Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Army’s Next Body Armor May Get Stronger The Harder It’s Hit
The Army has been racing to equip soldiers with lighter, more durable body armor and helmets for years, a requirement that Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley reiterated during the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington on Oct. 11. And defense contractors like Gentex, the corporation behind the Army’s Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH), flooded AUSA’s tech expo to showcase the latest updates in soldier protection.
But with the help of university researchers, the Army’s own engineers just took a major step towards developing durable materials to keep American troops safe during a firefight. On Oct. 11, the Army Research Laboratory and Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology at MIT touted the benefits of “poly(urethane urea) elastomers” (PUUs), astoundingly rugged and elastic polymers that the branch described as “fifteen times stronger than steel [but] flexible like fabrics.”
The extra strength is impressive, but the degree of flexibility is what distinguishes a PUU from the bulky average Army battle armor, with its rigid ceramic and metal plates. Instead, envision a "chainmail-like" network of PUU fibers, which deform upon impact before returning to their original thickness — allowing them to absorb more energy from, say, a 7.62mm round from a Taliban AK-47, and be good to go for reuse. As the Army Research Lab’s Dr. Alex Hsieh said in a statement, materials made up of PUUs literally “bounce back after the impact.”
A scanning electron microscopy image reveals a permanent indent on the surface of polycarbonate in contrast to poly(urethane urea) elastomers or PUUs, where no damage was observed after impact.Photo via U.S. Army/DoD
But the unique molecular makeup of PUUs means the fibers don’t just last longer but work harder when faced with high-speed impacts: There’s potential, according to the Army, that the materials could “change from rubber-like to glass-like when they are deformed at increasing high rates.” In layman’s terms: The harder it’s hit, the stronger it gets — not unlike the strange bulletproof goo dreamed up by an Air Force Academy cadet back in May 2017.
While Army and MIT researchers are still exploring the capabilities and limits of the new material, the potential applications include “transparent face shields, mandible face shields, ballistic vests, extremity protective gear, and blast-resistant combat boots,” according to the branch. The application to combat helmets may prove especially important in preventing the force of a shell’s impact from transferring through the helmet and causing blunt force trauma, a problem for even the most robust protection system.
Two U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Special Operations Command-Europe, engage opposing forces at an objective during Jackal Stone 2016 in Tblisi, Georgia, on Aug. 15, 2016.Photo via U.S. Army/DoD
The PUU polymer is still in the testing phase, but the Army may end up slapping the stuff onto its soldiers faster than previous personal protection systems, thanks to a coming reorganization of the branch’s procurement process. In a letter to general officers released on Oct. 6, Milley announced that the Army was poised to completely overhaul its approach to buying, testing, and fielding of new weapons and equipment as a part of a service-wide modernization effort.
The branch needs to field “not only next-generation individual and squad weapons, but also improved body armor, sensors, radios, and load-bearing exoskeletons,” Milley wrote. “Putting this all together, we must improve human performance and decision making by increasing training and assessment, starting at the Soldier level.”
The average soldier may not end up donning this post-industrial PUU chainmail before deploying to Afghanistan or Syria in the coming years, but Milley’s comments suggest that, should the PUU research continue to yield such fantastic results, such revolutionary body armor could end up in armories downrange sooner rather than later. Until then, we’ll make do with some bullet-stopping goo instead.
GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.
Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.
Tehran denies responsibility but the attacks, and similar ones in May, have further soured relations that have plummeted since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump has restored and extended U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. That has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
But in an interview with Time magazine, Trump, striking a different tone from some Republican lawmakers who have urged a military approach to Iran, said last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman had only a "very minor" impact so far.
Asked if he would consider military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, Trump said: "I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark."
Minnesota Democratic Party staffer under fire for calling USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul a 'murder boat'
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is appalled by a state DFL Party staff member's tweet referring to the recently-launched USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a "murder boat."
"Certainly, the disrespect shown is beyond the pale," said Walz, who served in the Army National Guard.
William Davis, who has been the DFL Party's research director and deputy communications director, made the controversial comment in response to a tweet about the launch of a new Navy combat ship in Wisconsin: "But actually, I think it's gross they're using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat," Davis wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
'We are there to deter aggression' — Pompeo addressed CENTCOM on Iran mere moments before Shanahan announced his departure
TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.
Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.
Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."
Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.