These are days that I never would have dreamed of seeing. As I needed a flashlight, my friend pulled out his smartphone and pressed a couple of buttons. Suddenly there was a light, unlike most cheap flashlights I normally use.
The GPS within these phones can guide our travels. There are apps upon apps that make everyday life seem so much easier. And, a soothing voice that will talk to you from these technological marvels.
For those of us who were amazed when we saw our first color television set and not having to wander outside to relieve our bowels, these smartphones and other works of technology seem unreal. But then we hear of one our service people getting killed by some freak over in the Middle East who joined a terrorist organization by getting on, yep you guessed it, his smartphone.
It seems to many of us that with all this technology, we should be losing very few soldiers in the ravages of war…but we still do.
Now, we are hearing about new developments. A development that should save lives, at least the lives of our armed men and women who are defending democracy. And, hopefully this new development will take the lives and resources of those who are bent on chaos and destruction.
So, what is this new development?
What Exactly Is Squad X?
The Pentagon developed a scientific department for defense of our nation called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA for short.
DARPA initiated the Squad X program which is designed to provide Army and Marine ground troops with sophisticated equipment that will use smartphone-like technologies for communications, computerized weapons (heat seeking bullets?) and even robots to use as assistants.
The biggest obstacle we have found with these type of programs is making the equipment lightweight but durable. Also, taxpayer costs can be astronomical.
This is not the first time the Department of Defense and the Pentagon has attempted to advance ground troops with technology. Other types of programs similar to this have failed because of the costs and the inability to make equipment work in battle strategies.
So will Squad X defeat the previous odds? It seems they are on the right track.
The primary objective is evident in the name of the program. A squad is just a small unit, and dismounted squads have to rely on large units for firepower, transportation and long range communication. DARPA wants to provide more of that for the small squads so they do not have to rely as much on the larger units.
When Did The Squad X Program Start?
The Squad X program actually began back in 2013, but it is now starting to get to a realistic area of upgrade.
The key is to take the element of surprise away from squads; to provide them with situational awareness.
In the 1990’s, the Land Warrior program was tested. It was a computer system attached to each soldier, but it weighed 16 pounds which put a lot of stress on soldiers. They hated the system when it was tested by an infantry unit in Iraq in 2007. That program was scrapped.
In 2010, Nett Warrior was tested where an eyepiece was wore attached to a smartphone and a small radio. Text messages could be sent to each other, which was a great idea, but the problem was lag.
Nett Warrior could still be a reality since the Army bought a large supply of them, but technology experts need to determine how to speed up the system so it reacts in real time.
Squad X is using all the previous failures as a means to learn what the soldiers need. They are keeping a close eye on weight factors. They are also making sure systems operate with no lagging. And, they are zoning in to systems that can operate even when GPS signals are denied because of enemy interruption.
It is a huge undertaking, but with the right frame of mind and technological strategy, I have faith that a program like this can make our soldiers safer, and more able to take out the enemy.
The Technical Areas
The program is addressing 4 key technical areas. They are:
Precision engagement. This may include the heat seeking bullets I mentioned earlier. It means being able to engage enemy treats from up to 6/10ths of 1 mile out. This will include guided munitions and out of sight targeting.
Squad Autonomy. This means knowing teammates, as well as their own locations at up to 20 feet without the use of GPS.
Non-Kinetic Engagement. This means the ability to disrupt enemy communications and command at squad level.
Squad Sensing. The ability to detect unseen threats at up to 6/10ths of a mile out.
Who Is Working On Squad X?
There are various companies who have been awarded contracts for the 1st phase of the Squad X program. They are:
Helios Remote Sensing Systems
Six3 Systems, Inc.
With companies like these handling this, I honestly think we will have a more sophisticated Army squad in the near future.
What do you think about the Squad X program? Do you believe it is taxpayer money well spent? Do you think this will help our squads?
Please give your opinions and comments, or questions below. Thanks.