Warfare has always lead to the biggest leaps forward in technology. As the U.S. increasingly focuses on near-peer competition with Russia and China, the brightest minds in defense are constantly striving to develop futuristic weaponry. From insect spies to robots that eat organisms, some of these covert projects are so unreal that we had only ever hoped to see them in science fiction.
Join us as we dig into the latest leaks and secret superweapon technology that the military hopes it will never have to use.
We’ve been watching the Atlas humanoid robot evolve from a clumsy stagger to a full-blown sprint over the last six years, and now it does parkour. Its latest iteration is both awe-inspiring and terrifying.
Standing at an intimidating 6.2″, the original contender in the DARPA Robot Challenge is destined for great things – like driving utility vehicles and breaking through walls. Rest assured, foreign defense experts are keeping a close eye on it, too.
If you thought that Atlas was terrifying, how does a vehicle with a will of its own sound?
DARPA announced that they had handed over the highly-anticipated Sea Hunter prototype to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in 2018. Set to revolutionize U.S. maritime operations, this unmanned vessel is the first of its kind, and ultimately an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel.
The Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is able to traverse thousands of kilometers over open seas for months at a time — and without a single crew member aboard.
What about contact lenses straight out of Mission Impossible?
High-Tech Contact Lenses
Could this be the answer to DARPA’s longtime search for a small device that will enhance service workers’ vision in the field?
The wirelessly connected contact lens was first unveiled in France, and since then it has attracted attention from both DARPA and Microsoft. It is a lightweight lens capable of not only providing augmented vision assistance to users but relays visual information wirelessly — a formidable advantage for the U.S Army and a virtually undetectable spy tool.
What about a device that will turn a soldier into a superhero?
While the possibilities of giving humans enhanced abilities (like faster speeds and greater strength) were relegated to comic books in the past, cutting-edge technologies have made this dream a reality. DARPA’s Soft Exosuit will now allow troops to become “supercharged.”
Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has developed the lightweight skeleton frame for soldiers which will amplify the wearer’s strength and endurance. The suit also incorporates built-in sensors and a micro-computer to intelligently calculate the requirements of its user.
Do you ever get the feeling that you are being watched? Well, you may be right.
Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (HI MEMS)
This weapons system is straight out of a science fiction movie. Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) have been in the works since the 1940s. They are cyborg bugs that have been enslaved to do man’s bidding.
You read that right. And when DARPA was pressed by a freedom of information request, they revealed that they implant the technologies into insects at the larva and pupae stage. Tracking devices and cameras provide the perfect opportunity to survey the enemy or, more disturbing, a Government’s own citizens.
But that’s not all that DARPA is doing on the surveillance front.
Bats, Birds, And Bugs
Just like the bird and beetle drones we saw in the 2015 movie “Eye in the Sky,” bio-inspired drones have enormous potential. In fact, the bird drone in the movie was inspired by a real drone that was commissioned by DARPA and built by California-based aircraft company AeroVironment.
Flapping wings on a drone were once considered an unachievable feat, but with the rise of 3D printing these lightweight and highly maneuverable drones will soon fill the skies. Mimicking birds, bats, and insects, they are a new way to gather information inconspicuously.
What could be more terrifying than a robot with the brain of an insect?
DARPA is continually striving to develop AI that processes and performs tasks more efficiently. But to do this, they need to develop AI with an insect-like brain. For instance, these robots will be able to execute tasks based on a basic set of rules and initiated by a simple set of stimuli.
However, these simple tasks do tend to backfire, but they can be initiated simply and quickly. This means that training neural networks should happen much faster and will less processing power — this makes these insect-brained AIs especially beneficial to the military.
Imagine the advantage a soldier would have if he can see perfectly in the dark and shoot from around a corner.
Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B)
The new Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular are set to be a game-changer for the U.S Army. The new state-of-the-art night vision goggles incorporate dual-tubed binoculars for improved depth perception, as well as white phosphorous tubes — which are a huge improvement over the green-hued images of the past. Improved thermal capabilities will allow troops to see through fog, dust, and smoke. But these aren’t the most exciting features the new goggles will have to offer.
