DoD Research Labs 101: Who They Are, What They Do

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Technology is key to making sure our military remains the finest fighting force in the world, so it’s no surprise that the Defense Department has some amazing researchers who are doing great things to keep those advancements coming.

Each service branch has several research labs across the country that focus on specific technologies. I could break down what each of those do individually, but that would be a really long list.  So for now, I’m just going to fill you in on what each of the main labs does and give some examples of the cool things they’re working on.

ARMY

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command has several labs that focus on what our land forces eat, wear, fire and drive. Its premier laboratory is the Army Research Lab; however, all of its labs provide technological solutions for current operations and those that will be needed for the next generation.

The CAMEL Demonstrator's crew compartment significantly increases soldier protection through technologies such as reconfigured seats, easy-to-reach safety harnesses, 360-degree situational awareness, a decoupled floor and dedicated spaces for gear and ammunition storage. Army TARDEC photo

The CAMEL Demonstrator’s crew compartment significantly increases soldier protection through technologies such as reconfigured seats, easy-to-reach safety harnesses, 360-degree situational awareness, a decoupled floor and dedicated spaces for gear and ammunition storage. Army TARDEC photo

Here are two examples of what the Army’s labs are working on:

Cockroach-inspired robotics: In conjunction with the University of California, Berkeley, the ARL is developing a small robot called CRAM (compressible robot with articulated mechanisms) that mimics a cockroach’s ability to squeeze into confined spaces in complex terrain, such as rubble from natural disasters or explosion sites that first-responders can’t access. Researchers are also working on the bot’s ability to right itself if it falls over – something that would be a valuable asset for soldiers on the battlefield.

Occupant-Centric Platform CAMEL vehicle: In the past, military vehicles were engineered around functionality, with crews conforming to those conditions. But the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center is working on a vehicle called a Concept for Advanced Military Explosion-Mitigating Land Demonstrator – CAMEL, in short. It’s an eight-wheeled platform that can protect soldiers from explosions, post-blast crashes and rollovers with advancements like improved maneuverability, more space to stow weapons and equipment, better seats to reduce spinal cord injuries and floors that aren’t coupled to the hull.

AIR FORCE

The Air Force Research Lab is leading the discovery, development and integration of warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. Its many labs work on technologies such as missiles, unmanned and hypersonic vehicles, laser systems and high-power electromagnetics, and their breakthroughs can be found in all of today’s modern military aircraft and weapons systems, including the C-17 Globemaster III, F-22 Raptor and B-2 Spirit.

Pararescue jumpers and combat rescue officers with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing conduct mass casualty training with the BATMAN system at FS Gabreski ANG, Aug. 25, 2015. The BATMAN system applies an airmen-centric design approach to all its research and development efforts to maximize the airmen's mission effectiveness and efficiency. New York Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S Muncy

Pararescue jumpers and combat rescue officers with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing conduct mass casualty training with the BATMAN system at FS Gabreski ANG, Aug. 25, 2015. The BATMAN system applies an airmen-centric design approach to all its research and development efforts to maximize the airmen’s mission effectiveness and efficiency. New York Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S Muncy

Some of the AFRL’s newer technologies include:

BATMAN: The Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided kNowledge – BATMAN – program focuses on wearable and portable technologies for airmen. BATMAN includes the Battlefield Airmen Trauma Distributed Observation Kit, or BATDOK, which lets a pararescue jumper monitor the vital signs of wounded service members with sensors and a tiny wireless computer that’s worn on the jumper’s forearm.

“Vigilant Spirit” Remotely Piloted Aircraft: This program is developing drone technology that lets a person fly more than one remotely piloted aircraft at the same time. The technology is meant to be able to do more with fewer people – a force multiplier, in a sense.

NAVY/MARINES

The Naval Research Lab leads the Navy and Marine Corps in research for maritime applications, as well as ocean, atmospheric and space sciences. It’s organized into five directorates – four that conduct scientific research and a fifth called the Naval Center for Space Technology.

A concept sketch shows the original exoskeleton prototype, which was tested at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in 2011. The sketch shows the first naval adaption of an externally powered exoskeleton with a commercially available motion-stabilizing arm attachment and how it could be used in a naval shipyard work setting. Navy illustration by Michael White

A concept sketch shows the original exoskeleton prototype, which was tested at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in 2011. The sketch shows the first naval adaption of an externally powered exoskeleton with a commercially available motion-stabilizing arm attachment and how it could be used in a naval shipyard work setting. Navy illustration by Michael White

NRL scientists and engineers are current developing technologies like laser and directed energy systems and alternative and synthetic fuels, as well as the following:

An Industrial human augmentation system: Also known as the iHAS, this wearable exoskeleton is being developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center to help those who do manual work on ships, like sanding or blasting a hull or spray-painting a wall.

Electromagnetic railguns: This technology is part of a major effort to develop a long-range electromagnetic launcher for a future electric ship. The EMRG would eliminate the need for storing and handing dangerous explosives, and it could possibly reach targets 20 times farther than conventional weapons like cannons and cruise missiles.

One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket in port at Naval Base San Diego. The railguns are being displayed as part of the Electromagnetic Launch Symposium, which brought together representatives from the U.S. and allied navies, industry and academia to discuss directed energy technologies. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop

One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket in port at Naval Base San Diego. The railguns are being displayed as part of the Electromagnetic Launch Symposium, which brought together representatives from the U.S. and allied navies, industry and academia to discuss directed energy technologies. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop

FERRET: The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is working on this technology, which has a much longer name – but you’ll probably be lost by the time I finish writing it, so I won’t bother. The FERRET is a semi-autonomous robotic system for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition. It can map locations remotely and doesn’t need to be driven like other robots.

Several of the DoD’s labs also work to protect service members from chemical and biological threats, including working on regenerative medicine that builds skin substitutes and restores damaged limbs.

There are so many cool things our labs are creating that will help make a more efficient Force of the Future. To learn more about all of the DoD labs, click here.

Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter!

———-

Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

Check out these other posts:

This entry was posted in Defense Discussions, DoD News, Education, Force of the Future, Inside the DoD, Rotator and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *