Two U.S. Army combat veterans from the Iraq conflict served as living testaments to the need to continually perfect the technologies of warfare as they walked among those gathered to recognize the U.S. Army Materiel Command's (AMC) Top 10 Greatest Inventions.
Specialists Patrick Horton and Adam Northcutt, both of the 3rd Armored Division, should have been among those coming home for burial. What altered that fate was the Interceptor Multiple Threat Body Armor developed by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center.
A new joint Marine Corps/Army modular body armor system that consists of an Outer Tactical Vest System and Small Arms Protective Insert Plates, known as SAPI, gave them a new lease on life. It can stop a speeding bullet. Or, in the case of Specialist Horton, an entire cannon barrel.
"There was an explosion to my rear as we were crossing the Euphrates River. An Air Defense Artillery Gun exploded and blew off the barrel. It hit me in the back and shattered my vest into pieces," Horton said.
Had he not been equipped with, and wearing what is called "Interceptor," the force and impact of the barrel would have surely killed him, according to military authorities. "I got three broken ribs but it saved my life," he said.
Northcutt was shot in the back at close range. "We were in An-Najaf on March 26, when I got hit with a round from an enemy AK 47. The plate stopped the round or I would have been dead," he said.
Interceptor is 40 percent lighter but offers more protection then its predecessor system due to the engineered ballistic system, according to its development team, U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center. Because it is modular, users can tailor the ballistic protection worn to the level of threat, weight, and mobility priorities without encumbrances in combat. Individual components can also be upgraded or replaced as needed.
AMC DEVELOPED the Greatest Inventions program to recognize the Army's best new technology solutions impacting soldiers. The Top 10 were chosen for their inventiveness, impact on Army capabilities, and potential benefit outside the Army, according to Melissa Bohan, AMC public affairs.
Having recently relocated its headquarters from Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria to Fort Belvoir, AMC's mission is to provide all the Army's supply items from guns to food, including the latest technological developments to be used on and off the battlefield.
"Our job is to get the best products of researchers into the hands of our soldiers," said General Paul J. Kern, commanding general, AMC, to the more than 100 recipients and guests gathered at the Fort Belvoir Officers Club last week.
"These soldiers are here today because they now have clothing that literally stops bullets," Kern explained, referring to Northcutt and Horton. "They wear today what we used to call flak jackets. But, now it actually saves lives."
Kern acknowledged, "Our companies develop materiel that protects our nation. These products enable us to bring back more soldiers alive and in tact."
JOINING GENERAL KERN in presenting the awards to the initial group of winners was Lieutenant General Richard A. Cody, deputy chief of staff for Operations and Plans, G-3. They served as the final selection authority for the award winners.
"We are an Army at war and we will be at war for the foreseeable future," Cody insisted. "The 10 winners we selected represent a prime example of what can be accomplished when the Army and private industry work together. But, there is so much more left to do. We must be uncompromising when it comes to soldier systems."
He also acknowledged, "The Army Strategic Planning Board has been a prime element for directing money for these projects." Next year AMC hopes to expand the awards program to all researchers who contribute "to what we put out in the field," Kern added.
Joining the Interceptor in bringing comfort as well as safety to military personnel in the field, is the Cooling/Heating Body Garmet. It was also developed by a team at the Natick Center.
It uses fluid carrying tubes to provide both air and vapor permeability to promote evaporative heat transfer while also providing conductive heat transfer, according to its specifications.
"Essentially, it acts like a poncho with Velcro shoulder and side enclosures," the development team explained. "It was designed to be manufactured without sewing or with stitchless technology. This saves both time and money during fabrication."
OTHER AWARD winners at this first of its kind ceremony were:
<lst>*Automated Biological Agent Testing System — Known as ABATS it is the first fully automated system for biological screening of environmental samples that employs the complementary layered strategy that is the cornerstone of the DoD detection doctrine. Developer: U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.
*Biological Attack Warning System — As the first successful real-time, lightweight biological alarm system, it consists of an array of remotely placed sensors that are telemetry- linked to a central command and control station. It is designed "to detect and warn against a biological incident before exposure." Developer: Edgewood Center.
*Advanced Chemical Biological Mask — The face piece, lens, and filtration system use contoured geometry. This design minimizes the standoff to the wearer and maximizes compatibility with external interfaces. It also introduces a disposable or maintenance-free mask concept that eliminates mask decontamination. Developer: Edgewood Center
*Basic Hornet (XM93): Hornet is a smart munition, or mine, that can defeat threat vehicles at a range of up to 100 meters, according to its developers at the Army Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center. Hornet's acoustic and seismic sensors detect, classify, and track approaching targets up to 600 meters distant. It is presently being used in the Middle East by the 82nd Airborne Division.
*Full Spectrum Active Protective Close in Layered Shield for vehicle defense — This system detects, tracks, intercepts, and physically defeats large-caliber threats at a distance sufficiently far enough from the defended vehicle to reduce the threat and to ensure vehicle survival. Developer: Tank- automotive Research Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.
*RArefaction waVE guN — The RAVEN reduces barrel heating by 40 percent by getting the hot propellant gases out of the barrel even before the bullet has left the muzzle. This enables an increase in fire rate and an increase in the number of burst fire shots while reducing weapon system recoil. Developer: Army Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center.
*Modular Integrated Communications Helmet — It provides 9mm and fragmentation protection within a wide variety of combat environments. It allows maximum sensory awareness for the user, including unobstructed field of view and ambient hearing capabilities. It allows mounting of night vision devices and oxygen masks. Developer: Natick Soldier Center.
*Agile Commander Advanced Technology Demonstration — Known as "DaVinci," this system provided a framework to move the focus of digital planning away from low level details of movement routes to higher level concepts of plan, task, activity, and resources. This will allow commanders to focus on the important aspects of planning and leave the more doctrinal aspects of calculating formations and resource usages to the computer. Developer: Army Engineering Center.