Future technology from the U.S. armed forces’ top research scientists will have to be ‘game-changing’ to help the defense department shift its focus to operations in Southeast Asia, and to mete out the next major threats there and elsewhere, said Dr. Scott Fish, the Army’s chief scientist.
“We spent the past 10 years focused on addressing the ‘Middle East problem,’ but now we’re moving to Southeast Asia,” Fish said, and now, the defense department is looking at “how to figure out the right science and technology focus for threats of the future.”
The U.S. military’s Pacific theater covers half the globe, including 36 nations – among them strong U.S. partners Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand according to a recent Department of Defense report.
Fish’s comments came during a three-day meeting hosted by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL’s) Weapons and Materials Research Directorate (WMRD) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The event, its second Science and Technology Review, brought together nearly 100 senior research scientists and engineers from throughout the defense department April 17-19 to influence WMRD’s technical focus in the areas of protection, lethality, and materials and manufacturing science.
Dr. Jeffrey Zabinski, acting director of WMRD, said, “This review will allow our customers to provide valuable insight from the tech-pull perspective. In addition, their input will help us identify the limit of the state-of-art and assist us in our role as technology forecasters. Our vision is to create technology surprise and not simply avoid surprise from our adversaries. This review is an opportunity for us to not only meet the needs of our stakeholders, but also to show them that ARL’s innovative research will deliver the next big thing for the Army. Our first-ever accomplishments will contribute to the Invincible Soldier and our innovative research will enable transformational materials, overwhelming fire power and unprecedented protection.”
WMRD pursues science and technology to make the Warfighter and Land Warfare Systems more lethal, survivable and deployable, Zabinski said, by leveraging expertise of a multi-disciplinary and intellectually diverse team of scientists and engineers.
This team’s basic scientific research efforts and experimentation transitioned major programs to DoD such as; the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) Armor Weight Reduction Spiral Program, which introduced lightweight composites, new materials, and enhanced ballistic mechanisms to reduce the add-on weight of final armor packages, while continuing to increase Soldier survivability, the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round, which improved hard-target capability, more dependable, consistent performance at all distances, improved accuracy, reduced muzzle flash and a higher velocity the Armor Survivability Kit that was retrofitted on Middle East deployed HMMWVs and the formulation and standardization of Chemical Agent Resistant Coatings on military weapon systems. ARL is the commodity manager, DOD approval authority, and lead research and development activity for such coatings.
“WMRD with its partners have many successes that have made a dramatic difference to our nation’s military throughout the years,” said Zabinski. “We’re looking to build upon and leverage our expertise as our scientists and engineers carry forward a couple important themes: interconnectedness of disciplines, multi-scale sciences, and our push to create materials by design through computational assistance.
“We will show that our fundamental research is the convergence of science and technology and interconnectedness of disciplines in physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, electronics, and materials science. Our research investments as embodied in our core competencies of ballistics and materials, have been shaped to exploit the synergistic benefits of cross-cutting research leading to accelerated technology discoveries and advancements. Our technology transitions over the next decade will be underpinned by investments in multi-scale, multi-disciplinary modeling and innovative experimental techniques across our core competencies.
“The bigger challenge for us is the same across the Department of Defense; identifying the right solutions to address the problem threats of today and forecasting for the out years bringing radical discovery and innovation to bear against the new challenges of the Global War on Terrorism and the Future Force.”