The following are some of 2010’s best inventions for the military.
A Safer, More Stable Explosive
A new TNT alternative, IMX-101, (which stands for Insensitive Munitions Explosive 101) will start being put into service as early as 2011 as TNT supplies are steadily phased out over the next 10 years. Developed by BAE Systems (wiki), it has the same power as TNT but is significantly more stable – IMX-101 is far less likely to explode if hit by an IED or a bullet (especially helpful as TNT is a favorite target for enemy attacks). Nor will IMX-101 accidentally explode in fires. As a result of its stability, more of the new explosive can also be stacked in the same building while in storage and at closer distances to troops. At $8 a pound, IMX-101 is more expensive than TNT, at $6 per pound, but it is worth the price for the safety of American troops.
The Boeing X-51A WaveRider was successfully tested this year. Using scramjet technology, the aircraft can travel at Mach 6 (approximately 4,000 miles per hour). Part of the U.S.’s Prompt Global Strike initiative, the goal is to be able to conduct a precision strike on any part of the world within one hour. The WaveRider represents good progress: it can travel can astonishing 600 miles in 10 minutes.
In flight demonstrations, the X-51 is carried by a B-52 to an altitude of about 50,000 feet and then released over the Pacific Ocean. The X-51 is initially propelled by a solid rocket booster to approximately Mach 4.5 before the booster is jettisoned. Then the aircraft’s scramjet takes over and accelerates it to a top flight speed approaching Mach 6.
X-Flex Blast Protection Wallpaper
Wallpaper doesn’t sound all that exciting – unless you’re referring to X-Flex that is. When affixed in combination to the ceiling, floor, and walls, the reinforced wallpaper can make a building’s walls far stronger, providing protection from explosive blasts from the outside. The material allows walls to bend and then reform after a blast and prevents shock waves from passing through. The protective wallpaper, an advanced composite film tape similar to Kevlar, is now being considered for use by American bases overseas.
The Real-Life Iron Man Suit
Developed by Salt Lake City–based Raytheon Sarcos, the XOS-2 exoskeleton can give even the puniest weakling superhuman strength. It has an impressive 17:1 lifting ratio, meaning that someone who lifts 170 lbs. with the suit feels like they are only lifting 10 lbs. (As a result, someone wearing the suit can lift 200 lbs. worth of weight several hundred times without tiring). The company hopes to market the special Superman suit to the military, allowing soldiers in combat situations to easily lift heavy ordnance or other equipment. There are currently two versions: a combat version and a logistics version. The difference is that the combat version is not a weapons platform as some may think, but rather has robotic attachments for only the legs to assist in long-distance marches while carrying heavy equipment. The XOS-2 reportedly is lighter, faster, and stronger than the original version that came out a few years ago, yet it requires 50 percent less power. However, the suit’s mobility remains limited by the fact that it is still tethered to a power source, but the designers say the goal for the next version of the suit is to reduce the power requirements to 20 percent of the original, fed from an onboard battery pack.