Shooting accurately around corners, a bio-chemically armoured bodysuit that adapts its colour and temperature depending on the environment, integrated communications systems complete with heads-up display and airborne antenna- if the Klingons don't get here soon they'll have a struggle.That's the vision of the future presented to the US Congress last year and the first version of the project - the Land Warrior - will be fielded in 2004. Given that the US Military's R&D budget is a cool US$380 billion, its no surprise to the Future Warrior technologies and a host of other military advances are constantly emerging to make clearer the this vision of future war and like many of the developments (eg. the internet) the technology behind many of these impressive devices will ultimately find its way into an array of far friendlier consumer products.The concept of the future warrior is moving towards reality, with the recent conflict in Afghanistan showing just how fast things are developing - ground forces were equipped GPS navigation systems, satellite phones and laser targeting. Long range unmanned attack aircraft that can also transmit images to soldiers in the field via head-up displays and the US rolled out an array bombs designed for different purposes - some were designed to penetrate 10 metres of rock prior to detonation while others simply exploded sideways to clear a 500 metre radius of, well, just about anything.At the core of advances in all aspects of military technology is information gathering and management - IT has always been integral to waging war, but now it offeres a greater advantage than any improvement in armaments and weaponry.The U.S military Future Warrior program will eventually see infantry soldiers equipped with mapping and video capture that allow 360 degree vision with night and thermal imaging integrated into the helmet display - the system also functions via a laser which can be directed at a target and transmit data directly to the strike team without the need for giving verbal co-ordinates.The armour worn by the Future warrior will not only protect the wearer from 9mm bullets and shrapnel - it has a built-in heating or cooling system, chemical and biological weapons protection and monitoring systems for heartbeat, hydration and battlefield stress. Incredibly, the Future Warrior's armour will also provide exceptional camouflage via its ability to change colour depending on the surrounding environment.FIM-92A StingerThe Stinger is a portable, short-range heat-seeking, guided missile that can be shoulder-launched at targets flying at an altitude of up to 11,500ft. As the sole forward area air defense missile used by US forces, it is ironic that US and British planes in Afghanistan were forced to fly at altitudes above the range of these missiles, as a number were believed to be in Taliban possession. Designed to combat low-altitude air-craft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles, the Stinger travels at twice the speed of sound and can target heat-emitting objects ravelling at up to half this speed. The combined weight of the stinger and its launcher is just 15 kg, it can be fired from many platforms including trucks and helicopters, as well as the shoulder launcher.The effectiveness of this weapon is in its complex targeting system - it uses a wide-angle infra-red seeker to lock on to the heat from an aircraft's engine and its intelligent on-board navigation corrects direction every tenth of a second and allows for the fact it is travelling towards a moving target. The Stinger's brain also uses a Rosette Scan Pattern image technique - enabling it to differentiate between the target and intentional background clutter such as flares. The onboard computer also employs a Target Adaptive Guidance technique that guides the missile toward the part of the target where it will do most damage, plus IFF (Identification-Friend-or-Foe) capabilities. All this combined with a kilo of high explosive travelling at Mach2 gives pilots little time to deploy countermeasures.The predecessor to the Stinger missile, the Redeye Weapon System, was developed in the late 60's before being replaced by the Stinger in 1982. During the 1980's the early Stinger brought down over 270 Soviet aircraft in Afghanistan and it is the left-overs of this era that concerned coalition forces during the recent conflict. Approximately 900 Stinger missiles were given to Afghan rebels by the US in 1986, but most of those those currently in use could be Russian variants on the Stinger or could have come from other channels.Stinger Missile Specifications:' Length 1.5 meters - Diameter 7 cm - Weight with launcher 15.2 kg' Explosive 1kg - Speed 2,400 kmh - Altitude Range 11,000 ft' Distance Range approx. 8 km - Unit Replacement AUS$38,000' Total program cost AUS$7281M - Avg unit cost AUS$6M - Inventory ~13,400 missiles
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