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An unmanned TerraMax mine-clearing vehicle, followed by equally unmanned TerraMax cargo trucks.

The future of military robotics may not look much like a robot. It may just be a truck that drives itself. That’s the simple, pragmatic approach pursued by Oshkosh — a company better known for trucks than Terminators — with its TerraMax Unmanned Ground Vehicle. But after eight years of experiments for three different military… Keep reading →

Iraqi Freedom

Massive government documents typically hide some gold nuggets of information. In today’s report from the Pentagon’s independent Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, a famously tough grader known as DOT&E, there’s one detail that is going to make defense contractor BAE Systems very happy: “Results from the third underbody blast test also demonstrate that the… Keep reading →

Reaping the Benefits of a Global Defense Industry

Greg Sanders CSIS photo

  As the Defense Department’s budget goes down, the number of contracts awarded without competitive bids is going up. The share of contracts awarded without competition has risen from 39 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2012, according to a report I co-authored with Jesse Ellman and Rhys McCormick on DoD Contracting Trends. The news for… Keep reading →

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen

CAPITOL HILL: The recent death of Bill Young, longtime power on the House Appropriations Committee, opened the door to a new chairman of the defense subcommittee. Today New Jersey’s Rep.  Rodney Frelinghuysen stepped through that door. Frelinghuysen has served on the defense subcommittee since 1999. He was its vice-chairman. The most likely winner from the veteran… Keep reading →

The armor plate that saved Spc. Bryan Wagner's life, and the IED fragment that it stopped.

Life or death in wartime is horrifically random, subject to “fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,” but sometimes that randomness generates not tragedy, but miracles. Such is the story of Army Sergeant Roger Daniels. On a patrol in Afghanistan last August, Daniels, then just 21 years old, took a bullet to the head and survived… Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: After 53 years in service, the Army’s M113 armored transport might finally get replaced. Last night, the Michigan-based Tank-Automotive Command (TACOM) issued a draft Request For Proposals for a new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. The final RFP is expected in June and the contract award in mid-2014. Variants of the General Dynamics Stryker and the BAE Bradley are the leading contenders. Our industry sources are still poring over thousands of pages of documentation, but here are the highlights.

The bottom line: almost $1.5 billion for over 300 vehicles — for a start. The RFP proposes a $1.46 billion contract in two phases: design, develop, and build 29 prototypes over four years — the $388 million engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase, 2014 through 2017; and then build up to 289 production models over three years — the $1.08 billion low-rate initial production (LRIP) phase, 2018-2020. Keep reading →

America’s Army has developed a bit of a split personality of late. On the one hand, the top brass has very publicly embraced the administration’s January 2012 strategic guidance that emphasizes “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches” and “building partner capacity” in lieu of large ground force deployments. Leaders from Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on down talk up the Army’s capabilities in cyberspace, missile defense, seaborne operations, and small advisor teams.

At the same time, the service’s biggest new weapons program remains the controversial Ground Combat Vehicle, an estimated $34 billion program to build what could be 70-ton-plus behemoths optimized for all-out land war. “Low-cost” and “small-footprint” it ain’t. (“Innovative” it may be; read on). And GCV is just the tip of the armored iceberg. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Today, somewhere inside the Pentagon, senior Army officers will likely recommend development of new radio-jamming equipment for the post-Afghan War world. After a decade desperately playing defense against radio-detonated IEDs — and, before that, a decade of neglect in the 1990s — Army electronic warfare is taking the offensive again.

With their eyes on future adversaries more technologically sophisticated than the Taliban, commanders want new capabilities to shut down enemy electronic networks and protect their own. It’s a challenge intimately interwoven with but distinct from the higher-profile field of cyber warfare. Hackers infiltrate enemy networks to steal data and infiltrate viruses, while jammers simply shut them down — though that distinction gets blurred by new techniques such as “protocol attacks” that scramble digital radios. Keep reading →


WASHINGTON: In almost every war of the modern era, artillery has played a decisive role. But the lowly IED, cobbled together explosives ignited by cobbled together detonators, has now replaced artillery as the greatest killer on the modern battlefield, according to Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, head of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO)

The Army general in charge of the multi-billion-dollar effort said the IED was a “global and enduring threat” that the U.S. military would have to deal with long after it ends its combat involvement in Afghanistan, now slated for 2014. Keep reading →


Besides coming up with techniques and technologies to get rid of bombs, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization also shares that information with U.S. and allied warfighters through an online training portal.

Why is the military’s elite research arm so interested in robots with legs? It isn’t speed.

Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah robot, funded by DARPA, made headlines after it broke its own speed record yesterday and became the first robot to run on legs faster than the fastest human, track star Usain Bolt. Cheetah got up to 28.3 miles per hour . Sure, that was on a treadmill in a lab, with an external brace to keep Cheetah from falling over; but other, much slower Boston Dynamics robots like the “Big Dog” have already solved the balance problem and can walk on their own four feet over rough ground, even ice. So the obvious next step is to combine the two technologies to build a well-balanced, fast-running robot. But why? Keep reading →

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