The goggles will be wirelessly connected to the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) for Rapid Target Acquisition. This will enable soldiers to fire from the hip or around corners while they remain hidden.
Brace yourself. Iron Man is real.
If you thought Iron Man’s suit was pure fantasy, think again. The U.S. Army recently called on ‘industry, academia, individuals and government organizations’ who may be interested in developing the prototype inspired by the nano suit worn by Tony Stark in the Iron Man franchise.
This supersuit for the military’s main requirements are a bulletproof and operable exoskeleton that can encompass a human’s range of motion, but it can’t be too cumbersome to operate machinery.
Now imagine a nano suit with lasers. It’s the logical next step…
The U.S. Army, in hopes of accelerating the development of a workable prototype, has issued a contract award for its first combat-capable laser weapon system.
“The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,” explains LTG L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition. “The Army recognizes the need for directed energy lasers as part of the Army’s modernization plan.”
As terrifying as laser weapons are, they are not as horrifying as robots that can eat.
One of the most controversial new developments in the military world is probably the EATR (Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot). And for a good reason.
A DARPA-funded venture between Cyclone Power Technologies and Robotic Technology, Inc., rumors of this robot’s startling means of sustaining itself spread like wildfire. It can eat organisms for fuel. Before inducing mass panic, CEO, Harry Schoell, swear that the robot is strictly vegetarian — running on “fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings, and wood chips — small, plant-based items.”
What about a painful forcefield to deal with unruly rioters?
The TASER Shockwave, designed to control rioters, is a large-scale area denial system. The large modular system fires multiple TAZER X26 stun guns in a 25-foot range, at a 20-degree arc. This shocking riot control weapon is something you do not want to be near when it goes off!
Even more terrifying, it can be linked up to other units to create a larger chain and a longer range.
This next superweapon is straight out of a Bond movie.
Armatix Smart Pistol
The Armatix Smart Pistol is a .22 caliber pistol with some seriously smart technology behind it. But instead of a fingerprint reader on the grip like in the movies, the weapon is only authorized to be fired by the person wearing the accompanying smartwatch, which acts as a RFID key.
The smartwatch also holds information about battery charge levels and the number of shots the gun has fired. Although available to the military, it hasn’t yet become available to citizens.
Ever wanted to become invisible?
Quantum Stealth Camouflage
The military has secretly developed a light-bending material that makes the wearer invisible. Effective against thermal scopes as well as infrared, Quantum Stealth is the most advanced camouflage system in military use.
The material provides active camouflage to the user, mimicking the surrounding environment. Photographs of this mind-bending technology have not been released for security reasons.
What about a top-secret bullet with an inbuilt guidance system?
Does a sniper bullet that changes trajectory after its been fired sound like the stuff of science fiction?
Of course, DARPA is developing exactly that. In an attempt to nullify misfiring problems and improve accuracy, EXACTO ammunition has an integrated guidance system that keeps it locked on its target. The details are highly classified, so, unfortunately, specifics of how it works haven’t been released.
This next DARPA project will make your skin crawl…
Implantable Health Trackers
Another secret DARPA project created in association with the U.S. Army Research Office promises to take health monitoring to the next level with tissue-integrated biosensor technology.
These tiny and soft hydrogel-based sensors will be placed under the skin and will measure biomarkers such as oxygen, glucose, lactate, urea, and iron levels. The implants can stay inside the body for up to two years and provide realtime data directly to a connected device, such as a smartphone.
We’ve already covered two of the robots that may one day take over the world, but this next one is even less reassuring…
Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS)
The Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System is a formidable figure. Heavily armed with a 00 round M240B machine gun and a grenade launcher, it was designed to get into the thick of the battlefield alongside the troops — and even drag injured soldier out of harm’s way.
Its battery system can run for up to 12 hours and it is suitable for rugged terrain, equipped with heavy-duty tracks.
And perhaps the most frightening development of all…
DARPA has forked out over $65 million to six research teams to make the US government’s horrifying new vision come true. They will be mind-reading chips embedded into the cerebral cortex, and they will allow us to connect directly to devices and machinery and operate them with our minds.
Sounds good? Wrong. These chips, which will be the size of a coin, will be able to receive as well as send information. These “neurograins” will allow a kind of telepathy between networks, meaning that private thoughts may become public knowledge.
What about an aircraft that looks like it came off the set of the Transformers movies?
Biologically Inspired Aircraft
The U.S. Army wants aircraft that can change their physical shape to meet the requirements of a classified mission. This concept is called “biomimetics,” where equipment is inspired by phenomena naturally occurring in nature.
The Army research solicitation, called Adaptive Biomimetic Aircraft Structures (ABAS), aims to develop biomimetics in order to create aircraft that can reshape itself mid-flight. These aircraft may be manned or unmanned. They hope to achieve a structure that can reconfigure and optimize itself according to flight conditions and missions. Scary stuff!
A leaked short video posted to Youtube has everyone wondering if the Navy is hiding something new. Well, in this case, it might actually be something from the past and not the future. It was spotted in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which also happens to be the home of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. Hydrofoil ships have foldable foils underneath the ship.
At high speeds, the ship rises out of the sea and the foils are the only contact between the ship and the water. This creates a smoother ride and a much faster ship, clocking at up to 55 miles per hour!
The Storm Search and Rescue Tactical Vehicle (SRTV) is an all-terrain light military vehicle developed by the United States. Its main mission will be a form of non-air rescue for downed troops.
The vehicle can travel at a speed over 100 mph and climb vertical grades over 70 degrees, move on side slopes and angles of over 60 degrees and climb vertical steps over three feet.
Black Knight Transformer
Known as a modular, roadable casualty evacuation and cargo resupply aircraft, the Black Knight Transformer is still in its initial stages of development. Not only is it first-of-its-kind in vertical takeoff and landing aircraft but it is just as capable on the ground as an all-terrain vehicle.
Currently, there is a 2,000 lbs “Mini-Knight” prototype, which is what you see here.
The Flyer Advanced Light Strike Vehicle was made with a very specific idea in mind. It had to have a lightweight, mobile platform that could be transported by air and be configured for a variety of missions.
It can be internally transported by five larger military vehicles and externally transported by the UH-60L Black Hawk — and can be configured for many roles including light strike, personnel rescue and recovery, reconnaissance, and communications.
Sitting on top of 54in tires with unbelievable suspension, the Combat Guard can tackle slopes of 70 degrees. Rocky terrain is no problem for this vehicle which along with its ruggedness with a top speed of 153 km/h (95 mph).
Plus it is amazingly capable of crossing water up to 1.5m (5 feet) deep.
The Ghost has been named ‘The Ghost’ because of its stealth abilities. It features an assortment of weaponry and is ideal for use during hostile situations. Sancoff, the mind behind the ea craft, has a lot of startups to his name and he didn’t wait for a contract from the government but rather took his motivation from millennium challenge exercise and created The Ghost to counter the problem.
Problem is that the US government doesn’t want the ship now, but it also doesn’t want anyone else to have it either.
The Sd.Kfz. 2
The Sd.Kfz. 2, better known as the Kleines Kettenkraftrad HK 101 is loosely translated to chain/s and motorcycle. A versatile little vehicle with an impressive idea for steering, using the handlebars would steer the vehicle only so far before engaging the track brakes to help make turns sharper.
It was also possible to run the vehicle without the front wheel installed. They were used to lay communication cables, pull heavy loads and carry soldiers through the deep mud.
An interesting “spherical tank” which I’m sure you gathered from the name was built by Germany during World War II. It was a single person tank though to this day not much is known about it. Over the years there has been much speculation about what the Kugelpanzer was designed for.
The most common beliefs are that it meant to be a cable layer, artillery spotter, or scout vehicle. It was captured by the Soviets and is on display in the Kubinka Tank Museum. There is no record of it ever having been used in combat.
The ship went from concept to a reality in a short 18 months, incredibly fast considering how unique it was at the time. In fact, it is still really unique today. The cost to build the M80 was a relatively affordable $10 million.
The whole design that makes this ship so different is that it has moved away from the typical v-shaped hulls of past ships and instead makes use of an m-shaped hull which makes for a smoother ride.
