Dimond, a 10-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran, to
customize the concept for battlefield conditions.
“The engineers came up with the concept, but
they had no military background,” says Staff Sgt.
Dimond, product specialist and military liaison at
the Marlton, New Jersey, USA-based company.
“When I joined the project, I saw several things
in the design that needed improvement.”
Based on his thoughts and feedback from the
troops, Dynamic Defense Materials adapted the
design to make it more mobile, and added bullet-
proof windows that open to allow for return fire.
“The windows were a major innovation,” Staff
Sgt. Dimond says, noting that soldiers using
sandbags for protection either have no view or a
gaping, unprotected hole through which to fire.
As part of the project-assessment phase, the
team used government and private funds to manufacture several evaluation kits and gave them to
the military for feedback. Soldiers supported the
design and offered ideas that were incorporated
into the final model. One of the tweaks included
a roof to protect soldiers from mountain snipers
and rough weather.
The development project closed in late 2009,
and in December the U.S. Marine Corps purchased 14 kits, with plans to implement the
system in Afghanistan.
“Our goal is to protect soldiers and marines in
combat,” Staff Sgt. Dimond says. “We are glad
that we can take some of the combat lessons
learned in the past and use them to save lives of
marines and soldiers in the future.”
SIDE BY SIDE
Bringing in soldiers with firsthand field knowledge not only can help private-sector engineers
and designers learn how to improve projects, it
can also help them get the job done faster.
On their own, BAE scientists had limited
understanding of what IEDs looked like or how
they worked. But through a U.K. Ministry of
Defence initiative, the company was able to work
side-by-side with armed forces personnel at a military testing site.
BAE went from concept design to a working
demonstrator within just 100 days—versus the 18
months it would typically take to deliver such a
>>SEND IN THE ROBOTS
Some of the projects aimed at detecting and disarming improvised
explosive devices bring together expertise from different segments of
the military. The U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development
and Engineering Center, for example, partnered with the Robotics
Systems Joint Project Office, a U.S. Army and Marine Corps group
that manages the development, acquisition, testing and fielding of
Together, they launched a project dubbed Tanglefoot. Designed to be
attached to more than 8,000 existing robots, the device uses a wire
rake and mast to create a simple, low-cost tool to help combat IEDs.
The Tanglefoot initiative demonstrates the importance of collaborative efforts across the military, says Maj. Chad Harris, assistant project
manager for maneuver support systems. “The Tank Automotive
Research, Development and Engineering Center rapidly developed and
tested the device,” he says, “then transferred it to the Robotics Systems
Joint Project Office for fielding.”
The resulting Saturn program uses open-systems
architecture that allows different sensors to be
plugged in and taken out based on circumstance
“The complexity and evolving nature of the
threat means that no single sensor can accurately
and consistently detect hidden explosive devices,”
Mr. Baker says.
And therein lies the problem: IEDs have
been an elusive target. But the united front may
just be enough to win the war on the devices.
—Sarah Fister Gale