DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies program looks to create smarter, more aware infantry squadsView gallery - 2 images
While ground vehicles, aircraft and ships have benefitted from numerous technological innovations over the years, not nearly as much has changed for foot soldiers. DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies (SXCT) program, for which the agency is now seeking proposals, aims to tackle this by providing infantry squads with digitized, integrated technologies that improve their awareness, precision and influence.
Providing tactical superiority at small unit level isn’t the easiest of tasks. With ships, aircraft and ground vehicles, the form factor of new technologies is a lesser concern. But any new infantry hardware must balance its provision of enhanced functionality with the necessity of being lightweight and manageable so as not to negatively impact squad movement.
DARPA program manager Major Christopher Orlowski commented on the goals of the project, stating that, "SXCT aims to help dismounted infantry squads have deep awareness of what’s around them, detect threats from farther away and, when necessary, engage adversaries more quickly and precisely than ever before."
That’s quite a lofty goal, and one that the agency plans to tackle by focusing on a number of key technical areas. It will explore methods of better detecting and engaging threats at distances (up to 0.6 miles or 1 km), as well as improving squad members' real-time situational awareness in GPS-denied environments, helping them to pinpoint teammates' locations to within 20 ft (6 m).
It will also look at less direct methods of engagement, finding better ways of disrupting enemy communications, as well as making use of unmanned assets that move with the squad at walking pace. A concept image released by DARPA, which can be seen above, shows a quadruped robot that bears more than a passing resemblance to one of Google-owned Boston Dynamics’ creations.
DARPA will hold a Proposers Day on February 27, where up to 150 registrants will pitch their ideas. The agency is not just looking for established companies to get involved, but is also encouraging small businesses, as well as academic and research institutes to apply in an effort to maximize the scope of proposals.