The new Captain America movie is out this weekend, so we take a look at the actual developments and research for enhancing soldiers in real-life.
Supersoldiers of the 2020s will be a little bit Iron man with HULC and XOS exoskeletons. They will have some wall crawling (Spiderman like) capability from the Z-Man program (attachable pads with magnets and microsplines).
They will be using a lot more ground and flying robot support. They will have flying hummers.
They will have better guns with better range, smart bullets/grenades when needed and computers and sensors to improve the accuracy of soldiers and snipers.
They will have medical enhancement to be resistant to infections and to allow them to be restored from more severe injuries.
There will also be safer SARM steroids and myostatin inhibitors which should allow safe and effective enhancement of physical strength for millions of people (soldiers and civilians). It will be like today where people use steroids and some training dedication to get closer to the top tiers of athletic performance and top athletes use them to get to record breaking performance except there will not be the negative side effects (or far fewer side effects) and more people will use them.
Supersoldier 2020s Exoskeleton and Robots
HULC (lowerbody) exoskeleton Army’s field tests and trials, probably in 2014 or 2015, will be followed by widespread commercial production of powered exoskeletons. The Deployment of exoskeletons in commercial sectors will probably remain quite limited for another decade or so, due to their high cost (more than $25,000 per suit). There will be about 11,000 exoskeletons by 2020.
They help a soldier to life 200 pounds without strain, currently need about 1000 watts of power. The HULC can assist speed marching at up to 7 mph reduces this somewhat; a battery-draining “burst” at 10mph is the maximum speed. A soldier with a pack would normally go at 3 mph maximum and cover 10-12 miles in a day. A better power supply would allow the burst mode to be used more and speed to be 10 mph and coverage to be 200 miles in day. Soldiers could also carry lightweight foldable electric scooters on their exoskeleton that would enable 60-100 mph on roads. If the bike had motocross like capabilities it could still go about 30-60 mph on rougher terrain.
The full body XOS exoskeleton will be about two to four years behind the HULC exoskeleton. They need to get the power requirements down by three times and cut the weight in half. A higher energy density power supply could enable better performance. Superconducting engines and other improvements could enable better exoskeletons.
If the controversial Rossi cold fusion system panned out and the extra weight and size was reduced, there could be superior power for exoskeletons and robots.
1. M25 guns with programmable 25 mm shells are being deployed already in Afghanistan.
2. US snipers will be outfitted with the XM2010 rifle, capable of hitting a target from a 3,937-foot distance — about three quarters of a mile. The current sniper rifle, the M-24, has a range of 2,625 feet, by contrast.
3. Darpa will rollout the project “One Shot” that aims to deliver sniper rifles whose accuracy won’t be thrown off by high-velocity winds. Those are supposed to arrive in 2011, too. Systems will also enable less skills shooters to match the accuracy of better snipers.
4. A six-wheeled amphibious ATV into a robotic packhorse and charging station is being developed to support squads with power. The SMSS can carry a squad’s food supplies, water, batteries, heavy weapons, ammunition, survival gear and can even accommodate casualties. Besides transporting up to 600lbs (272 kg) of gear, the SMSS also provides two to four kilowatts of power, and is capable of charging 146 batteries within ten hours.
5. It is possible that by 2020 the Lasermotive laser powered UAVs could be deployed. These UAVs would be able to keep flying with remote recharging from a ground based laser. The ground based laser and generator could be a current Hummer, MRAP or Squad Mission Support System.
6. The DARPA flying hummer project could also see some deployments by 2020
* flying/driving range of 250 miles
* measure no more than 30 feet long by 8.5′ wide and 9′ high
* perform vertical take-off and landing
* carry four people
* perform unmanned operations
* and be easy enough to control that anyone who can drive a Humvee can also pilot the vehicle.
* Capable of handling small arms fire
* Quick entry and exit
DARPA imagines that the vehicle could use
* hybrid electric drive
* adaptive wing structures
* ducted fan propulsion systems
* and lightweight heavy fuel engines.
DARPA is working on a program will develop approaches to counter any natural or anthropogenic pathogen within one week. This includes development of countermeasures that do not require prior knowledge of the pathogen and are broadly applicable to multiple unrelated bacterial and/or viral infectious agents.
There will be fracture putty to help with rapid healing of broken bones.
DARPA is working on tissue engineering and regeneration. There has been success in regenerating muscle in damaged legs.
Cognitive enhancement and smart mobile systems
At the start of the 2020s, the portable smart phone and tablet systems will have 10,000 times the processing performance of today. By the end of the 2020s, they will be many petaflops of performance. The portable systems will be connected to multi-zettaflop cloud computers. There will be various neuromorphic systems (brain simulating systems and algorithms). There will be quantum computers that will be superior for optimization and simulation problems. Quantum computers could also enhance certain database or other computer searches and image recognition and classification.
Other DARPA Supersoldier Research
In 2008, there was inforation that DARPA had a long-term, $3 billion program to help make such a “Metabolically Dominant Soldier.” There has been no discussion of that work since that time.
The drugs and genetic enhancements and some technology which gets applied would allow for regeneration, faster healing, muscle strength enhancement up to current olympic levels, endurance of an Alaskan sled dog, cognitive enhancement, operate without sleep for many days without performance degradation, the metabolic energy of twenty year old for a forty or fifty year old and immunity to pain.
The Metabolically Dominant Soldier program is managed by Joe Bielitzki. He is talking about fixing your cells so that you could live off your fat. Bielitzki acknowledges the potential for spin-off technologies. “Forty billion dollars a year goes into the weight loss industry in this country,” he muses. “This will change it.”
Regeneration, better healing, better immune systems would all revolutionize healthcare costs and healthcare effectiveness. So trillions in economic benefit as a side effect of supersoldier success. DARPA is also trying to enhance cognition, training and giving the energy levels of youth to the elderly. Those could provide multi-billion or even trillion dollar per year boosts to the US and world economy.
Projects in pipeline range from drugs that will boost muscles and energy by a factor of 10, akin to steroids…on steroids (the project is jokingly termed the “Energizer Bunny in Fatigues”) to wearable, cooling gloves that regulate body temperature and prevent soldiers from getting overheated (and thus tired) even on the hottest desert day. [Keeping the body cool increases endurance]
A major focus is on helping the soldier’s body to better deal with trauma and damage. One such is the “pain vaccines” coming out of a program at Rinat Neuroscience [Pfizer acquired Rinat Neuroscience in 2006]. Researchers are hopeful these “will block the sense of pain for almost a month,” describes DARPA’s Michael Goldblatt.
The substance does is block intense pain in less than 10 seconds. Its effects last for 30 days. It doesn’t stifle your reactions. If you touch a hot stove, you still have the initial shock; your hand will still automatically jerk away. But after that, the torment is gone. The product works on the inflammatory response that is responsible for the majority of subacute pain.
There was new soft body armor that, instead of Kevlar. It is filled with nano-materials that are connected to a computer. [Computer controlled liquid armor] It would normally be as flexible as regular uniform made of fabric. But, like how a crash-bag works inside a car, it would activate whenever the system detects a bullet strike and turn as hard as steel in an instant. Gloves could turn into brass knuckles as needed.
The fabric could even be woven in with “nanomuscle fibers” that simulate real muscles, giving soldiers more an estimated “25 to 35 percent better lifting capability.” So myostatin strength boost to get to olympic athlete strength levels and then 25-35% boost from a soft suit. Use better exoskeletons for more strength enhancement.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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