also grown larger over the years. Historically we have done blast-testing with the middle-of-the-road Soldier. When you expand to smaller and larger people, your injury criteria changes and the problem becomes more difficult. The two main goals were accommodating that population and designing for increased blast protection.”
Crowds lined up throughout the day to taste samples of new MRE components, including the long-awaited pizza. RDECOM’s Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center leads MRE research.
Stephen Moody, director of the NSRDEC’s Combat Feeding Directorate, said the Army field-tests MREs with 200 to 400 Soldiers and Marines each year.
Researchers provide new and existing components to measure preferences. NSRDEC then takes the highest-rated new components and swaps them for the lowest-rated existing components to ensure a fresh mix of rations.
“In 2017, we have the shelf-stable pizza coming up. It’s one of the things we’re highlighting today,” Moody said. “It’s one of the highest requested items in the MRE. It took a lot of science to get pizza that would last for three years at 80 degrees, but we were finally able to do that.
“With the pizza as well as shelf-stable pocket sandwiches that we’re highlighting, we use hurdle technology. We control several factors within the food — water activity, pH and oxygen within the package — to create a barrier to microbial growth and to hinder the chemistry that degrades food.”
ADVANCED ARMOR RESEARCH
Developing advanced armor protection for warfighters’ body armor and helmets as well as combat vehicles is a major thrust area for the Army Research Laboratory, said Steve Taulbee, an engineer in ARL’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.
“We’re showing components and mechanisms in advanced materials that go into armors for protecting Soldiers against enemy weapon threats both on vehicles and while dismounted,” Taulbee said. “It’s a multi-disciplinary efforts that utilizes both the basic physical sciences as well as engineering disciplines.
“We have chemistry, physics and materials science for developing new mechanisms and materials. We have chemical engineering to advance the manufacturability of these armor materials. It’s all about protecting the Soldier.”
Enabling warfighters to maintain overmatch in low-light environments is a continuous goal of the Army and RDECOM, said Tom Bowman, director of the Ground Combat Systems Division at the command’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.
CERDEC focuses on digital-sensor development to allow warfighters to view images on helmet displays and fuse digital imagery and symbology. Research also continues on transmitting images to remote locations.
“The Army is continuing to evolve night-vision goggles that will increase the dismounted Soldier’s situational awareness and target-detection range and provide the capability to maneuver in all battlefield conditions,” Bowman said.
This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on innovation. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. 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.