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How A 1956 Army Magazine Accurately Predicted The Soldier Of The Future
In many ways, it was surprisingly accurate.
The author, Lt. Col. Robert R. Rigg, prophesized that these advancements — from night vision goggles, to helicopter warfare, to drone strikes — would come after 1974. While he was technically correct, many came later than he foresaw.
Here are 10 pieces of gear the "soldier of the future" has — right now.
Radios that offer constant communication with fellow soldiers.
The futuristic helmet equipped with visor, night vision and throat microphone.Photo via Army Magazine
"The FutureArmy soldier ... will gain independence and action from an ultra-small radio transmitter and receiver," Rigg wrote. "This transceiver will ... place the individual soldier in communication with all other members of his fighting team."
Most radios aren't built into helmets, but many soldiers are in constant communication with their squad mates through the use of intra-squad radios. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, are typically carrying around small, lightweight radios that offer secure communications.
Some, like special operations forces, use throat microphones (as the magazine also predicted) that transmit when the operator speaks.
Night vision goggles that help troops own the night.
A U.S. Marine from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) looks through binoculars to see the impact of her shot during the Table 3 Known Distance night shoot which is part of the Basic Infantryman's Course training, Camp Devil Dog, N.C., Oct. 1, 2013.Photo via DoD
"The soldier will be able to ... change darkness into day with one flick of a wrist on the infrared dial and switch."
Night vision was developed in the 1940s, but was not fielded in goggle form until 1977. Night optical/observation devices, or NODs as soldiers call them, are standard issue for most troops in the field these days. However, even Rigg couldn't predict the rise of even better gear, such as thermal devices that can pick up on the human body's heat signature.
Night optical/observation devices, or NODs as soldiers call them, are standard issue for most troops in the field these days. However, even Rigg couldn't predict the rise of even better gear, such as thermal devices that can pick up on the human body's heat signature.
Automatic carbine rifles to give troops more firepower against the AK-47.
The M-16 carbine, shiny and chrome.Photo via Wikimedia Commons
"The individual weapon of the Futurarmy soldier will be an automatic carbine which will replace at least four of today's weapons: the M1 rifle, the carbine, the AR, and the submachine gun."
The automatic carbine, known as the M16, was first put into service in 1964, and was standard issue by 1969 — five years before Rigg predicted. Though the M16A1 gave soldiers in Vietnam plenty of problems, it's been continuously updated and improved.
Many soldiers and Marines carry the M4 carbine — a shorter and lighter version of the M-16 — though most are no longer fully-automatic.
Telescopic sights that help troops hit targets further out.
An M-91 sniper rifle scope.Photo via DoD
Rigg also predicted that the future soldier would be outfitted with special sights. Now, nearly every soldier carries some kind of scope.
The Army is even designing computerized sights — the Ballistically Optimized Sniper Scope (BOSS) — for snipers. The computer built-in to the scope speeds up the sighting-in process.
BOSS' sensors will even have built-in lasers to help scouts determine the distance to enemy forces by calculating their exact position.
Helicopters to bring troops to and from the fight.
A pararescueman hoists a patient out of a combat zone.Photo by Nick Gibson
"Projected into battle-zone by three-dimensional transport devices, this futuristic soldier will be able to arrive and surprise his enemy with a force and suddenness never before known."
During the Korean and Vietnam wars, helicopter warfare became common.
The doctrine of "air assault" with helicopters continues to this day, and soldiers are often transferred to and from the battlefield in a variety of different helicopter types. The use of helicopters has also greatly reduced the number of combat deaths since wounded soldiers are able to get medical attention much quicker.
Helmet visors that offer a soldier more data about what's on the battlefield.
"The broad goals are to provide operators with lighter, more efficient full-body ballistics protection and beyond-optimal human performance," TALOS Team officials told Military.com. "Antennas and computers embedded into TALOS will increase the wearer's situational awareness by providing user-friendly and real-time battlefield information."
"The future soldier's helmet will be visored ... and will have unique functions in addition to its face protection."
Although not in service yet, the new "Iron Man" suit being developed by SOCOM, which are to be tested in 2018, are slated to have visors. Called the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, it is supposed to monitor an operator's vital signs, give them increased perception of the surroundings, and offer other high-tech functions.
Compact first-aid kits that help every soldier become their own personal medic.
Photo via DoD
"Pockets on the outside of each boot will carry a compact self-medical-aid kit for emergency use."
Although they aren't pocketed in boots, it became standard in 1998 for soldiers to carry their own first-aid kits.
In 2013, the Army began issuing the "Individual First Aid Kit II," containing two tourniquets, a tactical combat casualty card to annotate what kind of first aid was applied to a wounded Soldier, a marker, an eye shield, a rubber seal with a valve for sucking chest wounds, and a strap cutter.The kit goes inside a custom pouch that can be mounted on the back of a Soldier's Improved Outer Tactical Vest.
The kit goes inside a custom pouch that can be mounted on the back of a Soldier's Improved Outer Tactical Vest.
Towel and toilet articles so that troops could take care of their personal business in the field.
A recruit of Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, eats a Meal, Ready-to-Eat Oct. 6, 2016, on Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. These packaged ration are eaten by Marines when in the field; each MRE contains about 1,200 calories of food.Photo via DoD
Rigg's vision was a soldier that was self-sufficient, even having a special pouch on his or her uniform for toiletries. Though most soldiers don't carry around toilet paper in their pocket, it does come standard in the meals, ready to eat that troops have with them in the field.
Developed in 1980, the MRE continues to be a soldier's primary ration when not in garrison.
Guided missiles to take out enemy forces.
A BGM-109 Tomahawk missile launches from the USS Porter.Photo via DoD
"To help you [destroy all military forces within a given area] ... flying artillery and guided missiles will bracket the region and seal it off by striking any aggressor reinforcements moving to the scene."
Guided-missiles, or cruise missiles, generally use four different guidance systems: an Inertial Guidance System, a Terrain Contour Matching, GPS, or Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation.
In 1960, the U.S. Navy commissioned its first guided-missile destroyer, the Charles F. Adams.
President Donald Trump recently launched a salvo of 59 Tomahawk guided-missiles from two Navy destroyers at a Syrian air base in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons on his own people.
Drone surveillance that keeps a close eye on what's happening on the battlefield.
An MQ-1B Predator remotely piloted aircraft passes over the air field during a training mission, May 13, 2013. Predators can perform the following missions and tasks: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, buddy-lase, convoy/raid overwatch, route clearance, target development, and terminal air guidance. Its capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives. (U.S. Air Force photo by 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing/Released)Photo via DoD
"Futurarmy soldiers will wait by their machines of war as these fantastic robot spies, called Owls, report on the location of enemy concentrations and installations."
While slightly different, this concept is very similar to drone surveillance widely used by the military today.
Aerial surveillance has been used since the Civil War when Thaddeus Lowe persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to use hot air balloons for reconnaissance.
Nowadays, unmanned aerial systems are often controlled by a remote operator that can see what's going on below, while also neutralizing threats with onboard missiles.
Rigg, however, did not seem to predict that a surveillance drone would also be armed.
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