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DARPA Wants To Win Future Infantry Combats Using Augmented Reality Systems

DARPA hopes to bring rich, real-time situational awareness ability to soldiers and special infantry operatives in the near future. Awards research and development contracts to nine organizations under the SXCT program.

A major edge of current US military installations around the world is the ability to have a multi-faceted picture of their operational environment, collaborate effectively with allied forces within close proximity, and exercise precise engagement of hostile elements.

Presently, these capabilities are restricted to airborne and other vehicle-assigned forces (aircraft, submarines, tanks), but DARPA is looking to extend these to infantry squads citing a number of solid advantages.

Soldiers need these capabilities for enhanced awareness of the positions of squad members, allied forces, and hostile elements; enhanced awareness of the engagement capabilities of hostile elements and presence of threats; and precise neutralization and engagement of threats and enemy positions: all in real-time.

The aching reason for the unavailability of these capabilities to soldiers is that the technologies underlying the capabilities are too heavy and cumbersome to carry or use under demanding field conditions. To put this in perspective, the cumulative weight of gear soldiers currently have to carry on average is over 100 pounds.

To address this, DARPA created the Squad X Core Technologies (SXCT) program, and have now awarded research and development contracts to nine defense companies as part of phase 1 of the program. The end-goal is for these capabilities to be integrated into user-friendly systems that are streamlined and are intuitive to use by dismounted infantry squad members.

squad x

DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies (SXCT) program aims to develop innovative technologies (Image Credits: DARPA)

Companies that got the initial contracts include Raytheon, Scientific Systems, Leidos, Six3, Helios, SRI, Kitware, SoarTech, and Lockheed Martin.

The program has outlined four technical areas in which the research will be carried out without specifying the exact technologies to be developed.

  • To be able to engage threats precisely within a 1000-meter radius, without imposing additional weight or operational burdens, using possible capabilities like guided munitions and non-line-of-sight, distributed targeting.
  • To be able to disrupt enemy operations (communications, command and control) including the use of unmanned instruments, using possible capabilities like disaggregated electronic surveillance.
  • To be able to detect hostile elements and potential threats within a 1000-meter radius, using possible capabilities like autonomous threat detection and multi-source data fusion.

To enhance real-time situational awareness of squad members within a 20-feet radius in environments where geolocation is unavailable, using possible capabilities like robust collaboration between unmanned assets and humans.

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Dean Smith