U.S. Army recognizes Top 10 greatest inventions of 2008

By C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service
with individual technology descriptions by RDECOM Public Affairs

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[All images in this article courtesy: U.S. Army]

Combat gauze, the Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, and a new machine-gun cradle were among technologies recognized by U.S. Army Materiel Command during the "Top Ten Great Inventions of 2008" event at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, VA, September 21, 2009.

The event, held yearly since 2002, celebrates the best technological advances in the Army. Criteria for being selected includes impact on Army capability, potential for benefit outside the Army, and inventiveness. Additionally, all the technology nominated must have been fielded during 2008.

It's actually Soldiers in theater who pick the winners.

"We have Soldier panels, from the active divisions of the Army ... review all the nominations and vote on them," said Donald W. Matts Jr., of Army Research Development and Engineering Command, who headed up the "Top Ten" program this year.

This year it was Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 25th Infantry Division who participated in the voting, Matts said.

"Each of the winners gets a trophy and plaque for their team, and even the ones that haven't won in the Top 10 — they are winners, too — they've all fielded products the Soldiers are using in the field today."

The Common Remotely Operated Weapons System, or CROWS, was one of the 10 chosen this year as the best. The system amounts to a gun, mounted on a remotely controlled swivel, with multiple cameras. What it does is keep Soldiers inside a vehicle, while the remotely controlled weapon does the dangerous work on the outside — exposed to insurgents and their improvised explosive devises.

"It's all about Soldier protection," said Michael Scott, of RDECOM. "It definitely saves Soldiers' lives. The thought is to get the Soldier under armor and let him fire his weapon from the safety of being buttoned up in the vehicle."

The CROWS is now on more than 700 vehicles in both Iraq and Afghanistan, including the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, the humvee, and the Abrams tank, Scott said. New systems are being fielded at a rate of about 20 a week.

With that exposure in the field, Scott said, evidence has come back that shows it does what it's meant to do — save lives.

"With IED blasts, this system has come back basically in a bucket," he said. "If a Soldier was up there out of the hatch and his gun up on a pencil mount, he would be taking the shrapnel, not the system. So, the feedback is pretty good."

Also protecting Soldiers is a new set of armor for the MRAP. The "Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Expedient Armor Program Add-on-Armor Kit," or MEAP (AoA), was meant to protect MRAPs from explosively formed penetrators. The EFP is a new, deadlier weapon employed by insurgents, said Debbie DiCesare with the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center.

"We have a charge to provide protection against medium explosively formed penetrators in theater in Iraq," she said. "And it's a particularly lethal threat."

DiCesare and her team, without manufacturer-provided engineering data for MRAP, devised for the vehicles a new form of protection to save Soldiers’ lives.

"We fabricated the parts and integrated it onto the vehicle and did all that in six weeks," she said.

A lot of testing went into the armor stateside, and today it's fitted to some 550 vehicles. But DiCesare said the real measure of success comes from the field.

"In my mind, it's when you get the email back from the Soldier that says thanks for doing this, because it saved my life," DeCesare said is the best reward. "We've gotten emails and some letters. That's probably the most rewarding part."

When Soldiers do get hurt, there's Combat Gauze — an inexpensive, lightweight, effective way to stop arterial bleeding. The gauze is impregnated with kaolin, a type of clay, known for the way it helps the body clot faster — and stop bleeding.

"It's a hemostatic dressing, a very simple device, easy to use," said Dr. Michael Dubick, Army Institute of Surgical Research. "The important thing is that, unlike other products that have been deployed, this one will stop an arterial hemorrhage. It's effective, and it seems to be safe."

Fielding on the Combat Gauze is pretty new now, Dubick said, and not a lot has come back from theater. But Dubick says he's heard of at least one report from Soldiers that it was effective — and three additional reports from civilian trauma centers, who are also using it.

A total of 10 technologies were named this year as the "Top Ten Greatest Inventions of 2008." Each team was presented with a trophy and a plaque, commemorating their effort. The winning technologies and teams include:

1. XM153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS)

U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center

Capable of being mounted on a variety of vehicles, this system provides the capability to remotely aim and fire a suite of crew-served weapons from either a stationary platform or while on the move, using the system power of the host vehicle. The system affords increased Soldier protection since the gunner is not exposed. It enhances target acquisition, identification, and engagement capabilities for non-turreted light armored vehicles; and also situational awareness during both day and night conditions using day and thermal cameras.

2. Projectile Detection Cueing (PDCue)- Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) Lightning

U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center

The Projectile Detection Cueing 4-Corner System is a low-cost acoustic gunfire detection system capable of detecting and locating the origin of incoming gunfire events. The Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station Lightning is a lightweight common remotely operated weapon station capable of supporting small arms weapons. The fully integrated PDCue-CROWS Lightning system introduces new capabilities not present in their standalone configurations and provides quicker response and enhanced situational awareness for the operator. The operator can monitor, control, and command both PDCue and CROWS Lightning from a single user interface. The integrated system increases Soldier effectiveness in detecting and locating enemy sniper positions, and provides the Soldier the ability to automatically move remote weapon stations to the detected sniper threat.