The Marauder was developed for reconnaissance and peacekeeping missions. It is capable of carrying a crew of up to ten including but that includes both the driver and commander. The Marauder was originally designed to operate in urban, built-up and confined areas.
It has a big brother, the Matador that isn’t as able to work in the scenarios simply because the Marauder is smaller in both size and weight. Vehicle design is either 4×4 or a 6×6. A powerful vehicle with a cruising speed of around 100 to 120 km/h (62–75 mph), and a maximum range of 700 kilometers (430 mi).
The Buffalo MRAP
The Buffalo mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle was developed by the Force Protection Inc. Its sole job is as specialized route clearance vehicle. It is used for route-proving and to dispose of discovered mines, IEDs and other explosive hazards.
This heavily armored vehicle has a V-shaped hull. The design is such that it directs the force of the blast away from the occupants. The Buffalo can withstand a blast of 21 kg of TNT equivalent under any wheel or 14 kg anywhere under the hull!
The NB-2 Spirit is also known as the Stealth Bomber. This American heavy strategic bomber is an amazing piece of technology simply because of its low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses.
It is a flying wing design with a crew of two. During its design and evolution, the Northrop B-2 program was a gray project before its disclosure to the public, meaning it wasn’t a total secret.
This is a Heavy Expanded Military Truck which is diesel-powered and 8 wheel drive. Its been in continuous production since 1982. It’s a tactical truck which moves supplies from the warehouse straight to the battleground.
It weights a major 62,000 pounds before supplies. This high payload truck rarely breaks and is an incredible experience to drive. You should never have to throw away one of these because they’re incredibly reliable.
Amphibious Combat Vehicle
Amphibious combat vehicles function in all terrains, which makes them incredibly versatile. This allows for tactical advantage and movements on land and at sea. They increase survivability considerably.
The versatile tank can even take on challenging surf and also accomplish a long trip from the sea to the shore.
This gun tractor can fit inside airplanes and be easily airdropped because of its compact size. The Kleins Kettenkraft is a half motorcycle and half tank. The vehicle was used in North Africa and the Soviet invasion in 1941.
It uses a 4 cylinder car engine and will do 44mph. This vehicle could be operated with very little, to no training since the front end is designed like a motorcycle. There were 8,400 produced and very few have survived till today.
The USS Zumwalt
This a destroyer with a focus on land attack and anti-aircraft with long-range projectile ammunition. The stealth ship was designed around 2 advanced gun systems, their turrets, and magazines.
The ship is designed to require a small crew and to be less expensive to operate. It has an integrated power system that sends power to the turbo generators for the operation of the guns or the electric drive motors.
This Russian designed military vehicle is an armored nightmare on wheels. It can carry a total of 10 military personal on-board. The vehicle was first tested in 2013 and developed by the Russian Company ZiL.
The Punisher can reach speeds of 150km/h on the road making it quite a fast military, anti-terrorism vehicle. The vehicle weighs 12 tons and has an 8 cylinder engine which produces 730hp.
This interesting amphibious vehicle was powered by a Volkswagen motor. Four-wheel drive in first gear only and could reach speeds of 80km/h or 9kph in the water.
The vehicle was used extensively by German ground forces during the Second World War. The propeller would be lowered into the water from the rear deck engine cover for the vehicle to have maneuverability in the water.
This is an air-cushioned landing craft, military Hovercraft as of 2012, with a standard full load displacement of 555 tons. It was designed to sealift amphibious assault units including marines and tanks. It transports and plants naval mines.
Its high strength and buoyancy are provided by a rectangular pontoon. It has tank ramps, troop compartments, living quarters and protection systems. Many parts of the structure are also made with vibration damping materials.
Vespa 150 TAP
Its an anti-tank scooter made in the 1950s for French paratroops. Modified from a civilian Vespa with a reinforced frame and 3-inch recoilless rifle. The lightweight anti-armor cannon was still able to penetrate 100mm of armor with its warhead.
The scooters would be airdropped in pairs with a two-man team. One scooter would be equipped with the gun while the other with the ammunition. The Bazooka scooter was relatively cost-effective to produce at the time.