Slowly but surely, the U.S. Army is adjusting to the reality of hard-fought, guerrilla wars like the ones we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and redirecting its R&D towards a new breed of battlefield technology. This year, it will debut more evidence of this move in a new, wearable set of electronics that detect a sniper’s location. Instead of simply ducking under cover and having to guess where bullets are coming from, the new device will allow soldiers to locate threats and address them.
The unit weighs a mere 6.4 ounces, and is three inches square. It works by ignoring ambient noise and detecting the sound of gunfire. When that occurs, it alerts the wearer, then calculates the direction and distance of the source of the shots. A larger version of the technology can also be mounted on a moving vehicle, and it’s capable of detecting shots even while moving at 50 mph. What’s not clear yet is just how widespread the technology will be. The military under Donald Rumsfeld infamously skimped on outfitting troops, but since then has rapidly deployed armor and vehicles. Still, expensive but promising equipment often fades into obscurity as military planners do their cost/benefit calculations.