3. Light Machine Gun and Medium Machine Gun Cradle

U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center

The Light Machine Gun and Medium Machine Gun Cradle addresses Soldier concerns about the lack of a location on the M197 Machine Gun Mount to reliably hold ammunition for the M249 light machine gun and the M240B medium machine gun. The cradle provides a more stable and more accurate firing platform and reliable, twist-free ammo feeding regardless of weapon orientation. It also includes a spent brass deflector and an integral quick-release travel lock that holds the machine guns steady during vehicle movement. The cradle eliminates the hazard of a full-length belt of ammo hanging loose from the weapon as well as machinegun stoppages due to twisted or snagged ammo by keeping ammo in-line with the feed tray.

4. Overhead Cover for Objective Gunner Protection Kit

U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center

The Overhead Cover is an integrated armor/ballistic glass system mounted onto the Objective Gunner Protection Kit of tactical and armored vehicles. It provides an enhanced 360-degree ballistic protection while retaining visibility for situational awareness by Gunners without compromising system effectiveness, reliability, or lethality. The Overhead Cover offers ideal concealment, weapon maneuverability, and weight while providing protection against hand grenades, rocks, incendiaries, and liquids such as bleach and acid that have been thrown onto turret gunners.

5. Enhanced Mobile Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment Vehicle

U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center

The Enhanced Mobile Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment Vehicle system combines multiple intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities onto a single, integrated platform. This configuration enables users to rapidly deploy the system anywhere a mission requires additional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Forward-operating bases often receive direct and indirect fire on a daily basis, and the lack of these capabilities at remote sites places additional risks on Soldiers. The system gives remote operating units the ability to quickly employ the system's combined capabilities to detect imminent attacks and take the appropriate actions to defeat enemy forces.

6. Whisper

U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center

The Whisper system, a passive detection capability, has been integrated into the engineer's reconnaissance vehicle used by combat engineer companies. The system features advanced electronic warfare equipment to detect critical radio-controlled improvised explosive device threats used by the enemy. An optimized architecture is used to maximize system performance, interoperability, and compatibility while minimizing the overall system cost and prime power consumption requirements. The system's design supports future enhancements with minimal hardware redesign through adaptable software and hardware system components.

7. Combat Gauze for Treating Hemorrhage in Injured Soldiers

U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research

Hemorrhage accounts for 50% of the deaths among combat casualties, and a high percentage of these deaths are potentially preventable with prompt and effective treatment of hemorrhage. The development of combat gauze offers the medic a simple, cost-effective hemostatic product to treat severe external bleeding, especially in areas where a tourniquet cannot be applied. It is a large-sized flexible roll of non-woven medical gauze impregnated with a contact pathway activating a clotting agent known as kaolin. The dressing can be used on surface wounds and has been proposed to treat deep bleeding at the end of a long wound tract.

8. Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Armor Weight Reduction Spiral Program

U.S. Army Research Laboratory

The Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Armor Weight Reduction Spiral Program enabled the Army to directly meet MRAP program protection requirements for a high-priority, anti-armor, improvised explosive device threat. The program's technical approach combined cutting-edge high-performance computing with highly instrumented terminal effects experimentation to exploit known heavy technologies used to defeat low-level, improvised explosive device threats to understand the most viable armor mechanisms for efficient penetrator defeat. The program's goal was to introduce lightweight composites, new materials, and enhanced ballistic mechanisms to reduce the add-on weight of final armor packages. The resulting composites were applied to individual platforms to maximize the vehicle and increase Soldier survivability.

9. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Expedient Armor Program Add-on-Armor Kit

U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center

The Expedient Armor Program Add-on-Armor Kit for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles was developed to safeguard Soldiers against the extremely lethal threats of improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators. The armor uses armor physics, as opposed to armor mass, to defeat the threat, which led to a 50% reduction in weight, while greatly increasing the armor protection on all MRAP vehicles without sacrificing vehicle performance or payload.

10. One System Remote Video Terminal A-kit

U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center

The One System Remote Video Terminal A-kit is an innovative modular video and data system that enables Soldiers to remotely receive near-real-time surveillance image and geospatial data directly from tactical unmanned aerial vehicles and manned platforms. The kit was designed to immediately address a gap between the product and the emerging need in theater today. It allows Soldiers to egress vehicles faster and more safely in case of an emergency and also enhances situational awareness with unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance for mission planning, intelligence gathering, and monitoring of enemy activity, resulting in greater Soldier safety and survivability.

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