SSC-Natick Press Release
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: July 29, 2003
Future Warrior returns with changes
NATICK, Mass. -- Nothing works on Future Warrior, and that's the way it's supposed to be. The uniform ensemble, first assembled here at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, in 1999, was redesigned for 2003 to better depict technology decades from reality for soldiers.
While the Objective Force Warrior (OFW) soldier weapon platform prepares for fielding within the decade, Future Warrior is set apart as a mostly visionary tool for researchers, said Cheryl Stewardson, the integrated protection functional area leader for the Natick Soldier Center's OFW program.
Future Warrior was reintroduced at the May 22 opening of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a new partnership between the Army and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
"We wanted to showcase now the concepts they're working on for the future," she said. "Seeing (concepts) on a human form helps us see how (technologies) might be used and their limitations."
During the past three years, scientists and engineers have experimented with concepts to determine their feasibility with OFW, Stewardson said. What's out of bounds for OFW ended up on Future Warrior.
Looking menacing in an all-black, custom-fit uniform from head to toe, Future Warrior is portrayed by Sgt. Raul Lopez, liaison sergeant with the Operational Forces Interface Group.
Replacing the modified motorcycle helmet used in the previous Future Warrior concept, the custom-designed helmet Lopez wears is leaner and incorporates several features representing upcoming technology. A blue-tinted visor signifies agile eye protection against tunable lasers, while inside a new projection display technology based off the Joint Strike Fighter helmet is now more accurately shown.
"We have sensors now for thermal and image intensification, but making them small enough, fusing the images and projecting them onto the visor-that's the leap," Stewardson said.
Openings at the top of the helmet fit in with the idea of a 3-D audio and visual sensor suite. They restore natural hearing lost in an encapsulated space and enhance long-range hearing. Cameras enhance vision from the sides and behind. A smaller halo on the helmet represents a tracking system for friendly and enemy forces. By reshaping the helmet, Future Warrior has an expanded field of view.
Protection against chemical and biological agents is more realistic with a respirator tube that attaches to the back of the helmet and connects to a low-profile air purifier that forces cool air into the helmet for comfort and visor defogging.
"It was envisioned to come down very sleek into the body, but we couldn't find a material to do it in the short time we had to put this concept prototype together," Stewardson said.
Another major change in the uniform is the addition of protruding, interconnecting black pieces of plastic on the legs that represent a lower-body exoskeleton. It will connect through the boots up to the waist and enable the wearer the ability to carry up to 200 pounds.
Above the waist, MIT's research on nanomuscles for advanced arm and torso strength may be linked to the exoskeleton to give Future Warrior potentially superhuman ability to move or carry. A flexible display on the forearm of Future Warrior glows when switched on and draws attention to the simulated touch screen keypad for information input and output for tasks such as navigation, physiological status monitoring and command communication. The display is connected into a compact computer worn on an armored belt around the waist.
Attached to the arm is a slim box representative of the remote control unit for any system that might be used, such as a robotic mule or unmanned aerial vehicle.
Found near the top of the torso front and back are what look like quarter-sized buttons built into the fabric depicting a nanostructure sensor array to detect weapons of mass destruction, friendly or enemy lasers, or even weather.
"(The sensors) could trigger a response in the uniform to open or close the fibers depending on temperature or precipitation," Stewardson said.
Black was chosen as the color to clue observers that it's the future, she said, although the aim is for a uniform that's invisible.
Speaking of stealth, much of the futuristic capability can't be shown at least in part because of nanotechnology.
Along the black stretch fabric are custom-fitted plastics and foams that take the place of liquid body armor that will instantly solidify when struck. "All the parts are much harder than we wanted. We haven't figured out how to portray (liquid armor)," Stewardson said.
Through nanotechnology, multifunctional materials will be able to transport power and data. The materials will also be able to fend off chemical and biological agent attacks, self-decontaminate and become waterproof.
"I believe nanotechnology is going to give us much more than we can even envision today. This is just a sampling," Stewardson said.
In many ways, the revised Future Warrior is the same. A microturbine will provide power for items such as the microclimate conditioning system for heating and cooling. The weapon remains a fire-and-forget system using soft-launch seeking missiles. A transdermal nutrient delivery system provides the nourishment to get through a battle. He's still going to be a moving target for researchers, shedding workable technology for the next greatest thing.
"There's always going to be a Future Warrior," Stewardson said. "In the soldier business, you can never rest on your laurels. Somebody is always out there to beat you."
For more information regarding the Soldier Systems Center, please visit our webpage at http://www.natick.army.mil.