In World War II, being an infantryman was the third deadliest job in the American military, behind bombardiers and submariners. In the years since, technology has enabled the creation of stealth bombers and submarines, yet the infantry remains a deadly job.
Eighty percent of all American casualties since World War II have been in the infantry, a community that makes up just 4 percent of the force.1 One factor that has slowed improvements in infantry soldier survivability is the fundamental weight-carrying capacity of a human.
Modern technology can improve survivability in aircraft and submarines because the platforms themselves can be redesigned to accommodate enhanced survivability measures. Bombers and submarines have grown in size without sacrificing mobility. The B-2 bomber, for example, is more than twice as heavy as the World War II era B-29 Superfortress and has a cruising speed more than 2.5 times as fast. For people, however, the load-carrying capacity is fixed. More weight impedes mobility.
Emerging technologies could potentially change this dynamic by:
-- Reducing the weight of soldier equipment, increasing mobility;
-- Increasing or augmenting soldier strength, allowing them to carry more weight without sacrificing mobility;
-- Off-loading soldier weight; or
-- Findings ways to improve soldier survivability and performance without adding additional weight.
This study, conducted by the Center for a New American Security for the U.S. Army, examined five disruptive technology areas that have the potential to address one or more of these approaches:
-- Novel materials
-- Exosuits and exoskeletons
-- Lightweight operational energy
-- Human performance enhancement
For each of these technology areas, trends and limitations were considered, as well as recommendations for how the Army could capitalize on the most promising opportunities. This report examines the first four disruptive technology areas and includes recommendations for investments to capitalize on the opportunities presented by these technologies.
The next report in the Super Soldier series, “Human Performance Enhancement,” will cover the technology and ethics of human physical and cognitive enhancement to improve warfighter survivability.
Click here for the full report (28 PDF pages) on the CNAS website.