The UK boasts world-leading expertise in energetic materials research and development. But as established experts retire and funding is diverted into more glamorous areas of defence research, we risk losing it. Berenice Baker examines how initiatives led by Cranfield University’s Centre for Defence Chemistry are seeking to attract and retain the best know-how in the business.
Women have served in the British Armed Forces for a century and behind the lines, female scientists and engineers have been developing battle-winning solutions for at least as long. Inspiring examples from the military, civil service and the defence industry were recently recognised at the Women in Defence UK Awards 2017.
Cyber warfare has claimed its rightful place among the better-established battle domains of land, sea, air and space, but the widening skills gap in this specialist field risks leaving military systems vulnerable. The MoD is introducing a new scheme to uncover previously unidentified talent for tackling hackers in existing service personnel to prepare the next generation of cyber warriors.
Despite regular fitness testing and physical training, increasing numbers of armed forces personnel are overweight or obese, and some are turning to extreme measures to achieve a healthy weight. Could more sedentary, IT-focussed roles be to blame or even make high levels of fitness superfluous? And, conversely, could technology even form part of the solution?
Every year, live pigs and goats are shot with rifles, pistols and shotguns, repeatedly stabbed, have their limbs amputated with tree trimmers and are even blown up so that NATO military medical trainees can learn to treat traumatic injuries. As new simulation technology offers increasingly realistic humane alternatives, could this barbaric practice finally be coming to an end?
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In this edition of Latest In Defence, Sandia National Laboratories has developed a rifle zoom that works like the human eye; DCNS unveils a concept diesel-electric attack submarine that includes capabilities usually only found nuclear-powered submarines; and two US Navy F-35C aircraft have landed on and taken off from the carrier USS Nimitz .
New research from Rice University suggests graphene could be used to make strong body armour and to protect spacecraft. Researchers tested a graphene sheet by firing ‘microbullets’ at it and found it stretched, created a conical deformation before breaking, suggesting the force had been distributed over a large area, dissipating much of the energy.
Until now, search and rescue robots have been mainly tracked and either self-righting or able to operate either side up to enable them to cope with uneven terrain and falling from heights. With animal and human inspired legged robots on the rise, researchers are looking to ways to help them land safely then quickly resume their mission.
Worldwide Aeros promises to revolutionise military heavy-lift operations with its massive Aeroscraft cargo airships, and a half-scale demonstration model successfully proved the concept when it left its hangar and conducted a tethered flight last year. A fleet of 22 Aeroscraft capable of carrying up to 250 tons of cargo each is now being planned with joint military and civil applications.
Governments often recruit private military and security companies to bolster regular troops and support services, and they were used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. While considered a cost-saving measure in times of defence cuts, their use and accountability raises ethical questions and strains ‘hearts and minds’ relations, as occurred in the 2007 Blackwater Baghdad shootings.