New Interconnect Technology for Modern Soldier Systems


Mighty Mouse jumper cable for NATO power module

FUTURE SOLDIER SYSTEMS When infantry soldiers went to war during the 20th century they typically carried a rifle, helmet, ammunition, food and some spare clothes. While their 21st century counterparts might look back and appreciate the simplicity of such an outfit, few of them would be happy to lose the equipment innovations that have so measurably advanced 21st century ground soldier effectiveness. Soldier equipment modernization efforts—such as have been implemented in the US, UK, France, Singapore, Germany and elsewhere—have gone by a variety of names: Future Soldier, Future Force Warrior, Land Warrior, NETT Warrior and so on. A common theme among these modernization programs has been their “systems of systems” approach, which emphasises the blending of individual components into a complete integrated system. More recently, other models have emphasized a versatile power and networking backbone with the flexibility to accommodate a wide range of available device types—particularly as soldier operational requirements vary so significantly from one battle geography to the next.

With serious conflicts continuing to simmer throughout the world, governments and industry remain actively engaged in research and development in soldier systems and discrete technologies. In this special issue of QwikConnect , we review the equipment that currently supports the 21st century warrior as well as some innovations still in the development phase— signs of what is to come in the ongoing effort to advance soldier effectiveness, lethality, mobility and survival. POWER MANAGEMENT AND WEIGHT SAVING To anyone who hasn’t carried a soldier’s load of equipment, power management might not sound like the most important military technology topic. In fact, it is one of the most critical technology issues for future soldiers. Without efficient and sustainable electrical power, none of the electronic innovations detailed here would be possible. Simply put, soldiers do not have the luxury of mains power and are totally dependent on a mobile power sub-system to keep night vision goggles, thermal-imaging sights, electronic counter-measures, personal radios, GPS and other technologies working in the field. For many years this requirement has been served with high- performance batteries. But size and weight reduction efforts

have led to new power management systems and rechargeable cell technologies. Throughout the history of modern soldier programs, and as the number of electronic soldier devices increased, battery power—a heavy and cumbersome resource—has had to expand. A soldier going out on a week-long patrol, for example, needs sustainable power for every device he uses. Command and control (situational awareness) capabilities are a major element of future soldier programs. But such technologies are power hungry and add significantly to pack weight and transportability. The lack of ready power can and will adversely impact soldier effectiveness across the broad range of their work: from disaster relief to counter-terrorism. Possibly one of the biggest changes to soldier battery/power management technology has been the switch from primary batteries (non-rechargeable) to rechargeable. During the early stages of the Iraq War, most batteries in theater were still primary, which placed significant strains on military supply chains. To say soldiers have been burdened with batteries presents the problem too mildly. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars tested soldiers to their physical limits—with some carrying nearly 60% (around 50-60kg) of their body in gear and equipment. It should come as no surprise that musculoskeletal

Qwik Connect n January 2015


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