War Lab: Army Turns Prototypes Into Deadly Weapons


Lasers, hypersonics, robots, and precision weapons are quickly becoming key components of the US military’s operational arsenal. Each of these revolutionary weapon systems first emerged from the science and technology element of the service.

The military is working to better cooperate with the science and technology community for rapid acquisition to accelerate the development of promising new technologies for operational use.

While there has always been a synergy between research, scientific investigation, innovation and military operations, the Army is now making new efforts to respond to the rapid pace of change by linking technologies more closely revolutionary or disruptive to the current needs of combatants.

“The way it was thought of in the past, and I think the way a lot of people still think about it, is that there’s science, technology, and then there’s a valley of death. Then there’s the engineering and production part, which skips the whole process of starting a demo, which is really what science and technology is, and we go to a real first article that lets us employ and learning on a small scale,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Todd, director of innovation, Army Futures Command, said national interest in an interview.

Successful execution of this strategy relies on what Todd called rapid prototyping, which involves engineering working applications of promising technology in hopes of transitioning quickly to production and operational deployment.

Referring to hypersonic capabilities, lasers and precision weapons, Todd said national interest that “in the context of a continuum of modernization, these systems have been demonstrated and then prototyped in a rapid manner. It helped us not only to use it operationally from the start, but also to be able to evaluate it in an operational context and see how the division commander would use them. This idea of ​​going straight from experimentation to scaling up at scale is simply not realistic. In fact, he does not survive.

Early prototypes of new technologies and weapons that show promise in testing can then be evaluated in an operational context to help refine and establish requirements. This approach offers military weapons developers a clear and impactful way to accelerate the development and delivery of new technologies.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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